Its Raucous V8 is a Glorious Departure from Turboland
When it comes to small, luxury-minded sport sedans, it’s all about balance. And over the years, Lexus has been all over the place with their IS 4-door. Too much luxury for some, not enough for others. Too much technology, not enough performance—and on and on. Let’s hit the track in the new IS 500 F Sport Performance and see if they’ve finally found that perfect balance.
2021 saw the arrival of a Lexus IS that was not all-new, but with significant updates to further its mission of both offering the Lexus faithful a legitimate sport sedan, as well as attempting to attract buyers away from the European brands that have for so long dominated the segment.
For 2022, the news gets even better, with an IS 500 F SPORT Performance model that sparks a total F SPORT revamp.
As the first model to come from what is now known as the F SPORT Performance line, the IS 500 F SPORT Performance was designed with U.S. buyers in mind. Thus, there’s a roaring V8 under this compact sport sedan’s new raised hood.
And, if that story sounds familiar to you, you’re on to something. The IS first arrived here in 2001, strictly for the purpose of competing with European sport sedans. Lexus then launched F SPORT in 2008, with the 416-horsepower V8-powered IS F.
So now here we are again with that same 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine setting this IS 500 in motion. It’s been updated of course, 472-horsepower and 395 lb-ft. of torque are the current numbers, same as found in the latest Lexus RC F Coupe.
Much like the RC F, it’s a fairly easy rear-wheel-drive car to launch; lots of grip and a chassis that likes to hunker down and spring off the line. We hit 60 in 4.4-seconds, as Lexus predicted we would.
The IS 500 still works with the same 8-speed automatic; and while it won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a more advanced dual-clutch setup, shifts are about as quick and aggressive as it gets for a true torque converter trans. Our best ¼-mile pass was 12.9-seconds at 112 miles-per-hour.
The IS 500 comes standard with F SPORT’s previously optional Dynamic Handling Package. It includes an Adaptive Variable Suspension with a more aggressive tune, a limited slip rear differential, unique Yamaha performance dampers, and larger brakes. Now, the IS 500 is strictly rear-wheel-drive, where the lesser IS 350 F SPORT can still be had with all-wheel-drive as an option.
For best handling results, engage Sport S+ mode which adjusts steering response and stiffens up the active suspension. Chassis response is quite immediate, but keep inputs smooth and deliberate, as intervention systems always seem to be lurking in the background, and can be quick to trigger.
This is just shy of 3,900-lbs. of vehicle, so the rear tires do struggle to maintain grip at times; and Lexus’ overall soft demeanor remains. But, there was minimum body roll, and a very neutral feel with no excessive oversteer or understeer.
Not to say you can’t find a little oversteer if you go looking for it; and when you do, the IS 500 provides enough feel to easily control slides. It’s not quite the return of the IS F, but a clear step in that direction.
IS 500 brake rotors are larger by about an inch for both front and rear and also get additional cooling airflow; and despite a very soft pedal, they held up quite well through our few days of hard track abuse.
The IS 500’s hood is raised by 2-inches with highly sculpted center character lines, new front and rear bumpers, unique grille, tweaked fenders, dark chrome window trim, rear diffuser with quad exhaust tips, lighter 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, rear lip spoiler, and special badging to highlight its status above other F SPORT offerings.
Inside, there’s a new perforated leather steering wheel that feels nice and compact, F SPORT pedals and kick plates, and some unique displays for the instrument cluster.
A Premium version adds a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio system, navigation, panoramic view monitor, power rear sunshade, and tri-beam LED headlights.
Pricing for this IS 500 F SPORT Performance starts at $57,575, with Premium trim costing just $4,500 more.
The 2022 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance truly holds up the performance part, with a raucous V8 that’s a glorious departure from Turboland. Now, we’re not convinced the revamped F SPORT lineup has achieved that perfect luxury-sport balance just yet, but we sure love a good V8, and did find the scales tipping more and more in Lexus’ favor.
Engine: 5.0L V8
Torque: 395 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.9 seconds at 112 mph
EPA: 17 City / 25 Highway / 20 Combined