Lexus is heading back to the track. The Japanese luxury maker is hoping to replicate the success it had during a hard-charging, three-year program at the Daytona endurance series.
An all-new RC F GT3 made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday morning – alongside an only slightly less aggressive street performance model based around its mid-range GS sedan.
“We expect the GS F to accelerate our niche performance reputation,” declared Jeff Bracken, the Lexus general manager, during a news conference at Detroit’s Cobo Hall.
The introduction of the GS F sedan, along with last year’s RC F coupe, is a marked change of direction by a brand better known for its hybrids and other high-mileage vehicles, Toyota’s luxury brand has been hoping to pump out a little more passion.
The 2016 Lexus GS F boasts a 5.0-liter V-8, shared with the 2015 Lexus RC F, making 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. If there was any surprise, there had been some speculation Lexus might bump up the numbers just slightly to reflect the heavier mass of the GS sedan.
In keeping with the brand’s traditional emphasis on fuel economy, the V-8 can operate in both the standard Otto and more efficient Atkinson cycles. That, Lexus claims, will “maximize power and efficiency in given situations.”
There will be no manual gearbox, something that might disappoint a few driving enthusiasts, but the RC F has received positive reviews for the quick, intuitive shifting of the eight-speed automatic it will now share with the GS F. That gearbox offers a manual shifting mode that can be controlled by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The RC F will also share the Torque Vectoring Differential, or TVD, introduced on the RC F. It will offer the driver three driver-selectable operating modes, including a track setting that minimizes the intervention of such “nanny” systems, such as electronic stability control.
The stock GS unibody platform has been upgraded with structural reinforcements to handle the added demands of performance driving, and Lexus says it has developed a modified suspension that will offer track handling, when demanded, while maintaining ride quality under less aggressive maneuvering.
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Lexus hasn’t set a price for the GS F yet, the figure likely to come in the weeks before it launches sales in the fourth quarter of this year. Plans call for sales of about 1,600 annually.
Unfortunately, unless you’re a privateer, don’t expect to be able to buy the new RC F GT3, however.
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Lexus is hoping to boost the public’s “heartbeat and adrenaline,” suggested Bracken, with the launch of a new racing program based around the RC F GT3 that was also unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. The plan is to take it into the European GT3 series this year and then take it to a “yet-to-be-determined series in the U.S. in 2016,” he explained, adding that Lexus “has the itch to go racing.”
A winning series would serve as a perfect backdrop for launching yet another Lexus performance model, the long-rumored replacement for the marque’s previous LFA supercar.
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The push for performance is, in part, a response to Toyota Motor Co. boss Akio Toyoda’s push to give his company’s products more “passion.” There’s also the fact that Lexus is generating a solid response to its mid-range F Sport models. On average, they account for about 25% of the customer orders on models where F Sport editions are available. That jumps to 50% on the entry-lux IS F sedan.