‘Lexus IS F’ sports car
Koji Sasahara  /  AP
Akio Toyoda, executive vice president of Toyota, stands next to the ‘Lexus IS F’ at the Fuji Speedway Formula One racing course in Japan Thursday.
updated 10/4/2007 1:18:38 PM ET 2007-10-04T17:18:38

Toyota chose a swerving Formula One racing course to show its new luxury Lexus sportscar Thursday, to make sure reporters got the message the new IS F model is about revved up engine muscle and the thrill of nimble handling.

Toyota Motor Corp. is hoping to sell 7,000 Lexus IS F cars globally next year, about 5,000 or 6,000 in the U.S., 500 in Japan and the rest in Europe.

The $67,000 sportscar, which can hit speeds of 186 mph, rolls out Dec. 25 in Japan, and in February or March in the U.S., Toyota executive Takeshi Yoshida said.

Reporters were given helmets before getting into the IS F. Then professional drivers took reporters for two laps lasting just a few minutes on the Fuji Speedway race course, reaching 149 mph at one point.

As the sportscar careened to turn sharp corners, reporters swayed in their seats, holding tight, hearing the engine growl at high speeds and sensing the pavement speed by.

Executive Vice President Akio Toyoda, the usually suit-clad grandson of the Japanese automaker’s founder, appeared in a black racing outfit and even was one of the test drivers for the event.

Toyoda, who oversees Japanese sales, acknowledged the Lexus needs time to grow into a “premium brand” in Japan, where the nameplate was introduced just three years ago.

“The Lexus must have the emotional factor of being exciting to drive,” he said.

The IS F is a more powerful version of the Lexus IS, which is already on sale. The letter “F” added at the end of the IS F stands for “fun” as well as Fuji Speedway, said Toyoda.

Company officials said the new Lexus measures up in acceleration and other performance to popular German imports.

Toyota, the maker of the U.S. best-seller Camry and gas-electric hybrid Prius, has been trying to add special features to its products, such as a hybrid to its Lexus lineup.

Amid soaring gas prices and growing fears about the environment, consumers are looking more at prices and mileage, and automakers are struggling to woo buyers with special cars.

The IS F, which has a 5-liter V8 engine, delivers good mileage for a sportscar, getting 8.2 kilometers a liter, or about 20 miles a gallon, in Japanese test-driving conditions, Toyota said.

Yukihiko Yaguchi, who oversaw the development of the IS F, said the car’s quick response, smooth acceleration and engine roar are key for attracting buyers.

“This models highlights the emotional element, while the hybrid Lexus showcases our innovations,” he said.

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