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The boys at Lexus are getting serious about performance - and have built this sensational V8-engined IS430 to prove it.

Auto Express was first behind the wheel of the muscle car, which is finished in menacing black, and is being presented as a rival to the likes of the BMW M3 and Mercedes AMG C32.

Sitting lower than the standard IS, the 430 is further improved with a new front bumper and radiator grille. Inside, the only change is the speed-ometer, which now reads 180mph.

Built with the help of Lexus' parent company at Toyota Team Europe, the newcomer taps into experience gained during the firm's first competitive year in Formula One. Fire up the car's 4.3-litre V8 engine and the soundtrack is NASCAR-grade. But perhaps that is little surprise when you consider that the engineer in charge is Gerald Bon-engel, formerly a development engineer at Mercedes tuner Brabus.

For reliability, the engine is unmodified, but a new exhaust hikes power from 277bhp to 305bhp. It's enough to thrust the IS430 from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds and on to 162mph.
That potential is realised at the test track as we hit the accelerator and the rear tyres spin furiously before blasting us down the long straight. The gearbox shifts seamlessly and the car feels surprisingly refined. Despite the heavier engine, the IS430 is quick through cor- ners, too. Steering feel is good, there's little body roll and the car turns crisply. Carry too much speed into a bend and there is mild stabilising understeer, but that is easily balanced with the throttle.

Big power needs brakes to match. Dinner plate-sized discs, courtesy of Alcon, are clamped by massive cal-ipers front and rear. They haul the relatively light IS430 down from serious speeds with consummate ease.

This is only the beginning of the IS430 story, however. Toyota Team Europe has also built a supercharged version of this motor, which produces an M5-rivalling 404bhp with 600Nm of torque. With that sort of power on tap, BMW and Mercedes really had better be on their guard.

2001 CL Type S
2001 Lexus RX300 Silversport
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