By definition, a sleeper car is something that looks unassuming but is completely capable of going way faster than originally intended. You can either have a vehicle modified from the ground up to be one, or if you’re a manufacturer like Lexus, you cram a big stinkin’ V8 under the hood of your current compact luxury sedan.
It’s called the IS500 F Sport Performance. Using the foundation of the beautiful 2021 Lexus IS (the IS350 F Sport, to be exact), the brand has given many enthusiasts something to drool on—a sleeper luxury sedan. Unlike its performance-oriented contemporaries from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, you won’t find forced induction or any electrification here. Powering this car is the 2UR-GSE, a traditional, naturally aspirated V8 found in the likes of the LC500, the RC F and the IS500’s direct predecessor, the IS F.
The V8 will give you a throaty legato all the way up to 7,100rpm, where it’ll be pushing out 472hp and 536Nm—capable of launching the car to 100km/h from a standstill in 4.5 seconds. And if you think that this engine might make the IS500 heavier than the current IS350 F Sport, it’s only 65kg additional weight.
On the topic of subtlety, not much has changed with the IS500 compared to lesser trim levels, which may or may not be a good thing. Aside from the rumble of the V8, there are a few subtle cues to help you distinguish the cars. The hood bulge has been raised by two inches to fit the large engine underneath, the window trim is blacked out, and the rear splitter has been slightly modified to accommodate the quad exhaust tips. The car also rides on bespoke 19-inch Enkei wheels, and you’ll get black F Sport badging both inside and out.
Sadly, this car will be exclusive to the North American market. But fret not as this is the start of the brand’s new F Sport Performance line. Compared to the standard F Sport package, the Performance line will feature more powerful engines and actual mechanical tweaks to improve handling.
This is definitely something to be excited about, as this could herald the start of a new and improved Lexus brand.