TOKYO – Initial reviews of the Lexus luxury brand’s first attempt at a performance car, the IS-F, so far are favorable, but the vehicle’s design is a point of contention.

Critics say the derivative does not distinguish itself enough from the current IS, especially with the interior, and that its bulbous nose is downright ugly.

Toyota Motor Corp. design chief Wahei Hirai is familiar with the complaints but says creating a unique feel for all F-performance models, more of which are said to be coming, is a bigger priority than tweaking the IS-F.

“We have to establish our own identity as a Lexus premium brand,” Hirai says at an event here during the Tokyo auto show. “Maybe we will put some flavor or dynamics, or more emotion, toward (F models) than the basic Lexus design.”

The new “F” model is Lexus’ first shot at challenging the dominance of competitors such as BMW AG’s M and Daimler AG’s AMG performance marques.

For one thing, Lexus can be more aggressive in designing its F cars than the German brands, Hirai says. “They appreciate consistency, or continuity, very much. We like to make (our vehicles) a different way.”

This distinction is found in Lexus’ L-Finesse design language, which stands for “the leading edge of finesse.”

“It looks different, but someday people might say, ‘’This might be Lexus because I can feel the L-Finesse,’” Hirai says of his hopes critics will warm to the design language.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com