How Lexus has been perfecting the V8

The industry is embracing electrification and small capacity turbocharging, but Lexus knows there's still no substitute for cubes

15w ago

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Look, we're not belittling the future here. Hybrid has its place. Electric has its place (and, increasingly, pace). Small capacity engines with turbochargers have their place too. If there's anything the automotive industry has learned over the past century, it's that you need the right tool for the job in question.

Of course, when the job in question is to develop a thundering sports sedan with big horsepower and a noise that could wake your grandparents several states over, you need a specific tool. For Lexus, that tool is a big, naturally aspirated V8.

This is the Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance, due to drop into your lives this Fall. While Lexus has plenty of experience of comfort and efficiency, and often turns to its pioneering hybrid system to give its customers what they want, this time the company left the battery and electric motor at home. The IS 500 has under its bonnet a 5.0-liter V8 with 472hp* at 7,100rpm and 395 lb ft of torque at 4,800rpm. There's not a supercharger or turbocharger in sight.

Not that the engine needs any extra assistance; the power it's poppin' means a 0-60mph sprint in 4.4 seconds**, with the many liters echoing through four exhaust pipes. That's some pretty face-smacking performance, made all the more impressive when you consider that the V8 isn't new tech. At all. At this point, it's 117-year-old technology (first used in an airplane in 1904, fact-fans). Even the 2UR-GSE version in the IS 500 has been used by Lexus for more than a decade, and has previously appeared in the 2007 IS F and the LC 500.

But the V8 you get today isn't exactly the same one as in 2007; it's evolved. In the IS 500 F SPORT Performance the venerable aluminum block has had extra grunt eked out of the 303.2 cubic inches. The 472hp output is a 56hp markup on the IS F and is on a par with the flagship LC 500.

Lexus hasn't leant on modern sleight of hand to keep things evocative either; there's no sexy sound effects pumped into the cabin through the speakers. Instead, the quad exhausts and an intake bypass system combine to open up the breathing when you mash your right foot; once the revs hit 2,800rpm, the full sonic experience is unleashed.

The aim here is to bring (relatively) affordable, authentic performance; a sports sedan that values quality and simplicity over fancy tricks. Sure, modern tech is great, and there's plenty of that in the IS 500 too. But when it comes to the engine, it's a nostalgic nod to the good ol' days.

*Ratings achieved using the required premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher. If premium fuel is not used, performance will decrease.

** AMCI Testing Certified. Performance figures are for comparison only and were obtained with prototype vehicles by professional drivers.

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