From the October 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
We often pine for bygone vehicles, wishing automakers would continue building the great ones forever. Some say you can never go back, but apparently Lexus isn’t among them. With the 2022 IS500 F Sport Performance, the brand has reached into its catalog of hits and pulled out the more-than-decade-old, still-amazing 5.0-liter V-8 that debuted in the IS F (and continues on in the LC500) and created a V-8 sports sedan that rekindles a love we thought we’d lost.
F Sport Performance is a mouthful and the brand’s new name for not-quite-F models. In this first example of the line, we get a compelling proposition of a naturally aspirated V-8 for a similar price as the turbo six-cylinders found in cars such as the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Cadillac CT5-V.
Although it can’t keep up with the quickest of today’s boosted sixes, the IS is plenty competitive, taking 4.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. And the old-school auditory experience from the 472-hp V-8—up 56 horsepower from the original IS F—is well worth a few fractions of a second. Instead of playing an engine soundtrack created in a recording studio through the speakers like other modern cars might, the IS500 has an intake bypass that opens around 2800 rpm when the throttle is pinned, creating a boisterous and authentic roar as it rips up into the 7300-rpm redline.
We applaud this car’s entirely unnecessary ability to rev freely to redline in neutral, bucking the trend toward a lame lower limiter while parked. Those stacked quad pipes want to holler. The Aisin eight-speed automatic bangs home shifts enthusiastically during acceleration runs, but it’s neither as quick nor as smooth in everyday driving as the ZF eight-speed found in the BMW and Audi.
The chassis doesn’t quite live up to the Performance label, delivering just 0.89 g of lateral stick and a suspension tune that’s more in line with Lexus’s cushier offerings. The relative softness means that, under hard acceleration, the car rears up dramatically. There’s also the squishy brake pedal that only got more so during testing, although braking distances didn’t suffer.
There’s still sports-sedan competence here, as the IS500 responds well to midcorner throttle adjustments, its tail-out control is confidence inspiring, and road feel vibrates through the perforated-leather steering wheel. Trust us, the IS500 will make you want to roast the tires from a launch and fling the rear through corners, which it’ll do thanks to the Torsen limited-slip differential. Should you find the limits too low, we’d suggest fitting more aggressive summer rubber than the IS’s Bridgestone Potenza S001Ls.
Quiet at speed, the IS500’s relaxed demeanor makes it an ultra-comfortable daily driver. As do the great seats, which offer supple comfort and bolstering support. And while it could use a bit more authority in its suspension, it has more than what it takes to handle memory lane.
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