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Auto blogWed, 09 Oct 2013 17:16:00 EST
Esquire holds an annual car of the year award, and for the past four years, only American or German autos, such as the Cadillac ATS and the Audi S4, have earned the publication's top pick. But for 2013, the top pick is from Japan: the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport. The publication calls the IS "thrilling first, responsible second."
Upon learning the top pick, we had to make sure we were still reading about a Lexus, though we admit the new IS350 F Sport is indeed a new breed, one that approaches BMW 3 Series levels of performance and handling while maintaining its Japanese identity.
Esquire appreciates the F Sport's new direction, but says, "Crucially, unlike everything else, it's not trying to be the BMW." It claims the 2013 car of the year is an "honest, gutsy, fast set of wheels."
Is A New Kind Of Lexus Hiding Under That Radical Skin?
When the now-outgoing Lexus IS generation was launched back in 2006, the company would not have been wise to bring the compact luxury sedan to be driven by journalists to a track like Driveway Austin Motorsports. Taking along a BMW 335i for comparison loops would have proved an ill choice as well.
Our own Jonathon Ramsey found the current-generation Lexus IS250 to be fairly nimble over a tightly wound autocross course, when he drove it back-to-back with the prototype version of this 2014 IS a few months ago. Our track for testing the fully realized version of the IS350 F-Sport meanwhile - again with the 2013 version along for competitive driving - was on a circuit designed to string together recreations of some of the best tracks in the world. Laguna Seca, bits of the Nürburgring and sections inspired by Imola and Ferrari's Fiorano test track all make for a far more enticing road course than you'd expect to find plunked down in a nondescript area a few miles east of downtown Austin. Critically, this environment highlighted what strides Lexus has made in the sport sedan race with its new IS.
Lexus has been keeping development of the production version of its LF-LC concept tightly under wraps. Last we heard, that halo GT car had received the green light for production, but that was over a year ago. Since then, things have been pretty silent. Finally though, fresh rumors about the luxury coupe are starting to leak out, pointing toward the model's powertrain lineup.
According to unnamed sources speaking to Motor Trend, the production LF-LC will eventually sport three very intriguing engine options. The base model will reportedly use a naturally aspirated V8 providing around 450 horsepower - very similar specs to the upcoming RC F. The next step up will allegedly be the upcoming hybrid powertrain shared between BMW and Toyota pumping things up to around 500 hp. Finally, a top-of-the-heap F version will use a twin-turbocharged version of the RC F's 5.0-liter V8 to bring output to 600 hp. The insiders even claim that the hybrid and the twin-turbo V8 could find their way into other Lexus products like the LS and possibly even a more beastly RC.
None of this speculation sounds too outlandish. Lexus could get more capacity out of the RC F's tuned V8 by shoving it into other models, and rumors are flying about performance cars spawned from BMW and Toyota's partnership. Given Lexus' recent embrace of turbocharging, even the twin-turbo V8 doesn't seem too dubious. That said, with no hard facts to back up the rumormill, we'll have to keep waiting to see what the LF-LC shows up with.