The idea that muscle cars are some uniquely American creation is a conglomeration of automotive linguism. Taking a pleasant car, rocking a great horning engine under the hood, and not changing much before sending it out to please the masses is an idea that’s almost as old as the car itself.
And the latest muscle car is not from Detroit or Germany, but from Japan. Meet the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance, exactly what you didn’t expect from the luxury brand from Toyota. See, ever since Lexus discontinued the IS F, fans have been battling for the revival of the first F car. Lexus gave us the hunter-facing RC F and the beloved late GS F in the intervening years, but what people really wanted, a new IS F, never appeared. And it’s still not here, at least in name. Instead, the first V8-powered IS in nearly a decade is named the F Sport Performance and is more of a muscle car than a sports sedan.
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|quick statistics||2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance|
|Output:||472 horsepower / 395 pound-feet|
|0-60 mph:||4.4 seconds|
|top speed:||165 mph (East)|
|$56,500 + $1,075 destination|
|Price as test:||$62,075|
The F Sport Performance steps into the realm of Lexus’ performance hierarchy, serving as a competitor to Audi’s S and Mercedes-AMG’s 53-series models – the full-blown F cars will take on the RS and AMG 63s. But while the A4 S-Line is a huge performance leap between an S4 and an RS4, the first F Sport performance car is only an incremental improvement in performance over the standard F Sport, focusing entirely on straight-line speed. and making little or no improvement in handling or aesthetics. At the same time, this sports sedan is almost as fast as the Lexus RC F coupe. The result is a car with a very confusing personality.
There’s another new addition to Lexus’s pleasant 5.0-liter V8 family. A direct descendant of the engine found in the original IS F, the new IS 500’s V8 delivers the same power as the RC F Coupe—472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, which is 161 hp and 115 lb-ft more than you. IS 350 will be available in F Sport. As a result, the improvements in straight-line speed are dramatic, with Lexus citing a 4.4-second sprint to 60, only two-tenths faster than the RC F, and 1.3 seconds faster than the IS350.
The improvements in straight-line speed are dramatic, with Lexus citing the 4.4-second sprint to 60.
In fact, put the IS 500’s pedal to the floor from a standstill and you might be wondering why even bother with the $67,000 RC F. The naturally aspirated engine lacks the off-the-line punch of a turbocharged mill, but it makes up for that in its eagerness to rev straight up to the 7,300-rpm redline. Peak horsepower comes in at 200 revolutions before that magic number, while maximum torque comes in at 4,800 rpm.
You need to turn the fuel injectors from this engine to get it going, but the straight-line performance is intoxicating once a head of 5.0-liter steam builds up. Keeping up the revs in a car is always fun, but it is needed to get the IS 500 to run quickly. Throttle response is excellent in the most aggressive drive modes, with a predictable curve and a fast, tip-in can.
$. save more than3,400 On average less than the MSRP* on a new one Lexus IS
The powertrain is like the RC F (which, duh), but in a few important ways, IS better. Fake engine noise pipes into the Lexus IS 500’s cabin, but the Japanese brand has realized that less is more in this application and has turned down the sound volume compared to the previous RC F. The kick-in point of amplification is also less noticeable, so while the RC F’s soundtrack suddenly comes on at precise engine speed, the IS 500’s concerto feels like it’s based less on rpm and more on throttle position.
And what a sound it is. While the IS 500 lacks the visceral bark of the LC Grand Tourer (which also uses a version of the 5.0-liter V8), under and out the hood, especially on the wide-open-throttle upshift or rev-matched downshift The sound from the four exhaust pipes is the classic high-revving V8, with a rich timbre and pitch. Tunnels will become your new best friend in this car.
The powertrain is like the RC F (which, duh), but in a few important ways, IS better.
Praise goes to the RC F-sourced eight-speed automatic as well. It’s intelligent in everyday driving and able to find the right gear with little hunting, while computers are also fully aware of limited torque and always ready to kick up a gear or two to bring up revs live.
Manual mode is fun, and the wheel-mounted pedals are the right size and shape, but the 8AT lacks the intensity of the LC’s 10-speed automatic and feels only average with the BMW M340i’s eight-speed auto or the Mercedes-AMG C43 . Nine speed box. Too often for V8-powered performance sedans, we found ourselves leaving the car in full-auto mode and letting the computer sort things out.
