Official Lexus Press Release: 2008 IS-F
Lexus Introduces 2008 High-Performance IS F Sport Sedan
October 23, 2007 – Torrance, CA
– The 2008 Lexus IS F high-performance sedan is the first production
model to wear the brand’s new “F” marque. Based on the robust IS sport
sedan platform, the 2008 IS F will deliver 416 horsepower from a
specially engineered 5.0-liter V8 engine and will accelerate from
zero-to-60 mph in 4.6 seconds when it arrives at Lexus dealerships in
In addition to the exclusive V8, the 2008 IS F’s performance
credentials include racetrack-developed suspension and braking, and a
specially calibrated version of the advanced Vehicle Dynamics
Integrated Management (VDIM) system. Much of the IS F development took
place at racetracks around the world including Germany’s legendary
Nurburgring Nordschleife, Circuit Paul Ricard in France, Japan’s Fuji
Speedway and the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan. In fact, Fuji
Speedway is the IS F’s home circuit, and the shape of turn one was the
inspiration for the F-logo design.
The 2008 Lexus IS F will make an unmistakable design statement as it
launches the brand’s F performance marque. The IS F applies a
distinctive new high-performance layer on the brand’s L-finesse design
language, with themes and design features that set the F model
noticeably apart from standard Lexus models. Likewise, the interior
will feature exclusive performance-influenced luxury appointments
befitting the brand.
The “F” originates from the “Circle-F” internal code for what became
the Lexus Division nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the “F” code has
signified special Lexus vehicle programs that fall outside the normal
engineering and development process.
“With Lexus solidly established as a luxury leader, it was time to
expand the brand’s scope by offering unique high-performance models,
and the IS F is the first,” said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president
of marketing. “Lexus did not design the IS F as a direct competitor to
any specific models, but as a true performance sedan in a distinctly
Lexus way. The IS F is totally authentic with a unique interpretation
of driving excitement at all speeds and provides a new definition of
The Look of Performance
Based on the IS luxury sport sedan, the IS F is clearly differentiated
when viewed from the front, rear or in profile. A trapezoid-shaped
front bumper fascia, a theme that is repeated at the rear, sets off the
V-shape grille. The hood has a raised center section to make room for
the V8 powerplant, and the front fenders were widened to envelop the
19-inch low-profile tires.
Both upper and lower grilles use a special wire-mesh pattern, and total
grille area is increased to ensure adequate cooling for the 5.0-liter
V8. The lower grille is flanked by large brake cooling ducts adjacent
to standard fog lamps. Standard bi-xenon HID headlights include the
Lexus Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), which helps to illuminate
curves at night.
The IS F’s wedge-like profile is accentuated by functional front fender
air outlets with lower edges that transition into larger rocker panels
and continue as a character line into the rear bumper. The front
fenders wear a discrete silver, black and blue “F” marque.
The rear view conveys a strong parting signature for the IS F, with a
dramatic trapezoid shape and easily recognizable design elements. Four
exhaust diffusers, two per side in a vertical arrangement, are
integrated into the rear bumper. Above them, light-emitting diode (LED)
stop and tail lamps behind clear lenses give the IS F a unique
nighttime appearance. Attention to design detail extends down to the
white LED license plate lamps. The subtle rear spoiler is one of many
aerodynamic enhancements, which also include special underbody panels
to optimize airflow.
Contributing to both design and performance, 19-inch forged-alloy
wheels produced by BBS® feature a distinct dark-gray finish and an
asymmetrical 10-spoke design.
IS F Engine, from the Bottom Up
The 2008 Lexus IS F is exclusively powered by a performance-tuned
5.0-liter V8 engine producing 416 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 371
lb.-ft. of peak torque at 5,200 rpm. Although based on the 4.6-liter V8
used in the Lexus LS and GS, the V8 in the IS F was specially
engineered for higher power output, high-performance driving and
durability. This new engine’s high specific output (83.2 hp/liter) and
high operating range (6,800 RPM redline) reflect the thorough attention
to detail underlying the core engineering.
The IS F V8 introduces new technology and features that are exclusive
to this version of the engine. Some of these include a dual air intake
system, engine-oil and transmission-fluid coolers for high-speed
performance and a cylinder-head scavenge oil pump. The scavenge pump
forces oil from the cylinder heads back to the oil pan, ensuring a
reliable oil supply even during cornering that exceeds one g.
