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Lexus Finally Gives An F About Performance

The accounting department formed a rock band and they’re not turning back. After years of monotonous work its time to let loose and chase excitement. In the world of performance Luxury cars, Lexus is a newcomer and the F performance division is an infant in this world of giants. Striving for brand recognition in the shadows of M, AMG, V, RS, and the remaining letters of the alphabet. The Lexus’ F division has its work cut out for it. Facing off with some of the greatest performance cars on the planet is no small task, but when a company the size of Lexus joins the fray its available resources give it a fighting chance.

The F performance line derived its name from the Fuji Speedway in Japan where Toyota has proved its Motorsports credentials numerous times. In this world of performance divisions, it’s standard practice to choose a letter to signify your performance line and it merely denotes a trim level. Lexus offers two F performance models , the GS F and RC F, with the flagship LC500 on the way. All three of these cars use a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine which, seems underpowered against cars like the CTS-V or C63 AMG, but they offer a competitive product even in the face of this tough competition.

With a naturally aspirated 5.0 liter V8 and a well sorted 8-speed automatic transmission, the current F lineup offers the only remaining Naturally aspirated V8 left in the luxury performance market. The V8 produces 467 horsepower and sings to its 7,300 rpm redline. At above 4,000 rpm it produces sounds the forced induction rivals dream of.

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The response of this V8 puts it ahead of competitors that require fully spooled turbos to deliver performance and the linear power delivery makes it very predictable. Lexus’s decision to go with this engine for their F cars may leave them down on power but it’s a unique engine in this segment and gives them a different appeal. Instead of competing in the insane horsepower wars, they focused on perfecting this engine for both docile commuting and all out performance.

Building a performance brand around one engine is very risky as the power jump from luxury performance coupe to full-size luxury sedan is massive. This engine may be competitive in the RC F but the GS F is facing a 173 horsepower deficit against the CTS-V. Although it decreases development costs to build one performance engine, to truly be taken seriously Lexus will need to go all in at some point and make more competitive engines.

Another missed opportunity was the chassis construction of the RC F, which hampers the car’s performance and indicates Lexus is holding back on cars that need to be exceptional. Starting a performance division is far more than a badge design and some louder engines, they need to be engineering marvels that push the company forward. The current cars are a great start but more effort is required to carve out a large market share in the highly competitive space.

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The choice to only offer an 8-speed torque converter is also a strike against the performance credentials of the F cars. Sure manuals aren’t very popular anymore, but they appeal to real car enthusiasts and go a long way for performance credentials. Although we would prefer manual cars the financial risk is not worth it anymore and the future is going to the autos. The torque converter does a great job during performance driving and normal driving situations but it still cannot match the speed of BMW’s dual clutch.lexus LC 500Looking towards the bright future of the F performance division from Lexus we see the LC500 which, is the halo of this fledgling performance brand and previews the company’s aspirations. In a 6 figure coupe like the LC500 even stronger competition competes for sales and the LC500 has its work cut out for it. This beautiful coupe looks even more stunning in person and promises to be remembered as one of Lexus’ greatest creations. It will feature a more powerful version of the 5.0 liter V8 with an optional hybrid system. This was the first car Lexus has built with the designers and the engineers working in tandem to create this rolling work of art.

Lexus has big plans for the future of the F performance division and this is just the beginning. Expect to see even more powerful performance Lexuses in the future and this new brand gains traction in the growing luxury performance market. This first attempt to gain a crucial foothold was not perfect but showed the potential and appeal of fast Lexuses. We look forward to seeing what the future brings and expect big things from the F performance division.

About Chris Okula - Contributor

Chris was raised on Top Gear and automotive magazines, which still dominate most of his free time today (he is not a fan of the new TopGear). After he graduated from Desales University, Chris started his career in the pharmaceutical industry, but missed writing which lead him to the creation of his own automotive blog. This blog lead him to work with Road & Track and now as a contributor here at Shifting Lanes. In his free time, Chris is constantly on the popular automotive auction site, Bring a Trailer, as well as Craigslist looking for ways to destroy his savings account and skip student loan payments.

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