The Lexus IS350 is big news for Tokyo urbanites because it represents the first time a Lexus-branded vehicle has been offered in Japan. Consider our Lexus SC300/SC400/SC430 is known as their Toyota Soarer, our IS300 was their Toyota Altezza and you get the idea. To roll an Altezza with Lexus badging was a unique USDM statement in downtown Tokyo; until now.
A bit of a stopgap measure in many ways to get Lexus in the luxury/sport segment dominated by BMW, the IS300 was the Altezza converted to left-hand drive. The IS300 was then massaged on the luxury side of the equation and fitted with a bigger inline six engine. The new IS moves the luxury needle where Lexus likes it, at full boost and expands the lineup to include the IS250, which can be ordered with all-wheel drive and a manual gearbox and the top-of-the-line IS350, which sports a direct injection 306hp V-6 and paddle-actuated six-speed automatic transmission.
The big question on both sides of the Pacific centers on whether tuners and enthusiasts will embrace the new platform. The previous car's direct lineage with the Altezza gave it a distinct JDM aura, which played out well in America where the car was greeted with full-tilt body kits, turbo systems, and 2JZ Supra swaps. The Altezza felt sportier than any Lexus before it but still did not challenge BMW's position as the leader in packaging sportiness and luxury. So the core question is: Will the enhanced luxury deflect from the performance aspect of the car? There was a substantial jump in tuned Lexus vehicles at the 2006 Tokyo Auto Salon, which we deem as very promising. The standout that graces these pages was uncovered in the Blitz booth.
Blitz Japan has buzzed-in on the $64,000 question big time with this blown, body-tuned apex bruiser. Blitz Japan has carved out a niche supercharging "cars formerly not known as Lexus." In fact, one of Blitz Japan's more enthralling accomplishments was a twin-supercharged Soarer/SC430.
Before pressuring the IS350 baseline dyno figures were generated. Blitz reworked the dyno numbers to reflect flywheel output. The 2GR-FSE V-6 pumped out 309 hp at 6100 rpm prior to boost therapy. Grafting a C15 supercharger and its psychotically twisted piping took mad scientist-like forethought but the result is a surprisingly clean install as Blitz modified the stock engine cover to hide the aluminum octopus piping that goes to and from a front-mount intercooler and into each bank of the V-6. Prior to entry into the engine Blitz fabricators constructed mini-chamber log-inspired manifolds to help equalize flow between the cylinders.
The Blitz compressor is a roots style blower that employs an electronic activation switch with three settings; each bringing the system online at different engine speed/load points. An electronically controlled clutch takes cues from throttle position data, which allows for precision control of the boost threshold and makes for a more fuel-efficient ride on the wild side. In most cases a Blitz-tuned ECU handles the tuning but it is unclear how Blitz Japan addressed tuning on the Lexus but plus-93 on the horsepower side indicates they are doing something right.
A Blitz SUS air filter element was added and a cat-back exhaust system was prototyped. The Blitz Nur-Spec C-Ti Premium exhaust system features the use of titanium in a dual-muffler, dual-exit design. The system terminates via twin titanium tips that sport a heat-induced purple hue that is very much in favor these days. The system appears well designed and executed and we foresee it being on the front line of bolt-on IS tuning products. Back on the dyno, the 3.5L V-6 rallied for a 93hp triumph. Peak output checked in at 402 and torque jumped 84 lb-ft from 284 to 368.
Blitz also used the IS350 project to design select aero parts. The scheme includes factory option rocker panel and rear bumper treatments augmented with an aggressive front lip spoiler that features carbon fiber in the center just below the front-mount intercooler and a carbon-fiber front grille treatment. The look is right on target as the Blitz parts add aggressiveness without changing the soul of the Lexus.
A decidedly high-class rolling stock selection provides the finishing touch. Blitz went for a staggered look to better fill the wheelwells by employing 18x8 Blitz Techno Speed Z1 wheels wrapped with 225/40-18 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires up front while the rear is fitted with 19x9 Techno Speeds and 245/35-19 rubber.
No doubt Z1s are visually hard hitting but this well thought out combo does not go unloved as Blitz has energized the IS350's luxury minded underpinnings with a set of purpose-minded Super Flex lowering coils, which provide more bite and drop the car 25 mm. The front coils are rated at 4.7 kg/cm2 while the rears check in at 6.5 kg/cm2. The result is a lower center of gravity and more responsive damping that give the Lexus the added agility it needs without spoiling the cushy ride Lexus is famous for.
We really like where Blitz has taken this IS350. The famed tuning house has added bite to its bark and had a supremely positive impact on the driving experience. This was surely no easy task given the nature of the beast's leading-edge direct injection system, new dual VVT-i variable valve timing scheme, and the fact that the IS is an all-new proposition from the floor up. Further, the level of modification on this car is right in line with what Lexus enthusiasts will be lusting after if, and when, the new IS taps into the tuning scene.