The IS F 5.0-liter V8 is based on a die cast aluminum cylinder block
with steel liners. Ribs positioned on the block’s outer wall provide
high rigidity. The crankshaft is forged, with high-frequency hardening
to the fillet area, and uses a double torsional damper. Crankshaft
journals are polished to a mirror finish to minimize the friction
generated between the connecting rods and the crankshaft, and forged
sintered iron alloy connecting rods ensure high-rpm durability.
Pistons use two-piece oil rings for low friction, and the skirt area is
resin-coated to reduce noise and vibration. The timing-sensor rotor is
attached at the rear of the crankshaft, which experiences less
vibration than the front.
High-flow cylinder heads designed by Yamaha have a lightweight
valvetrain, contributing to the IS F V8’s high-rpm capability. The
horsepower peak arrives at 6,600 rpm (just 200 rpm before redline), and
the torque peak at 5,200 rpm. The resulting performance character,
while quite responsive in low-speed situations, provides a rush of
power at higher engine speeds. Carefully chosen ratios for the 8-Speed
Sport Direct Shift transmission help ensure responsiveness at all
The IS F V8 engine employs innovative new technologies to maximize
efficiency and reduce emissions, including the SFI D-4
(direct-to-cylinder injection system with secondary port injectors)
fuel injection and the Electronic Throttle Control System with
intelligence (ETCS-i). Essentially, SFI D-4 integrates two types of
fuel injection: A direct-type high-pressure fuel injection system,
which provides a cooling effect in the cylinders and enables the high
compression ratio (11.8:1) employed to extract maximum energy from the
fuel; and a set of low-pressure port fuel injectors that help produce a
precise burn to optimize power and efficiency under light- and
A dual air-intake system uses a primary intake passage for low and
medium engine speeds. In the higher engine speed range (above 3,600
rpm), both the primary and secondary passages are opened, helping boost
high-rpm power. Both intake passages share a common high-efficiency,
low-restriction air filter.
Lexus optimized the intake system down to the smallest details. For
example, the throttle valve shaft has been tapered down from 10 mm to 7
mm diameter in the center to expand the intake air passage. The intake
manifold uses a simple plenum design with equal-length runners.
High-Precision, High-RPM Valve Control
With a strong bottom end to help ensure durability, the top end of the
IS F V8 could be engineered for high-rpm capability. The aluminum
cylinder heads made for the IS F by Yamaha feature integrated cam
journals. The four composite camshafts use net-sinter forged cam lobes
on hollow shafts, with the inside of the shafts serving as oil passages.
Titanium intake valves operated by roller rocker arms with needle
bearings and fixed fulcrums contribute to a low-inertia valve train.
High-flow intake ports were specially designed for the IS F engine,
with a cross-section area optimized to improve intake-pulsation
efficiency and increase air-intake volume.
With the IS F 5.0-liter V8, Lexus has made a leap in valve-control
technology with the new Variable Valve Timing with intelligence and
Electrically controlled intake cam (VVT-iE). The exhaust camshaft uses
hydraulically controlled variable valve timing.
Variable valve timing systems typically use engine oil pressure to
operate cam-phasing mechanisms. In the IS F, using an electric drive
motor to alter the intake camshaft phasing made it possible to expand
VVT operational range to lower engine speeds, where engine oil pressure
is usually not high enough to operate conventional VVT. An electric
motor, with electronic control unit and a reducer, is mounted to the
front of each intake camshaft.
Dual single-row independent primary timing chains drive the intake
camshafts, which drive the exhaust camshafts via smaller secondary
chains. Reinforcement ribs inside the timing-chain cover reduce timing
chain noise, and integrating the water pump, oil pump and scavenge oil
pump into the timing chain cover reduces weight.
The IS F V8’s compact pent-roof combustion chamber positions the
long-reach sparkplug nearly in the center. The plugs use an
iridium-tipped center electrode and a platinum-tipped side electrode. A
water jacket between the exhaust port and plug thread ensures optimal
cooling around the plugs. Four knock sensors in the engine’s valley
reduce the possibility of detonation.
