Motor Trend pointed out Lexus attempted to explain its F performance brand at the 2021 SEMA show. And in doing so the luxury automaker has unnecessarily complicated things, adding additional layers to something that really shouldn’t have layers.
Lexus’ F brand hasn’t been a thing for some time. Lexus knows it and we know it and I’m sure they know we know it. In its existence since 2006, we’ve only been given three full-on performance vehicles: the IS F, the RC F, and the largely forgotten GS F. Everything else has for the most part been cosmetic, as Lexus has thrown F bits on nearly every car in their lineup from the RX to ES.
The introduction of the IS500 earlier this year appeared to complicate things further. Here was a car that followed the formula of the original IS F by putting a big V8 into a small-ish sedan. But according to Lexus it’s not a full-on F. It’s an F Sport Performance with the full name being Lexus IS500 F Sport Performance. Like I pointed out before, this confusing name would imply that there is a standard IS500 in the IS model lineup and that this model is an F Sport trim of that model. Some disagreed with me saying that that’s not the case, and that this meant this was just an IS500 with F Sport trim, which….is my point. Lexus has only made things worse.
So again, the IS500 F Sport Performance isn’t a full-on F even though it’s essentially the same recipe as the original IS F. On top of this confusion in distinction, there is now a four-tier system to the F brand. From Motor Trend:
The new four-tier F system that applies to future Lexus models is as follows: F Sport Design, F Sport Handling, F Sport Performance and F.
The F Sport Design motif will be the tamest, aimed at those who appreciate a sportier look. Enhancements will include unique front and rear bumpers, a fresh grille, and special wheels.
F Sport Handling builds on the Design kit, adding an adaptive suspension that has been developed for a sportier drive (the Lexus ES300h F Sport hybrid we recently tested would qualify for this status). F Sport Performance is a step above Handling, adding a higher-output powertrain, like in the IS500, and serving as a stepping stone to full-blown F models, which will remain the pinnacle of the sub-brand. F models such as the existing RC F coupe receive total performance makeovers with upgraded brakes, advanced aerodynamics, and lightweight materials in addition to saucier powertrains.
So to recap, those four tiers are: Design, Sport Handling, Sport Performance, and F, with the IS500 being a step below F with a more powerful engine. And besides the RC F, there is no other full F model in the lineup. As it stands now, every single Lexus model has an F Sport trim except for the LX, GX, and LC which all have sport packages that aren’t F. It’s confusing I know.
Lexus has chased the Germans for years. They should’ve done so again by following what they do and simply given F two tiers: F Sport and full F and be done with it. With Lexus saying new F models are coming soon, it’ll be interesting to see how much more confusing this could, and will get.