But beyond the powertrain, it’s hard to overstate the point of the F Sport performance badge. Apart from the 5.0-litre V8, the IS 500 is barely different from the normal IS 350. You get a Yamaha-sourced rear damper to reduce structural flexing, a slightly larger brake disc (14.0-inch front/12.7-inch rear vs. 13.2-inch front/11.7-inch rear) to accommodate extra ponies , and an array of small aerodynamic and aesthetic tweaks, none of which are consequential enough to affect the overall drive experience.
Instead, you’ll still be sold the same adaptive dampers, the same Torsen limited-slip differential, and the same staggered Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires on the IS 350 F Sport. So while the cornering ability of the IS 500 is fast and pleasant with well-controlled body movements, it also feels like the IS 350 from behind the wheel. It also suffers from the ills of that car, namely the hyper-active steering rack that needs small, annoying fixes at highway speeds.
In the cabin, IS 350 owners will recognize the beautiful and supportive seats as well as the steering wheel, paddle shifters, pedal covers and more. It’s good stuff, but not what we’d expect a Mercedes C43 to bring to bear more than a standard C300.
living in a vacuum
It’s when you start comparing the IS 500 to the competition, like we just did, that the problems really start to show up. Not because of the powertrain, of course. On paper, it is the most powerful vehicle in the class, outperforming its primary competitors – the Mercedes-AMG C43, BMW M340i, and Audi S4 – by between 87 and 123 hp. Lexus even outs the C43’s 384 lb-ft of torque with its best-in-class 395 lb-ft. But this power gain never shows up on the stopwatch. At 4.4 seconds to 60, the IS 500 pairs the BMW M340i and Audi S4, and is only a tenth ahead of the C43.
The wider problem, as we see, relative to the IS and their base model, is how the Germans feel in the corners. The ultimate handling capability of the C43 or M340i is much higher than the C300 with AMG badging or the 330i M-Sport. And deliver a more exciting cornering experience than the same hot German IS 350 F Sport or our IS 500 F Sport performance.
If Lexus had focused on massaging the suspension over the regular IS 350, the IS 500 would have been a far more exciting and compelling car. But as it stands, the carryover suspension is the major contributor to the feeling as with the V8 being little more than the IS, what the F Sport Performance name should stand for.
Bearing in mind that the unchanged suspension is also the main reason we struggle with the price of the IS 500, which starts at $57,575 (including the $1,075 destination fee). If you select the Premium trim, which includes a surround-view camera with navigation, a Mark Levinson audio system, upgraded LED headlights, and front and rear parking sensors, the price jumps to $62,075. The advantage of this is that, beyond the trims, the IS 500 family is monospec – pick a trim, choose a color, and be on your blissful path.
But when the competition – and not just those cars from Germany – offer a more invigorating experience for the same money, the IS500 is easy to look back on. The M340i is the most dynamic car in this category and costs $1,880 less at $55,695 ($995 including destination). It’s a similar story with the Mercedes-AMG C43 and Audi S4, which engage standard all-wheel drive while offering faster reflexes to go with their $57,550 and $51,545 price tags. And even the Cadillac CT4-V, a car we’re loath to recommend for a number of reasons, is more exciting in the twist when the starting price is $12,000 less.
But when the competition – and not just those cars from Germany – offer a more invigorating experience for the same money, the IS500 is easy to look back on.
We can lower the prices of the competition because they are bigger, all-around upgrades. The $13,000 that sets the M340i apart from the 330i seems reasonable not only when charging forward, but also when attacking a corner. You look at the C43 and understand why it’s $14,900 more expensive. It’s a somewhat similar story with Audi and even Cadillac. But with $13,550 separating the IS 500 from a car that’s nearly all the same but with the way it’s loud and sound, there’s a sense that you’re not getting everything you’d expect from a higher price tag. It shows.
The IS 500 F Sport is disappointingly on par with a great sports sedan and mid-range performer from Germany. And while we rejoice that Lexus has finally shoehorned a V8 engine back under the hood of an IS, we’re left only to wonder what could have happened. A stronger, more exciting suspension and some visual flair could have justified the existence of the IS 500, while setting a flag for the F Sport performance line and potential left for the IS F. Instead, we get a muscle car in the form of a sports sedan. The IS 500 feels good and moves well, but it fails to take away the F’ing itch.