A true high-performance engine relies on outstanding support systems
and thoughtful engineering that touches every detail. The Lexus IS F’s
unique stacked quad diffusers, for example, make more than a visual
statement. They play an important role in a high-performance exhaust
system by reducing backpressure. The stainless steel exhaust system
starts with tubular exhaust manifolds and integrated catalysts. Next
come dual 2.4-inch diameter front pipes that are joined before a
pre-muffler and 2.7-inch single center pipe, after which the system
splits into two 2.1-inch pipes and enters dual 16.8-liter mufflers.
A number of additional engineering details were integrated into the IS
F to improve performance and efficiency. A cooling-fan motor was
installed that is 30 percent lighter than conventional fan motors, and
the fan shape was modified to enhance cooling and control noise. Front
engine mounts have liquid-filled insulators, and the rear mounts are
covered by rubber heat insulators. Inside the fuel tank, an offset
high-output fuel pump and a sub-tank help prevent fuel starvation
during cornering maneuvers. The alternator uses a larger front bearing,
a cooling fan and die-cast aluminum cooling fins for the rectifier. The
planetary-gear starter uses the crank-hold feature.
8-Speed Sport Direct Shift Transmission
The IS F 5.0-liter V8 engine is mated to the world’s first eight-Speed
Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission. This new transmission blends
the performance characteristics of an automated manual-type
transmission with the smoothness and refinement of a planetary-type
automatic transmission. As a result, the driver can choose between
ultra-quick manual shifts for performance driving, and smooth automatic
shifts when convenience is the top priority. The driver can shift
manually using either the console shift or steering-wheel-mounted
The eight-speed transmission is approximately the same length and width
as the six-speed transmission used in other rear-wheel drive Lexus
models. The transmission has a die-cast aluminum case and some aluminum
internal parts, which contributes to weight reduction. Using eight
speeds allows gear ratios that maximize torque up to the tire-grip
limitations in the lower ranges while optimizing efficiency.
Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the transmission’s Manual mode (M),
which will hold each gear to the 6,800-RPM redline. A pair of unique
paddles located within a fingertip’s reach behind the steering wheel
enables the driver to make ultra-fast up-shift gear changes.
Paddle-shifting operation is allowed in either D or M modes, but shifts
are quicker and more direct in M mode. At higher engine speeds,
downshifts are accompanied by automated and precise throttle blips to
match engine rpm to vehicle speed.
In addition, a Sport mode switch on the dashboard allows the driver to
select from among Normal, Sport and Snow driving modes. In Sport mode,
the VDIM system allows higher dynamic thresholds before intervening,
alters steering assist to increase steering weight, and throttle
response is sharpened. With the transmission in D mode, gears are held
longer in response to throttle input.
Versatile Drive Mode
When the driver selects Drive mode (D) using the console shifter, the
eight-speed transmission provides quick shifts that are smooth and
befitting a Lexus. At the same time, D mode offers plenty of
versatility with full torque-converter lockup in 6th through 8th gears
to optimize fuel efficiency. A flex-lockup clutch operates in 4th and
5th gears, continuously controlling lockup-clutch slippage to enhance
Until the engine reaches operating temperature, and when the VDIM
system detects slippery road conditions, the transmission will
automatically select 2nd gear start. Once the engine reaches operating
temperature, or VDIM detects better road conditions, the transmission
allows 1st gear start.
From D mode, the driver can select M mode by moving the console shifter
into the M slot, or can gain temporary sequential operation by keeping
the console shifter in D and operating the steering wheel paddle
shifters. The latter is useful for situations where engine braking is
desired, such as driving through a hilly area.
Paddle shifting while in D mode, however, is not the same as in M mode.
If the vehicle is stopped, or if the vehicle is at a constant speed for
a certain period of time, the transmission will change back to normal D
operation. In addition, the driver can switch immediately into normal D
operation by holding the upshift paddle (+) for one second.
The transmission uses flex-lockup control and deceleration control when
decelerating while in D mode, using as many gears as possible and
extending the fuel cutout for maximum efficiency. AI-SHIFT (Artificial
Intelligence-SHIFT) complements the driver’s Sport switch selection by
automatically adapting the shifting based on road conditions and driver
input. The new transmission is also highly responsive to
uphill/downhill driving, always selecting the best gear for power or
engine braking. Because the IS F is a Lexus, the intuitive powertrain
control optimally smoothes out off-the-line response.
