Aside from the legendary LFA, all of Lexus’s high-performance offerings have had one thing in common: the 2UR engine, a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. First introduced in the IS F saloon, the venerable 90-degree V8 has survived the rise of smaller-displacement, turbocharged alternatives and carries on today in the RC F and the recently introduced IS 500 F-Performance. But for how long?
“I think the 2UR in its current form is on its last legs,” Lexus General Manager Andrew Gilleland told Motor1.com during an interview at the 2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona last weekend. That doesn’t mean the brand boss isn’t a fan of the engine. “It’s just bulletproof. The thing ain’t gonna break, and you don’t really need to do much other than change the oil and maintain it,” Gilleland said.
But the reality of today’s market is likely too much for the 2UR to continue.
“I think this is probably the last of it, certainly in the IS 500 it’s one of the selling points,” Gilleland said. “I can look a customer in the eye and say, ‘I’m pretty sure this is probably it.’”
Backing up that statement is the fact that Lexus’ parent company, Toyota, has already replaced the 3UR, a related 5.7-litre V8, with a twin-turbocharged V6 in the Tundra, Sequoia, and Lexus LX. And while we’d love to see a high-output turbocharged engine in an RC or future high-performance IS, Gilleland seems to hint that Lexus will go in a different direction.
“My guess is you’ll see a lot of hybrid, in the connection with [F] before you get to full electric,” the Lexus boss said. “If you’ve ever driven a Tesla or a [Porsche] Taycan, the acceleration blows your lid. So do you take electrification and make it not just about the environment, but performance too?”
To a small extent, we’ve already seen this approach from Lexus, first with the LC 500h, but much more recently with the NX 450h+, which is both Lexus’ first PHEV and the most powerful member of the redesigned NX family. Toyota, too, has seen success with a plug, with the RAV4 Hybrid remaining a critically acclaimed hot-ticket item and the spiciest version of the popular CUV almost two years after its release.
While Gilleland stopped short of revealing more, it seems like a new take on F performance isn’t far off.
“We have a four-year life cycle [on the IS 500], and then beyond that there are some other powertrains. My friends are calling me and asking ‘Are you building another one?’. I highly doubt it. I would go get one and put it in your garage.”