A factory hot rod, a smart remark, and a lot of hot air.
Press preview days the Detroit Auto Show bring together a mob of journalists, many of whom are warty with cynicism. But the introduction the Lexus IS-F provided some with the opportunity to cross the line between skeptical and doctrinaire.
Looking at this impressive factory hot rod and hearing a quick rundown of its specifications left a deeply favorable impression on me. Yet another reporter suggested that, despite being endowed with all the right hardware-which lets Lexus take a serious poke at BMW’s M3-the IS-F probably won’t be any fun to drive. And he added that he has never yet driven a Lexus that’s fun.
Evidently my colleague missed the Lexus SC300. With its inline six-cylinder engine and lovely manual transmission, it was one of the great cars of the early 1990s. Maybe he also looks at a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and supposes that, being so ideally specified, she probably wouldn’t be any fun, either.
But I’m thinking Lexus might find an indirect benefit in using the letter F (as in “fun”) as the badge for its performance division. The F will confound cynics who say the division’s cars are perfect but unengaging.
Officially, there’s the explanation that twenty years ago, when the whole Lexus program was initiated, F was already part of the scheme; it stood for “Flagship.” In fact, here’s where the skeptic in me steps out to the curb and hails a taxi. When discussing anything to do with Lexus, the claim of any heritage is spurious.
Nor is it possible to buy their spiel about a skunkworks and rogue engineers who created this car, much as John DeLorean and Bill Collins created the Pontiac GTO without the knowledge of GM’s stooge leaders of the time, who weren’t clued in until the project was too far advanced to be snuffed out.
It isn’t a surprise that Lexus is launching a performance division. But the 5.0-liter V-8 is a surprise. So is the eight-speed, direct-shift gearbox.
So, without any prompting from PR and marketing, how about if we drive the car and create our own stories? And we should bring a fresh perspective. The cynicism about Lexus and fun is starting to sound rather pedantic.