Sporty Manual Mode
Manual mode (M) goes beyond simply allowing manual gear selection by
changing the transmission’s operational behavior to facilitate
performance driving. In M mode, the driver will experience the feel of
a manual transmission. Specifically, one will feel immediate g-force
during acceleration and deceleration. In addition, the transmission
uses downshift blipping control to match engine speed for high-rpm
The driver selects M mode using the console shifter, which then allows
upshifts by pushing forward (+) and downshifts by pulling rearward (-).
With the console shifter in M, the driver can also use the paddle
shifters mounted behind the steering wheel.
In 1st gear, the torque converter operates to provide torque
multiplication for consistent launches from a standing start. The
torque converter is locked continuously in 2nd through 8th gears to
provide a direct connection between engine and transmission for the
fastest shifts and most direct driving experience.
In M mode, gears will be held until the driver up- or down-shifts. Two
exceptions are if vehicle speed falls too low for the selected gear,
then the transmission will downshift automatically; and if the
transmission fluid or engine coolants exceed limits, then the
transmission will revert to automatic operation to prevent damage.
Shifts in 0.1 Second and Downshift Throttle Blipping
New hydraulic-control technology allows the IS F 8-Speed Sport Direct
Shift transmission to perform on par with manual transmissions without
sacrificing the smoothness of a torque-converter automatic. In M mode,
upshifts are executed in just one-tenth of a second, six times faster
than manual shifts in the V6-powered IS models.
The transmission-control system uses high-flow linear control valves
for engaging and disengaging the clutches. The resulting simultaneous
release and engagement of the shifting clutches provides fast shifts
while diminishing gearshift shock. The solenoids allow direct control
of the hydraulic pressure applied to the shifting clutches, along with
centrifugal fluid pressure canceling mechanisms, enabling finer control
than conventional clutch-control systems. In addition to a conventional
input-shaft speed sensor, the intermediate members of the gear train
use a speed sensor to allow finer control of gear changes.
Driving enthusiasts pride themselves on the ability to execute a
perfect manual-transmission downshift, which requires “blipping” the
throttle while the clutch is disengaged to match the engine speed for
the lower gear. The IS F transmission executes perfect downshifts in a
similar way but with the consistency most drivers cannot match with a
When a downshift instruction is received, the transmission control
system quickly opens the electronic throttle, instantaneously
increasing engine speed (blipping) to match the engine speed after the
gear change. Simultaneously, the system completes the gear change by
smoothly and quickly engaging the shift clutch. The downshift, with
throttle blipping, occurs in just 0.2-second.
To enhance performance and durability, a breather system separates air
bubbles from the transmission fluid during performance driving. The
transmission is also equipped with an air-to-liquid automatic
transmission fluid (ATF) cooler to help ensure optimal transmission
performance even during track driving. There is a transmission fluid
temperature warning-light in the instrument panel.
Sports Car Dynamics
The 2008 IS F is based on the robust IS platform, which was engineered
from the start to allow a high dynamic envelope. The stiff body
structure and the rear subframe are connected through several
Although using the basic double-wishbone front suspension and
multi-link rear suspension configurations of the IS platform, the IS F
benefits from a multitude of track-proven modifications. The IS F sits
an inch lower on its suspension than the standard IS models, helping to
lower the center of gravity for quicker handling response. Like other
IS models, the IS F employs high-strength steel suspension components
for the optimal combination of rigidity and weight.
Spring and damper rates are increased, and larger-diameter stabilizer
bars are used. The rear-suspension control arms are specific to the IS
F to optimize geometry for the 19-inch wheels. In addition, the
monotube shock absorbers use a larger-diameter piston rod. As on other
IS models, the sophisticated shock-absorber design utilizes multi-leaf
linear control valves to help improve damping force, and rebound
springs offer improved body control without degrading ride comfort.
Suspension bushings have been specially tuned for better feel, and the
subframe suspension mounts are stiffer than on other IS models to help
reduce sway and ensure control under acceleration and braking. The
engine mounts are also stiffer for a more direct feel. Special jounce
stoppers added to both the front and rear suspension come into play
early in the compression stroke to help reduce the roll angle when
cornering and to reduce dive when braking. High-rigidity hub unit
bearings are engineered for rigorous, high g-force track driving.
