Dressed in matte silver and adorned with more air dams, winglets, scoops and deflectors than a DTM racer, the TS650 is patently no ordinary Lexus. You need to head to the badge on the bootlid that says ‘TMG’ to crack the genetic code behind this lowered, widened four-seater with its Japanese touge racer looks.
TMG stands for Toyota Motorsport Group, the company’s exclusive factory run tuning shop. Based on the western fringes of Cologne, TMG’s highly-skilled operatives now work on projects like the Toyota’s TS030 Le Mans car, having formerly been the brains behind the Japanese maker’s foray into F1, which ended in 2009.
It was back in 2010 that Toyota’s chairman, Akio Toyoda, felt the itch to build his own special LS luxury saloon. Allegedly inspired by BMW’s tentative M7 super saloon, Toyoda-san asked his R&D team to conceive a car that was good enough to meet it head-on – spacious and comfortable, yet equipped with an astounding chassis, bat-out-of-hell engine, telepathic steering and brakes that would stop a charging rhino.
We’ve been invited to drive it at a former East German airbase and Russian tank depot. It feels like an appropriate location.
Early signs are encouraging, mainly down to the TS650 shedding plenty of core Lexus brand values. There is no hybrid engine in sight, no start-stop system to interrupt the V8 symphony, no super-long eighth gear, no compromising to comply with EU exhaust regulations.
Down to business. One stab at the starter button and the big bonnet trembles in anticipation. The 5.0-litre V8 has been rigorously transformed. After the TMG treatment, the turbocharged 32-valve unit now develops 640bhp, up from the 439bhp in the LS600h, with torque rising from 384lb ft at 4000rpm to a diff-mauling 564lb ft at 5460rpm.
The tweaked V8 pushes the LS in LFA livery forward with vengeance from 1500rpm onwards. There are three auto modes to choose from (pepper, paprika and pepperoncini), but to get the best out of the transmission you need to change ratios with your index fingers.
The three driving programmes are labelled Normal, Sport and DSC Off. Get the hang of it in the latter and this Lexus will kill more flies with its side windows than with the windscreen. Apparently Toyoda-san was so pleased with the initial results he dispatched a container with Kirin beer and Junmai-shu sake to Cologne.
Downsides? The transmission software permits unpleasant mid-corner upshifts and refuses mid-rpm downshifts, the brakes repeatedly went into limp-home mode in the wake of ABS intervention, while the steering and front wheels didn’t always operate in total synchronicity.
The original plan was to build a small batch of ten units for Mr Toyoda and his nine best friends. But since the lifecycle of the full-size LS is coming to an end, the project will now likely be transferred to the new model out in 2015.