ClubLexus SoCal Exclusive: Interview with Yukihiko Yaguchi, Chief Engineer of the Lexus IS-F
By: rominl and Joe Z
Over the past 7 years Lexus has done a fantastic job in fighting off the “boring to drive” mindset that avoided people from associating Lexus with sporty, engaged and spirited driving. In some way it all started back in 2006, when Lexus Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi started his garage project to transform the second generation IS into a true sports car – the Lexus ISF.
What’s better than going through the journey again with Yaguchi-san, on how the ISF was born, as well as touching topics on how and where he envisions the future of the Lexus F brand?
During this year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
, a few ClubLexus Southern California core members were honored to sit down with Yaguchi-san, and we are bringing you this exclusive interview.
Yaguchi-san has been with TMC for over 30 years and he worked on the development of all generations of the legendary Toyota Supra. He also participated in the birth of the Lexus LS & GS models, giving him great perspective on Sports versus Luxury. So it was no surprise he created a well-balanced ISF.
From talking to Yaguchi-san, he admitted that there were a lot of challenges coming from the corporate side, mainly the question of whether the project would make it to production. There were worries all the way through. But in the meantime he understood that there was demand for such a vehicle everywhere, even some people inside corporate wanted this car. Yaguchi-san decided to devote himself to pursue the best and ultimately the car came through.
He also told us that the project indeed started out with very few people and resources were limited, but he was getting good help from TRD Technocraft Jp. and obviously Yamaha on the engine tuning. Over the years, the vehicle attracted more attention and interest. More enthusiastic in-house engineers started volunteering their time and effort to further improve and tune the ISF. That’s a big part of the reason why from MY2008 to MY2013, we have seen so many improvements on the ISF, boosting its handling capability significantly.
In fact, for this year's 90th running of the PPIHC, Lexus entered the race with the IS F "Circuit Club Sport Racer
The IS F CCS-R was specially built with passion, by the Chief Engineer and his hardcore team. Race car driver Ken Gushi piloted the vehicle and placed 2nd in exhibition class!
Ken Gushi, Yaguchi-san and ClubLexus SoCal members together with the IS F CCS-R. Picture credit to V8_Aristo
Regarding the future of the F brand, Yaguchi-san is very happy with the two F cars now (ISF & LFA) and the subsequent F-Sport lineup. He wants the sport segment to further expand and create more future F models in the Lexus lineup. Most importantly, he said that he plans to be involved in all F models!
On the topic of weight reduction, Yaguchi-san brought up an interesting point other than performance. He said that safety regulations are becoming more challenging and in order to implement all these features, weight reduction is becoming more and more important. It’s going to be interesting to see how the weight of Lexus vehicles change, and how that transforms into performance and safety.
We then asked Yaguchi-san how he would balance Performance and Luxury. We were very pleased to learn that he definitely puts performance first for a sports car. Once that’s achieved, then luxury comes in to compliment the vehicle, making it more refined. We absolutely hope Yaguchi-san can carry this philosophy into all the upcoming F cars, so the vehicles (especially chassis) can be well engineered from the ground up. Yaguchi-san also mentioned that the current ISF design influences quite a bit on the next generation IS on handling, making it fun to drive. We think that’s very encouraging!
Being the enthusiasts we are, of course we wouldn’t leave any chance on poking for “What’s next?” As soon as we brought up the IS-C test mule with all the ISF components running around the Nürburgring track (earlier this Summer), he smiled right away and said “no comment”. But he did also say quietly “have hope.” So ISF fans, brace yourself!
And yes, we did ask the big question of “Is the GS-F coming?” Well, let’s just say Yaguchi-san figured “no comment” wasn’t good enough of an answer, so he shut his ears pretending he didn't hear the question. For all we care, this can actually be exciting?!
We want to thank Yaguchi-san again for joining us on this interview, we enjoyed it tremendously. We also want to thank Jim L. and Stefannie B. of Lexus USA for coordinating this opportunity, as well as Mark H. of Lexus USA for translating for us.
Also, credits to ClubLexus Socal members JamesN, V8_Aristo, gemini1, and JoeZ for attending the PPIHC and conducting this special interview.
Yaguchi-san & Joe Z during interview. Picture credit to V8_Aristo, gemini1, JamesN & Joe Z
The following below is an HD Video of the Interview compiled by Joe Z!