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The sound is unmistakable. It’s a sport-tuned V8 in full song—more of growl, actually, that trails its vehicle in the still, cool air. The car begins another forceful lap under the shadow of Japan’s Mount Fuji, the driver wearing both a crash helmet and a grin. This is the Fuji Speedway, venue for the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, and the vehicle making circuit after circuit is the new 2008 Fuji Speedway

Photo Credit Situated in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, Fuji Speedway first opened as a road course in 1965. A noteworthy feature then was its 1.3 km straightaway, one of the longest in all of motorsports. In 1976 the track hosted the first Formula One event ever held in Japan, a race won by legendary driver Mario Andretti. Toyota purchased the track in 2000, and in 2005 completed a major reconfiguration. In September of 2007, Fuji Speedway will host the Japanese Grand Prix, its new 1.5 km straightaway the longest on the 2007

F1 race circuit. With its 400+ horsepower V8 and the world’s first eight-speed direct sport-shift transmission, the all new high performance Lexus IS-F literally puts exhilarating torque and intense speed at the driver’s fingertips. Designed, tested and refined on the world’s most challenging racetracks, the IS-F is a high-performance sport sedan that will grab the eye, seduce the ear and stir the soul.

Listening to changes in the engine’s pitch, it’s easy for observers to detect terse, ultra-quick shifts in the vehicle’s eight-speed gearbox as it screams around each corner, its brakes slowing things down just enough to hold a steady, high-speed arc before the car punches forward again like a jet fighter on afterburners.

The driver pushing the IS-F to the edge of inertial law is a Lexus engineer. He’s also listening carefully, since it’s his job to hone, refine, and otherwise improve the vehicle’s performance. Lexus engineers take the pursuit of perfection very seriously, but they also enjoy it—especially during high-velocity testing at the Fuji Speedway. Hence the grin.

The results of this drive, and many more still to come, will be yours to experience next year, when the IS-F arrives in dealerships. What you’ll find is a Lexus model like none before. “All the good things you can think of about Lexus cars are there,” explains IS-F Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi›. “What’s different is the way it’s all balanced and tuned. The IS-F brings a new kind of emotion, excitement, and driving pleasure.”

Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi a graduate of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology, Chief Engineer Yukihoko Yaguchi’s long tenure with Lexus can be traced all the way back to the very first LS and GS models, when he served as a Team Leader. In 2001 he was made a Group Manager in the Lexus Planning Division, and shortly thereafter was put in charge of concept planning for the new IS-F. An avid racing enthusiast, Mr. Yaguchi lives with his wife and daughter in Japan’s Toyota City.

The “F” designation marks a new chapter for Lexus. This code letter signifies vehicles that fall outside the normal engineering and development process, and it now also denotes Lexus vehicles in the high-performance class (read: sports cars). This is a major addition to the Lexus family that includes, in addition to the IS-F, the V10-equipped LF-A “supercar”› which may enter production in the future. (Both vehicles shared the limelight at January’s Detroit auto show.)

Lexus forges into exotic sports car territory with the LF-A concept vehicle. Integrating the simple elegance of the new Lexus design initiative with Formula One–inspired style, sculpted curves and fluid lines make a dynamic statement. The clean lines of the two-seat cockpit are minimalist and futuristic, so there’s no distraction from the impressive ride Next year, though, will be the year of the IS-F. Early statistics—such as 400-plus horsepower (estimated) and a 0-to-60 time of less than five seconds—showcase the vehicle’s remarkable per*formance potential. But the IS-F is about more than impressive numbers. It’s also about blending incredible performance with poise and sophistication, all cornerstones of Lexus quality.

For Chief Engineer Yaguchi, a Lexus performance-class car has been a personal vision for the past 10 years. After Lexus gave the IS-F project the official go-ahead a few years ago, Yaguchi and his designers decided to use a large, powerful 5.0-liter V8 engine, precision-crafted for a Lexus IS-size vehicle. From there, Yagu*chi’s team connected the engine to Lexus’ latest advance in transmission systems: the world’s first eight-speed direct sport-shift transmission, which is tuned to deliver ultra-fast shifting in Manual mode, using racing-style paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. This unique transmission allows throttle blips on downshifts, synchronizing engine RPM with vehicle speed to deliver up-shift gear changes within a tenth of a second. The transmission system also includes a Drive mode for more relaxed shifting.

Yaguchi sums up the IS-F’s unique appeal in a single word: responsiveness. “It directly reflects the ‘seamless anticipation’ principle in our L-finesse philosophy. Touch any button or make a request of the IS-F, and the response will be as if the car has been waiting for you, and is ready with precisely what you need.”

Consider the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, the Lexus feature that integrates braking, steering, and stability systems to help minimize loss of traction in a turn. The IS-F’s VDIM system is an advanced version, developed specifically for sport application, that offers three modes. The Normal setting functions like it does in all VDIM-equipped Lexus vehicles. The driver can choose the Sport mode to push the car a bit further before the braking, throttle, and steering control systems begin their skid-avoidance work. The third mode is Off, which lets the driver explore the IS-F’s handling without the VDIM escort.
Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)

Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) uses a sophisticated system of sensors to anticipate a skid before it occurs. VDIM integrates braking, steering, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) systems to help minimize loss of traction in a turn.1

[1] Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) are electronic systems designed to help the driver maintain vehicle control under adverse conditions. They are not a substitute for safe driving practices. Factors including speed, road conditions and driver steering input can all affect whether VSC and VDIM will be effective in preventing a loss of control. Please see your Owner’s Manual for further details.

Drivers will also enjoy racing-style brakes—enormous 14.2-inch cross-drilled front discs with six-piston aluminum calipers, and 13.6-inch discs at the rear. These unique brakes were made to Lexus’ design specifications by Brembo, which produces brake systems for racing teams. The brakes sit behind 19-inch, 10-spoke, lightweight forged alloy wheels built by another leading high-performance-component specialist, BBS.

As for the body, the IS-F is wider than the IS sedans, and sports aggressive-looking air intakes, side air outlets, and quad exhaust tips. The vehicle’s suspension—double-wishbone at the front and multilink at the rear, with large anti-roll bars and specially tuned monotube shocks and springs—has been modified so that the IS-F delivers racing-caliber handling.
Like the rest of the team behind the vehicle, veteran engineer Yaguchi is a self-confessed car enthusiast, one who’s clearly excited about what the IS-F means for Lexus owners. “It presents the opportunity for driving excitement on weekends, either on public roads or, for enthusiasts, private racetracks. That said, it will still be an exceptionally practical, refined, and comfortable vehicle for Monday to Friday.”

In other words, the IS-F is a new kind of Lexus, one that exudes the confidence of a high-performance vehicle. But it remains a Lexus to its core, with all the refinement and sophistication that implies. “Everyone on board, not just the driver, will enjoy the ride,” Yaguchi predicts. “Everyone will enjoy the speed, the sound of the engine, the g-forces. And because this is a Lexus, they’ll enjoy it all in comfort and safety.” Driver enjoyment starts early next year when the IS-F enters showrooms. Until then, lucky test drivers will keep grinning.

by peter mcsean
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