The Electric Power Steering (EPS) system has been remapped for improved
steering response and feel while providing precise control and
excellent straight-line control. The vehicle-speed-sensitive system
eliminates parasitic loss from a hydraulic pump and reduces weight and
The front wheels measure 19 x 8J, with 225/40R19 tires and 19 x 9J in
the rear, with 255/35R19 tires. Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 and
Bridgestone Potenza models were each developed specifically for the
170-mph capabilities of the Lexus IS F. Design parameters called for
handling grip befitting a premium sports car but with the control and
ride quality expected for a Lexus in this class.
The direct-type tire pressure monitoring system allows two sets of
tires to be registered, giving the customer the benefit of a system
with a set of track tires or winter tires. The multi-information
display indicates the tire selector switch.
Performance-Tuned Stability Control
The IS F is equipped with a specially calibrated version of Lexus’
innovative Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to help
provide superior handling dynamics and traction control. Combining
input from a variety of sensors, VDIM is designed to anticipate the
onset of a vehicle skid or slide and help correct the situation with a
combination of braking, steering and throttle control in a way that is
essentially transparent to the driver. VDIM integration provides
precise management for Electric Power Steering (EPS), Vehicle Stability
Control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), the Anti-lock Braking System
(ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD),
and engine torque (via the electronically controlled throttle).
VDIM also provides an electronically controlled brake-based
limited-slip differential effect on the rear wheels. During cornering,
VDIM suppresses any tendency for the inside wheel to spin, transmitting
more power to the outside wheel to maintain traction and momentum.
Overall, VDIM enhances handling performance by helping to control front
and rear wheel slip. When braking on a mixed-friction surface, VDIM
will direct steering assist in the direction that will help provide the
In the IS F, a Sport mode switch on the dashboard allows the driver to
select from among Normal, Sport and Snow driving modes. In Sport mode,
VDIM allows higher dynamic thresholds before intervening and alters
steering assist to increase steering feel. Sport mode enables optimal
vehicle control on a track in areas where the skills of even top-level
drivers are challenged.
The experienced driver can disengage VSC/TRAC by press-and-holding the
TRAC-off button for more than three seconds. Even with VSC/TRAC
disengaged, however, the system still provides the brake-based
limited-slip differential effect and ABS.
The IS F is equipped with heavy-duty Brembo® brakes designed to the
specifications of the Lexus engineering team. The 14.2-inch ventilated,
drilled front rotors are gripped by rigid, powerful six-piston aluminum
calipers, while the 13.6-inch ventilated, drilled rear rotors use
two-piston calipers. High-friction brake pads are fitted on both. The
brake system gives the driver confidence in extreme usage.
A single 10-inch brake booster with a tie-rod structure was utilized
and tuned to improve feeling, effectiveness and firmness. Front bumper
ducts adjacent to the fog lamps stream cooling air to the brakes. The
brakes are finished with the Lexus name displayed on the calipers, a
first for a Lexus production vehicle.
The Security of a Lexus
Passive-safety technology in the IS F begins with a reinforced
passenger compartment that helps protect the occupants with
front-and-rear crush structures. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force
limiters are used for all seating positions.
In addition to the driver and front-passenger front airbags and front
seat-mounted side airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint System
(SRS) includes side-curtain airbags that extend from A-pillar to
C-pillar and a knee airbag for both the driver and the front passenger.
Advanced dual-stage front airbags are designed to deploy based on
impact force. The driver’s front airbag also includes an extra low
stage designed to deploy based, in part, on the seat’s position on its
track. The front passenger’s airbag features twin chambers, creating an
indentation in the center impact area that helps provide overall
The available Pre-Collision System (PCS) can help reduce collision
damage. The package includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses
millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a set distance from a
vehicle traveling ahead. PCS relies on the radar sensor to detect
obstacles in front of the car. The PCS computer, taking sensor inputs
from vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw rate, is designed to
determine whether a collision is unavoidable. In such a situation, PCS
preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes Brake Assist
so that increased braking will be applied the instant the driver
depresses the pedal.
