Suguya Fukusato may have spent most of his Toyota career as chief engineer of Toyota front-drive econoboxes, but he knows a thing or two about fast cars. He's a rally driver in his native Japan.
Fukusato also has had two Porsche 911 coupes in his stable, currently a 1980 911SC, as well as a 1989 911 Turbo he was compelled to unload because of Japan's claustrophobic traffic.
Finally, Fukusato got his chance to work on a real rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. As chief engineer of the new IS 250 and IS 350 sedans, Fukusato saw the opportunity to take Lexus in a new direction.
At the July media launch in Los Angeles, Fukusato spoke with Staff Reporter Mark Rechtin about his latest project.
You said Lexus left out some 'must haves' from the previous IS 300. What do you mean by that?
We made a list. There were nearly 1,000 things that were missed. Most of the list is confidential. But there were some luxury touches that were not Lexus. The damping speed on the doors on the interior fixtures. The exterior paint quality, deviations in the paint and the surface flatness. The LED license plate lamp wasn't right. On the mechanical side, the ride comfort and handling performance were not up to Lexus standards. Neither was the body control and stability.
What was the benchmark for the new IS sedans?
The marketing side, not the development side, looked at the BMW 3 series, Cadillac CTS, Acura TL, Audi A4 and Mercedes C class. But my personal benchmark was in my own feeling of what was right for the car.
In that sense, I decided for myself what to do. But in final comparison, we wanted performance like the BMW 330i M edition and the Mercedes-Benz AMG C32.
The original IS 300 was known for its inline-six engine. Was there ever a hope that such an engine would carry over? Or was it always known that it would be a V-6?
There were several advantages to a V-6. An inline-six is longer, so that moves the center of gravity point farther forward in the car, which affects handling. The inline-six also is heavier than the new V-6, and the V-6 fits in a more compact space.
So why couldn't you just borrow the new 3.5-liter V-6 from the Toyota Avalon? Why did you need to invent a different engine family?
The IS is the first vehicle with this new V-6. It's mounted north-south, while the Avalon is mounted transverse. We couldn't borrow the Avalon engine because of that.