It wasn't too long ago when Lexus, Toyota's luxury automobile division, was known only for making cars and SUVs that had exceptional levels of silence, refinement, and immaculate paintwork. In other words, they were great at pursuing perfection in all the things that make an automobile great, but not really exciting.
That was the case until an engineer named Yukihiko Yaguchi came along. He may not sound familiar to many, but he was the rebel behind the Lexus equivalent of BMW's M or Mercedes-Benz's AMG.
And now the Chief Engineer Emeritus has of the performance group of Lexus has decided to retire.
Yaguchi's career began with Toyota wherein he worked on models like the Chaser and the Supra, but he moved to Lexus in its early years and even did work on the first generation Lexus LS 400. But it all changed when Yaguchi decided to try something different over at Lexus: he wanted more exciting cars and the company decided to name it after the circuit owned by Toyota, hence the F for Fuji Speedway.
We were fortunate enough to have met Yaguchi about 5 years ago, and he shared the story of how he led the work on a high performance Lexus. He assembled a team of like-minded car enthusiasts in Lexus to form a new division; their goal was to redefine the perception of Lexus beyond pursuing perfection in quality, refinement and comfort.
He and his team upstream swimmers put a fire-spitting, naturally-aspirated V8 engine into a rear-wheel drive IS sedan that has been re-engineered for performance, and the result was the first ever Lexus F model: the 2007 IS F.
The success of the IS F paved the way for many more high performance models from Lexus. In 2009, they released the LFA supercar; still one of the most sought after in the world. In 2014 they launched the RC F coupe, and in 2015 they followed it up with the GS F. Lexus F also continued on to work on racing versions of their performance cars like the RC F GT3.
Yaguchi stuck by the principle of sticking with naturally aspirated engines that sang gloriously at high RPMs. The F badge also proved popular (like M Sport or AMG Sport), and thus Lexus started marketing the F Sport brand, offering sportier packages for their current models.
With his retirement, the pioneer behind the Lexus F perfomance marque is closing a 43-year career with Toyota and Lexus.