UPDATE, 22 February 2021: Lexus has teased its upcoming F Sport model once again, this time releasing a photo of a red IS sedan's rear window, now surrounded by black trim – all but confirming the mid-size sedan will be the vehicle to receive the carbon-fibre engine cover teased last week.
All signs now point to a high-performance version of that car, either powered by a twin-turbocharged V6, or a naturally-aspirated V8.
We'll hear more about the brand's upcoming sports sedan when it is unveiled in full tomorrow morning (Tuesday, February 23), at 3am AEDT (2am QLD time), via a livestream event on YouTube.
19 February 2021: Lexus has teased an upcoming, performance-oriented F Sport model.
A single image was posted across Lexus' social media profiles earlier this week, providing a glimpse at a carbon-fibre engine cover with a prominent F Sport badge set to feature on an upcoming model – without confirming the mystery sports model's identity, leading many online to speculate on what it could be.
Fan website Lexus Enthusiast notes the carbon-look engine cover pictured is a perfect match for that fitted to Lexus' fan-favourite 5.0-litre '2UR-GSE' naturally-aspirated V8, as featured under the bonnet of the RC F coupe, GS F sedan, with the shape of the 'F SPORT' or 'F' badge cutout shared between the teaser and the aforementioned production models.
Above: Lexus RC F engine bay, featuring the same engine cover as the teaser.
The most likely candidate to receive the bent-eight mill is the recently-refreshed IS mid-size sedan, with trademark filings in the US indicating the flagship V8 variant could score the IS 500 moniker, with an 'F Sport' badge tacked on behind it.
In the aforementioned F-badged duo, the 5.0-litre engine develops 351kW and 530Nm – matching those outputs would make a potential IS 500 F Sport a formidable rival for the base 353kW/550Nm BMW M3, and just shy of the 375kW/650Nm M3 Competition and 375kW/700Nm Mercedes-AMG C63 S.
However, it’s worth noting the LC 500 coupe and convertible – which share the 5.0-litre '2UR-GSE' V8 – don’t feature the carbon-fibre engine cover, indicating what's fitted on top isn't directly related to the engine hiding below.
Given the mystery Lexus model will wear the F Sport badge – typically reserved for sporty appearance packages and occasional chassis tweaks, rather than the full-fat F moniker – it's possible a lesser engine could be fitted to an IS 500 F Sport, potentially the 310kW/600Nm 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 fitted to the Lexus LS 500 luxury limousine.
Above and bottom: 2021 Lexus IS 350.
While that theory would support rumours out of Japan from earlier in February 2021 suggesting a 354kW/535Nm, 5.0-litre V8-powered IS F is due in late 2021, we'd wager a circa-40kW deficit between F Sport and F models wouldn't be enough to justify business cases for both 300kW-plus performance sedans, with the Japanese brand likely to choose one or the other.
Alternate proposals suggest the engine cover could preview an F Sport version of the LC 500 coupe and convertible – however, as pointed out by Lexus Enthusiast, F Sport packages typically don't include new, sportier engine covers.
Click through to Lexus' microsite for the teaser image and you'll notice a "Concept vehicle shown" label in the bottom right-hand corner – suggesting we might not even be looking at a production car at all.
Only time will confirm the identity of Lexus' next F Sport model, with more details likely to follow in the coming months.