The rear back-up camera, included with the available navigation system,
automatically projects an image of what its lens can detect behind the
car onto the navigation screen when the transmission is in reverse
gear. The available Intuitive Park Assist (IPA) system uses ultrasonic
sensors to detect objects close to the car’s front and rear bumpers,
alerting the driver and showing distance to objects in the
multi-information display within the speedometer. When the IS F is
equipped with the navigation system, information on detected objects is
shown in greater detail on the seven-inch touch screen display.
Uncompromised Lexus Luxury
Like the exterior, the interior of the IS F features an exclusive
design treatment highlighted by aluminized composite trim,
aluminum-rimmed main gauges, unique steering-wheel treatment and other
special surface treatments. The instrument panel integrates a new
oil-temperature gauge, voltmeter and shift-indicator lights, and the
“F” logo is discretely showcased on the steering wheel, rear-center
console and outer seat cushions. For comfort, UV-reducing,
heat-absorbing glass is used throughout the car.
In addition to the usual Lexus standards of comfort and convenience,
the IS F interior features specially shaped and trimmed seats that hold
the driver comfortably and securely in place. The special
leather-trimmed sport seats are available in Black with blue stitching
or a unique high-contrast Alpine and Black trim. The standard
SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button start allows the driver to
keep the access fob in a pocket or purse.
Standard amenities include 10-way power front seats; dual-zone
automatic climate control, a pollen filter and smog detector; power
moonroof with one-touch open/close and seven open-position settings;
power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; three-position memory
function for front seats, steering wheel and mirrors; all power windows
with automatic up/down operation with jam protection; an auto-dimming
rear-view mirror with HomeLink® programmable garage door opener,
automated rain-sensing wipers and heated auto-dimming outside mirrors
with integrated puddle lamps.
The air conditioning system’s electrically controlled variable
compressor adjusts output to demand rather than simply cycling on and
off. The system can independently adjust upper and lower temperatures
in response to ambient conditions or sunlight.
A multi-information display located in the speedometer integrates a
trip computer that provides outside temperature, driving range, average
fuel consumption, average fuel consumption since refueling (per tank),
current fuel consumption, average speed and the F logo. The display
also includes an oil-maintenance reminder and system warnings.
High-Power, High-Performance Audio
The standard Lexus Premium Audio System features a six-disc, in-dash CD
changer, and 13 speakers. Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL) maintains
consistent sound levels at varying extraneous noise levels. A
convenient mini-jack in the center console enables connection of an
iPod® or other portable music players.
Like all Lexus models, the IS F offers its own version of the Mark
Levinson® Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which is specially tuned
for IS F. This 14-speaker audio system features discrete 5.1
multi-channel playback with 7.1-channel speaker architecture. Its 10
amplifier channels provide 300 watts total output at less than 0.1
percent total harmonic distortion from 20 to 20,000 Hz (THD all
channels driven). The Mark Levinson system plays conventional CDs and
DVDs, plus MP3/WMA-formatted CDs. DVD movies can be viewed on the
navigation system’s color seven-inch touch screen when the parking
brake is engaged.
Credit: Lexus USA
Irresistible Force Creates Moveable Object
What is it that’s said about the irresistible force?
Anyone encountering an engineer named Yukihiko Yaguchi might just find
out first hand, for he’s an irresistible force that’s created a highly
Yaguchi is a very convincing, compelling guy, but he’s also quiet and
self effacing. Once he gets hold of you, you not only can’t help but
like him, you can’t help but want to help him accomplish whatever it is
that he’s up to.
Plenty of people have learned that lesson, and there’s solid evidence
to support it. The evidence sits on four fat, sticky tires. It’s called
the Lexus IS F.
In order to understand the IS F and its genesis, the first thing that
you have to understand is that Yaguchi is an enthusiast, a performance
hard case who loves to drive fine, responsive equipment.
For the 30 years he’s been at Toyota, he’s wanted to build a car he
wanted to drive, a car he’d love to own. During his tenure at Lexus,
Yaguchi has worked on the first and second iterations of the Lexus LS
luxury sedan, the turbocharged Toyota Supra and the first Lexus GS
sport sedan. But none of those cars, however excellent, scratched his
peculiar performance itch.
