‘F’ is the letter of choice that Lexus uses to denote their high performance units, much akin to how BMW uses ‘M’ and now Hyundai has laid claim to the letter ’N’. To their credit, many cars under this sub-brand are definitely worthy of acclaim despite them being often overlooked.
It’s also curious to note the irony of Lexus being a luxury arm of automotive juggernaut Toyota, a pioneer of electrified cars and their underlying technology, but their dedicated F models being one of the final bastions of naturally aspirated engines over turbocharging. Meanwhile, rivals have all but done away with atmospherics in search of greater raw power outputs and reduced emissions.
Make no mistake, the 2UR 5.0-litre V8 found in the RC-F, GS-F, and LC 500 is a glorious collection of sensory stimulation, as was the utterly angelic 4.8-litre V10 that was slotted into the LFA. But it looks like the changing times are forcing Lexus to examine their high-end powertrain strategy.
However, rather than follow the trend of grafting on one or a pair of turbochargers to their existing motors, they are looking toward hybridisation to usher in an era of faster and more environmentally responsible performance cars, or so Yoshihiro Sawa, company president, hints at to AutoExpress.
He believes that the essential charisma of naturally aspirated engines are a major factor that will help build emotional connections to their customers and differentiate their cars from their primary competitors in the premium space, all of whom have already invested heavily in turbocharging.
While the additional complexity of a hybrid powertrain would add weight over a combustion-only car, Toyota’s expertise in the field gives Lexus a big advantage in mitigating such tradeoffs. Indeed, both companies have already proven to be capable of engineering truly fun driver’s cars, and now, thanks to cars like the Porsche 918 Spyder, LaFerrari, and McLaren P1, the world is now more accepting of electrification as a performance enhancing component.
More interesting is Sawa’s openness to the idea of focusing efforts on a new standalone performance model that will showcase the potential of their vision to merge charismatic naturally aspirated engines with efficient but powerful electric motors.
“One solution could be a pure F GT car, which could be a hybrid with an electric motor and a strong engine, giving a different kind of drive feel. We don’t stick to V8, V10, twin-turbocharged; they’re important but we’re looking at the future. We’d like to find a way to connect to the next era.”
He added that, either way, combustion engines will eventually have to concede to cleaner and more efficient forms of propulsion, but it’s unclear to him that pure electric vehicles will ultimately win out over the long term as an end-all solution.
“I think that now, we’re in a transitional period. At this moment people say EVs are trendy but three years later, who knows? People like the sound, the dynamics [of combustion engines]. I think we cannot stick to the one solution when it comes to providing emotion.”
The only real downside to this approach is cost and complexity, but since Lexus is a luxury marque, it’s much less of a worry to them than other automakers.