Lexus is plotting a rival for Audi's RS4 and the forthcoming BMW M3. This IS prototype has hit the Nurburgring circuit for testing, with a V8 mounted in its nose.
Toyota's luxury division is embroiled in a campaign to boost its European market share, at the expense of the German premium brands. And the Japanese executives know they could use a sprinkling of fairy dust from high performance models, to boost the brand's desirability and credibility. Consequently, the green light is expected soon for a V10 supercar, and this V8 supersaloon is clearly under consideration, too. The IS needs eight cylinders and at least 400bhp to keep pace with Audi's 414bhp RS4, and the forthcoming BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Both these new generation models will run bent eights.
The engineers could plumb their new 4.6-litre unit, which kicks out a base 355bhp in the new LS, into the compact saloon. Lexus has previous form here. At the 2001 Essen Motor Show, the firm displayed an IS MkI with a supercharged V8 kicking out 395bhp. But it remained a one off. This prototype follows the 2002 car's blueprint. Honeycomb grilles, a chin spoiler and wheelarch extensions add menace to the front. At the rear, Lexus has fitted a makeshift boot spoiler and a new bumper accommodating four tailpipes. If the IS460 gets the green light, it could blast into dealerships in 2008.