For the past 15 years, he’s been thinking in terms of nothing less than
an all-wheel-drive supercar with huge horsepower, racetrack-inspired
handling and enormous stopping power.
What he had in mind was a take-no-prisoners premium sport sedan that
would offer comfort, sophistication and performance to equal or beat
the best of the class from Europe.
Finally, he got tired of waiting. He decided that he’d just go ahead and figure out a way to build it.
Yaguchi was ideally placed to ramrod such a project, as he was working
at TMC’s Lexus Center in the Brand Strategy department in preparation
for the Lexus brand to expand globally.
Lexus is of course a well-organized company with carefully proscribed
procedures for getting things done. But Yaguchi, the irresistible
force, turned procedure on its head.
To begin with, in Lexus’ careful way, it’s not the engineers who make
the decisions to design and develop a vehicle. It’s the Product
Planning Department. The experts there want to be sure that there’s
actually a market for a proposed vehicle, and that the finished product
will fill the needs of that market.
So instead of the Product Planning people going to Yaguchi and saying
something like, “Look, Yaguchi-san, we think that the market is ready
for a high-performance sport sedan,” it was the other way around.
Yaguchi pitched his concept to Product Planning. Incredibly, after much
convincing, he received Product Planning’s approval to proceed.
But just because the project got the green light from Product Planning,
that didn’t mean that it had resources and budget allocated to it. It
didn’t. But that wasn’t enough to derail Yaguchi. He developed the IF S
when he wasn’t busy with his Brand Strategy responsibilities, working
informally, on the side, beginning in 2004.
In other words, in the best tradition of the factory-based hotrod,
Yaguchi recruited his own special “Skunk Works,” an under-the-radar
operation populated by a team of speed-crazy rogue engineers who,
working in their spare time between their regular assignments,
developed their own vision for a Lexus performance vehicle.
Most chief engineers, when they are tasked to develop a new Lexus
model, typically have between 1,500 and 2,000 people on their
development teams. That didn’t happen here. Instead, Yaguchi had
between 100 and 300 people at any given time on the IS F development
team. He designed and built the IS F with a team that was a fraction of
the size of the usual engineering and development staffs.
Working outside the confines of Lexus’ usual carefully planned
corporate program, Yaguchi cherry-picked the very best people, folks he
thought might want to have a hand in creating this special car. Because
it wasn’t possible to get them assigned full-time to his team, he
convinced them to contribute their ideas and skills in their spare
time, when they weren’t working on their regular projects.
This approach didn’t just apply to individuals. Yaguchi worked his
wiles on whole departments. For example, a corporate subsidiary called
Toyota Technocraft, among many of its special projects, builds packages
for police cars and also builds the aero kits used on some Toyota
models. Yaguchi reasoned that Toyota Technocraft would be perfect to
help with the many specialized modifications of the standard Lexus IS
that this car would require.
He pitched the idea to the division’s leadership, and they went for it.
The result is an engineering marvel with special aerodynamics, an
8-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission with paddle shifters and its
own special performance profile, Brembo disc brakes that feature huge,
14.2-inch cross-drilled discs and six pistons per caliper up front,
19-inch wheels and a specially tuned suspension system. Indeed,
Technocraft’s participation in the IS F project marks the first time
the division has worked on the design of an entire production car.
But Yaguchi’s determination didn’t end there. He went so far, in fact,
as to take his requests for help outside the company’s confines. He
knew that the IS F was going to require a really spectacular engine. So
he went to Yamaha, which has a history of making engine components for
Toyota and Lexus. He didn’t go to just anyone, he asked his old friend
Mr. Kimura, who worked on Yamaha’s Formula One engine program and then
general manager of the aftermarket project division, to help out. As a
result of that request, Yamaha did most of the development on the IS
F’s DOHC 5.0L V8, making sure to pack it with more than 416 horsepower,
enough to blast the IS F to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Eventually, none of this was done in secret. So well known did the
project become, and so legendary was Yaguchi’s persuasiveness, that the
whole experience came to be known as Yaguchi-Go. In Japanese, today
“go” is a suffix referring to a car, but originally it characterized a
ship, the equivalent of a vessel making its unstoppable way forward. So
this was Yaguchi and his project cutting a swath, and leaving a wake,
through Toyota and Lexus. In this way, “Yaguchi-go” constitutes
recognition of his leadership of, and ownership of, the IS F project.
