Iconic Track Serves as Backdrop for Limited Production’s Unveiling
By Bozi Tatarevic
SEBRING, Fla. – Lexus showed it is once again bringing V-8 performance to an IS compact sport sedan when the IMSA partner manufacturer recently pulled the covers off the IS 500 F SPORT Performance model. That wasn’t the end of the story, though. Lexus presented its 2022 IS 500 F SPORT Performance Launch Edition at Sebring International Raceway on March 19, a flashy demonstration on the eve of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Only 500 Launch Editions will be produced, each featuring multiple interior and exterior changes over the standard IS 500, starting with the exclusive Incognito color. In addition to the paint scheme, the Launch Edition also sports 19-inch, split-seven-spoke forged BBS wheels in matte black that are some four pounds lighter per wheel than the standard 19-inch IS F SPORT wheels.
Additional changes are visible in the interior, where the Launch Edition receives unique two-tone black and gray trim for the seats, doors and center console. That interior is completed with silver ash trim on the steering wheel along with a serialized badge showing which of the 500 vehicles it is within the limited line.
Power for the IS 500 F SPORT Performance Launch Edition comes from the same 5.0-liter V-8 engine that powers the standard IS 500 and results in 472 horsepower at 7,100 rpm along with 395 pound-feet of peak torque at 4,800 rpm. This V-8 2UR-GSE engine might be familiar to race fans, as a version of it also appears in the Lexus RC F GT3 that races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race car variant has an increased bore and stroke which increases displacement to 5.4 liters but shares the same basic layout as the engine in the street cars and is part of the relationship that allows Lexus to bring performance from the racetrack to the street.
The original IS F was also offered with a 5.0-liter V-8. Many have wondered why this new car did not get the full IS F name and instead received an F SPORT Performance trim. Cooper Ericksen, Lexus Group Vice President of Product Planning and Strategy, explained that not only is the engine from the RC F GT3 shared, but the vehicle platform for this Lexus IS comes from a combination of the RC and GS, creating an opportunity to drop a V-8 into the car.
While an unorthodox approach in the current automotive climate, with many manufacturers moving away from both sedans and big engines, with the number of Lexus hybrid vehicles available there remains room in the lineup for the powerful V-8.
Adding to the allure of the IS 500 F SPORT Performance Launch Edition’s presentation at Sebring was the unveiling of a special, one-off IS 500 F SPORT Performance carrying a honeycomb livery matching the Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3s that compete in the WeatherTech Championship. This car has custom honeycomb-design, 20-inch wheels from Rotiform, which supplies wheels including the colorful ones found on the Lexus LC safety cars at IMSA races.
The Rotiform wheels on the Vasser Sullivan IS 500 tribute car feature a custom-machined honeycomb shape along with the engraved phrase “We Can, We Will.” It comes from the Lexus covenant established during the brand’s launch in 1989 and is still used as a guide today.
“We’re extremely excited to be able to bring a new V-8 offering to the Lexus lineup and even more excited knowing it’s only just the beginning of a massive amount of power that’s following closely behind it,” said Jeff Bal, Lexus Motorsports Manager. “We want our owners to know that Lexus is committed to building vehicles with even more performance-related attributes and delivering that message at Sebring to some of our most loyal enthusiasts makes perfect sense because they’ve been with us all along. The IS 500 Launch Edition helps confirm we are listening to their feedback, and both the Launch Edition and Vasser Sullivan model are a great way to connect the dots between our learnings from the GT3 program and what buyers are looking for in Lexus F Performance.
“These cars also provide us with an opportunity to demonstrate how we’re going well outside of the norm to help push the brand into consideration for those who crave a higher level of performance. We’ve built great cars for more than 30 years, and the success of the Vasser Sullivan RC F GT3s in IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship is quickly gaining attention in the paddock and dealer showrooms.”
The pair of Lexus IS 500s revealed at Sebring provide a great look at some of the performance direction Lexus could be taking in the future. Sales of the all-new IS500 begin later this year.
— Lexus Racing USA (@lexusracingusa) March 19, 2021