Lexus IS Tuning

Tuning the stunning Lexus IS

The Lexus IS is a great project car if you want a track day car, providing you are willing to put in the workshop hours to achieve this. As they are rear wheel drive they also make great drift cars. Our members have some interesting IS projects under way in our forums including engine swaps and the usual array of tuning modifications. The IS has been aimed at the executive market and is very comfortable to drive with lots of gadgets installed. However the chassis is superb and is just crying out for a few simple mods.

The first area we shall look at is improving the cornering and braking of your IS. To improve the handling you are generally looking at suspension and tyre upgrades and larger drops are not always good, as it can impair the ride quality. Stick with a drop of around 25-35mm and you should be fine.

When you drop a car you need a stiffer spring to address the need for a lower range of movement in the suspension, and this can make the ride quality unbearable so it is a bit of a balancing act.

We shall now turn our focus to the IS engine. If you want to get a little more power out of the top end we need to choose our mods carefully.

It doesn't take a lot of money to make big changes to the performance and handling of your IS providing you do the right mods.

Smaller engines do not usually provide much of a return in terms of power but thankfully Lexus chose to install a range of good engines across the range. We would suggest you go for the more powerful 3.0 if you want a tuning project and a manual transmission, but the inline 6 has been proven on the track. You could always do an engine swap if you have a small engine to start with but this can be quite fiddley. One impressive engine swap we have seen is to the Toyota Supra Twin turbo engine, it took a lot of ingenuity to accomplish but created one of the fastest IS's around.

Lexus IS Tuning modifications.

Peak power is all well and good but if you want a truly driveable car it will need a wide power band and lots of low down torque. Don't get misled by performance part manufacturers claims of big peak power gains, they don't tell the whole story, it is the torque or power band you need to focus your attention on.

Fast road cams are generally one of the best power mods you can do to your engine. But you need to select the right profile, for advice see cam selection in our tuning articles for more information. You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to uprate the fuelling. To help address the need for more fuel a set of uprated injectors will really help and this will probably need an uprated fuel pump as well.

Lexus IS intake and exhaust modifications.

Don't overlook the intake and exhaust. when it comes to car tuning as it is essential to get the cars breathing right.Derestricting the airflow into the engine is the primary part of tuning so get a better flowing air filter. Induction kits sound great with the induction roar they create but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not add noticeable power and actually rob you of power. Fitting a high flow sports exhausts will certainly help air flow through the engine but do not go too large or you will reduce the flow rate.

Stick to 2.0 to 2.5 inches for best results. See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

Getting the head ported and polished will further help more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench. Your clutch can sap a lot of your power if it starts to slip and the standard clutches are only ever good for power gains of up to 40 or 50%. Fit a performance clutch to avoid power losses through the transmission.

Adding forced induction will see big power gains but this is usually too expensive to be cost effective. It is easier to bolt on a supercharger than it is to get a turbo working on the IS. With a turbo the boost curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it hard to map. The nice steady boost to rpm characteristics of the supercharger make them easier to map. Adding forced induction will usually require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

The ECU in the Lexus is at the time of writing this near impossible to remap so you would be looking at an after market ECU solution.

Lexus IS Wheel modifications.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling. Large wheels tend to be heavy and the last thing you want is to increase the unsprung mass in your car, instead choose performance tyres and light weight wheels of a similar size to the OEM settings on your car.Although some people have gone larger we would stick to a 18 inch rim size as the maximum preferably sticking with a 17 for optimum handling and performance.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss IS options in more detail with our IS owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Lexus tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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