To be certain they got the IS F exactly right, Yaguchi and his team
tested the IS F at racetracks that count, at tracks that have challenge
and heritage. Those test tracks include the legendary Nurburgring
Nordschleife, in Germany’s Eiffel Mountains; Circuit Paul Ricard, in
the South of France; Circuit Zolder, in Belgium; Laguna Seca Raceway,
in California; and Fuji Speedway, in Japan.
In fact, Fuji Speedway is the IS F’s home circuit and its many turns the inspiration for the F-logo design.
In fact, by the time testing was concluded, there’d never been a Toyota
or a Lexus production car that had been so heavily tested at race
tracks all around the world.
The result of all this, of course, will be available to the public
beginning in early 2008. And that means that Yaguchi can stop thinking
about exactly the car he’d most like to drive. He can actually begin
driving it….and so can every other enthusiast.
Credit: Lexus USA
The Lexus Formula
Enthusiasts who just can’t wait to settle their driving shoes into the
2008 Lexus IS F, the V8-powered sports sedan designed to reset class
standards for performance, handling, comfort and quality, most likely
are thinking more about the car’s ability to incinerate their favorite
roads than they are about the etymology of its name.
But there’s a story behind that name, a story that includes the
V10-powered LF-A supercar concept shown at the Detroit Auto Show in
The story explains where the name came from, and it outlines the
beginnings of the Lexus performance and quality heritage. It goes like
In the beginning, there was Toyota, a company that of course represents
its own remarkable success story. A critical element of that success
involves building reliable, efficient vehicles for every segment of the
marketplace – it involves being a full-line company, with a vehicle for
So far, so good; but in the early 1980s, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda
recognized that the company was not represented in a segment he was
certain would be critical to the company’s continued success and
growth. He called together his most trusted corporate officers and
advisors and told them that the company needed to create a luxury
automobile that would equal, and then exceed, the world’s best.
Mr. Toyoda challenged them all to create a vehicle that would serve as
a flagship. Because of the size of the American market, the car would
be designed with American tastes in mind.
So that’s what they set out to do. They took the challenge so
seriously, and so literally, in fact, that thinking in English, the
language of the car’s intended market, they assigned the code name “F,”
with a circle around it, to the project – with the “F” standing, of
course, for “flagship.”
The first vehicle to be completed was known as the “F1”, or “Flagship
One.” This of course was the LS 400, which was developed by Chief
Engineer Ichiro Suzuki and a group of 60 designers, 24 engineering
teams, 1,400 engineers and 2,300 technicians.
The LS stands of course for Luxury Sedan, and 400 means that the car was powered by a 4.0L V8 engine.
The first LS, and the Lexus models that followed, were developed using
procedures even more complex and demanding than those in place for
regular Toyota vehicles.
So it is that in addition to standing for “flagship,” the “F” came to
symbolize a vehicle that conceived, designed and developed using Lexus’
And now, it’s come to symbolize even more than that. It’s come to
symbolize a separate brand designation within Lexus. In a move that was
telegraphed by the appearance of the LF-A concept car, the first
production vehicle to wear the “F” as a formal part of its
identification is the IS-F, a carefully planned and engineered vehicle
that was developed by after-hours enthusiasts, and was not part of
Lexus’ usual deliberate development program.
To be certain performance targets were met on the IS F, it was tested
at racetracks that count, at tracks that have challenge and heritage.
Those test tracks include the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, in
Germany’s Eiffel Mountains; Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of
France; Circuit Zolder, in Belgium; Laguna Seca Raceway; and at Fuji
Speedway, in Japan.
In fact, the “F” logo design comes directly from the shape of Turn One at Fuji Speedway, the home circuit of IS F.
The “F” might also mean “fast,” or “fun,” “fascinating,” or “formula,”
suggesting a precise recipe for excellence. But as much as anything
else, it’s also a symbol of our “focus” on satisfying every element of
Most importantly, it could also mean “finally.” If it means that, it’s
only because it signifies our relief that there’s now a serious,
fire-breathing enthusiast’s car that embodies all of the Lexus flagship
Credit: Lexus USA