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Lexus F for fired up

Then there's this - the IS F.

If Godzilla wore a business suit, this is very likely the car he’d drive to work. The first in a series of specialised “F” cars for Lexus, it’s Japan's answer to Germany's high-performance V8 mid-sizers such as BMW's M3 and Audi’s RS4.

Carsguide was given a preview ahead of its appearance at the Australian International Motor Show on Thursday.

The Lexus is the first ultra-fast sports sedan from Toyota's luxury division.

An apparently 5.0-litre V8 has been shoehorned into an engine bay that normally hosts a powerplant of half that capacity, driven through the world's first eight-speed direct sport shift gearbox and the rear wheels.

In order to be competitive with the usual suspects, the F car needed to achieve the 0-100km/h sprint in less than five seconds – 4.9, which is their precise claim. Lexus product planning manager Jeff Shafer relates preliminary specifications of “more than 300kW and more than 470Nm” to move its approximately 1.7 tonne kerb weight, distributed 54:46 per cent front-to-rear.

As to the nomenclature, the “F” code signifies those special vehicles that are removed from the Lexus engineering and development mainstream. And, as it happens, much of the IS F development took place under Yukihiko Yaguchi at Fuji Speedway at the foot of Mt Fuji, an aptly volcanic backdrop for the car in question.

Shafer is one of the chosen few to have driven the near-production IS F.

While he says that Mr Yaguchi was “adamant that the IS F had to have the instant sensory elements of driving” it also needed to be sufficiently civilised to be a daily driver.

In both respect, Shafer says the IS F is well-served by its all-new eight-speed Direct Sport-shift Transmission (DSS).

A new torque-converter lock-up control was developed that allows for a direct, crisp gear change through the constant lock-up of the torque converter in second through eighth gear. In Drive mode, the transmission is skewed toward smoothness, and the torque converter allows for enhanced launch capability.

For more frenetic deployment, manual mode allows fingertip shifting via the steering wheel-mounted paddles - the fastest changing of its type, Shafer says. Downshifts are accompanied by automated and precise throttle blips to match engine RPM to vehicle speed.

Unlike the current and conventional IS, the Drive mode can be temporarily overridden by the paddles without engaging manual mode. So you can engine brake into a corner in your chosen cog and allow the torque converter to take over as you emerge.

A smarter-than-ever Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management System (VDIM) manages power delivery, braking response and suspension settings, all of which are changeable at the push of a button. Indeed, this newest VDIM has three modes, with the Sport mode providing what Shafer says is greater latitude before the electronic safety measure intervenes.

Of course you can simply switch the thing off altogether and go your hardest, so it’s a good thing that this is underwritten by purpose-specced Brembo brakes.

The standard wheels are custom 19-inch forged-alloy BBS number shod with 225/40R19s at the front and 255/35R19 for the rear. Of course, the F rides on a dropped and tightened suspension.

These are also the subtlest visual hints the F is a departure. Other exterior pointers run to a bonnet that bulges to accommodate the bigger engine, a bespoke body kit and quad exhaust pipes.

The interior is similarly understated but striking with aluminium composite trim, special surface treatments and F logo on the steering wheel and rear-centre console. The most obvious departure from the norm is that the F seats four not five, albeit in cosseting and supportive sport buckets.

No doubt some will find the visual cues insufficiently bling, but anything more overt would be at odds with the executive express segment at which Lexus are aiming.

The metallic blue of the car we were shown is the range’s signature colour, one that is intended to suggest a “flame when it gets to 1500 degrees”.

On the face of it, the IS F will be hot enough for the Germans to feel the heat.

See this car at the Australian International Motor Show


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