In what might be the swan song for the V8-powered sedan segment, the 2023 Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance is the return of an eight-cylinder option on the sporty four-door not seen since the previous generation. And if this is indeed the end of the road of big motors shoehorned into compact cars, it's not a bad way to go out.
No longer called IS F, the 500 is the first product to fall under the new F SPORT Performance line. The 5.0-litre engine is essentially an updated version of the unit last offered seven years ago, now sending 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque to the rear axle, representing a massive improvement over the previous 416 and 371, respectively.
Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 0 to 100 km/h time is rated at approximately 4.4 seconds. While an impressive number, peak torque doesn't come on until 4,800 RPM and feels slower, especially compared to the instant acceleration modern EVs provide. However, the experience is much more visceral, and the throaty exhaust note sounds almost musical once things get moving, something Lexus has a reputation for.
Handling is surprisingly as nimble as the V6 IS 350 F SPORT, and the larger mill only adds an extra 143 pounds thanks to some clever engineering. And like its sibling, the vehicle benefits from the Dynamic Handling Package, the equipped standard here, comprised of Adaptive Variable Suspension — which monitors G-force, yaw, velocity and steering input and then adjusts the firmness accordingly — and a Torsen limited-slip differential.
Though built for performance driving, the 500 includes a Yamaha rear damper helping to increase comfort during low around-town speeds and stability and agility on the highway.
The car features some visual upgrades to stand out against the rest of the portfolio. The centre section of the specially-sculpted hood is raised to hint at what's underneath, and the front bumper and fenders are both elongated, appearing sleeker. Sitting on ornate lightweight 19-inch split 10-spoke Enkei wheels, there's also dark chrome window trim, a revised diffuser housing stacked quad exhaust tips and a black rear lip spoiler. The coat of bright Infrared paint on our press loaner was absolutely brilliant and turned a lot of heads on the road.
Inside, the cabin retains a heritage touch and feels similar to all second-gen IS' forward. Exclusive F SPORT Performance badging can be found on the leather steering wheel and door sill plates, and the motorized LFA-style, digital gauge cluster, gains a unique start-up animation. The heated and ventilated seats are the ideal combination of supportive and comfortable, holding occupants snuggly when engaged in spirited manoeuvres.'
The 2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance starts at $77,725 MSRP and is built at the Toyota Tahara Plant in Japan.
Motor: 5.0-litre V8
Horsepower: 472 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 395 @ 4,800 rpm
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 16.0 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)