Lexus Expands Its High-Performance F Line

A decade after debuting a high-performance line to compete with German luxury brands, Lexus is bolstering its track-focused portfolio.

Toyota’s upscale division is reportedly planning to launch sporty, high-horsepower versions of its grand tourer and SUV within the next few years.

Billed as the “purest expression of the brand’s performance potential,” Lexus debuted the F badge in 2008 to woo sports car enthusiasts, younger customers, and bigger spenders to the staid brand. The enthusiast lineup is tasked with competing against BMW’s M division and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG sub-brand, as well as Audi’s S and RS and Cadillac’s V series.

Earlier this year, Lexus released a pair of 10th anniversary editions—for its GS sedan and RC coupe—to rally interest in the lineup with more expensive and exclusive models. It’s capping the number of RC F 10th Anniversary Edition models sold in the U.S. at 240 units. The GS F 10th Anniversary Edition is even rarer, with only 100 available for sale in the U.S.

Currently, the 467-horsepower versions of the GS and RC are the only models Lexus sells under its F badge, but the line also includes the LFA, the brand’s first and only super car. Best known for its Yamaha-tuned exhaust note and 4.8-liter V10 engine, the 553-horsepower super car sold for $375,000 a pop. Lexus made only 500 units during its two-year production run, from 2010 to 2012.

The $89,350 GS F 10th Anniversary Edition is priced at a $5,000 premium over the regular model. The RC F counterpart starts at $80,810, about $16,000 more than the standard version. For the extra money, buyers get triple beam headlights and Park Assist, as well as blue carbon-fiber interior trim, blue leather sport seats, blue suede accents, and matte gray paint.

A much pricier model could be next. Automotive media in Europe and Japan reported spotting a prototype for an F version of the brand’s new LC grand tourer performing road tests. The car, which insiders speculate could top 600 horsepower and cost upward of $200,000, would serve as the lineup’s flagship model. Meanwhile, Lexus hasn’t ruled out making a production model of the luxurious, rose gold LF-1 Limitless SUV concept it revealed at the Detroit Auto Show this year, bringing the F badge treatment to the automotive industry’s fastest-growing segment.

A Lexus spokesman declined to comment.

The high sticker prices and limited availability are designed to boost the brand’s exclusivity. Though the F brand hasn’t gained significant traction against its German rivals so far, the line has helped grow Lexus’ appeal beyond its traditional customer base, said Karl Bauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book.

“The brand is trying to enhance its image as an emotional alternative to European luxury brands, and you can’t do that without a performance division,” Brauer said. “These upgrades aren’t at the same level as BMW and Mercedes’ in terms of aggressive horsepower upgrades, but they’re a good start.”

Overall, the F brand hasn’t helped attract a critical mass of younger customers. The median age of a Lexus customer has increased four years, to 62, since the F line debuted, according to AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Study. But the high-performance line has given shoppers an alternative for expressive and edgy luxury vehicles.

“That wasn’t the case ten years ago,” said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific. “For many years, Lexus products were associated with quiet, pampering luxury. Along with that came an increasingly stodgy image.”

CarsJaclyn TropFortune