The Kick Ass LexusLexus has been around since 1990. In all that time, not one Lexus car or SUV has been built around serious performance. It's time for a change. Here it is, straight from the Detroit Auto Show, wearing the innocuous sheetmetal of the IS sedan and packing enough V8 thrust to directly challenge BMW's upcoming new M3 for sheer speed. It should challenge that same car for the hearts, minds, and bucks of 28-year-old systems engineers willing to spend most of their income on a small, really fast, luxury sedan.
It's called the 2008 Lexus IS-F and its 5.0-liter V8 is what matters most. Lexus is still being coy about output, pegging it only at 400-ish horsepower. However, it's obviously a member of Toyota's latest UR family of V8s, alongside the 4.6-liter in the LS 460 and the 5.7-liter in the new Tundra pick-up. Our guess is that it will feature direct fuel injection like the LS 460 motor while also taking advantage of a (slightly) longer stroke, as in the Tundra, for better low-end torque. Lexus has promised it will be "topped with specially engineered heads fed by a two-stage intake system." Whatever, this will be the most powerful engine Toyota has sold in America and the first eight-cylinder engine the company has ever built (for road use) with high performance in mind.
Further back, Lexus promises a new eight-speed 'direct sport-shift' transmission. In Drive mode, the torque converter allows for fast standing-start acceleration that will register a zero to 60mph time in less than 4.9 seconds. The tranny also features an advanced Manual mode. Steering column-mounted paddles enable ultra-fast upshifts, while downshifts are accompanied by automated throttle blips to match engine speed with vehicle speed.
Naturally, the rest of the IS-F is fortified to work with this beast of a driveline. Brakes are upgraded to Brembos with cross-drilled 14.2-inch front discs and 13.6-inch rears. The fronts are clamped by six-piston calipers while the rears deploy two. Wheels are 19-inchers, built by BBS to Lexus' specs and suspension has been optimized. The interior is suitably redecorated with such finery as 'aluminized composite trim' (white fiberglass weave under resin).
Here's one piece of particularly good news: Lexus' latest version of its Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system features three modes. The first mode is Normal, for puttering around town. The second mode, Sport, allows the car to be pushed further before engaging the braking, throttle and steering systems to avoid disaster. Then, third and best of all: Off.
The IS-F will hit dealers early in 2008.
Rumors & Lies* Someone paid $5.5 million for an old Shelby Cobra at the Barrett-Jackson auction in January. Let us say what's on everyone's mind: idiot.
* Ford chief Alan Mullaly has promised a 'One Ford' global design theme and product line for the entire planet in around seven years. Hey, we might get a real updated Focus by then.
* Subaru has not only signed X-Games star Travis Pastrana to a three-year contract for its Subaru Rally Team USA, but there are rumors he may be the new face of some of their ads. And there may even be something like a Travis Edition STI coming.
* Toyota is supposedly looking to build its next US plant in either Arkansas or Tennessee. Why? It's the beaches, of course.
* Toyota is also supposed to be looking into building a 'world car' to sell in under-developed countries (or just countries full of cheapskates) for about $7000.
* Rumors are flying, once again, that DaimlerChrysler may split itself back into Daimler and, erm, Chrysler. Ho-hum.
* According to Hagerty Insurance, the top 10 future collector vehicles are the Toyota FJ Cruiser, MINI Cooper, Lotus Elise, Dodge Viper, Acura NSX, Toyota Scion, Audi TT, Jaguar XK, Chrysler 300 and Smart Fortwo. So stock up while they're still cheap and we'll see you at Barrett-Jackson in 2044.
* By the way, SCC figures the best collector car of the future will be the Mitsubishi Evo IX MR. And there won't be a lot of clean examples left in a decade. We've got six new ones, all sitting preserved in cosmoline at our parents' houses.