Lexus Confusing The F Out of You With New Tiers

A sportier lineup that could be cosmetic or full-on performance now has four levels to it

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Lexus IS350 F Sport
Lexus IS350 F Sport
Image: Lexus

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.

2019 Lexus GS F
2019 Lexus GS F
Image: Lexus

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.

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Image for article titled Lexus Confusing The F Out of You With New Tiers
Image: Lexus

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.

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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.

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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.