Launching the astonishingly good high-performance RC F coupe, Lexus has again proven the old adage: “If the guys running the motorsport program develop the road car, the result is guaranteed to be spectacular”. For the V8-powered projectile which is the RC F we can thank Lexus International Chief Engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi – the same man who is running the RC F’s motorsport programs in GT3 and the Japanese GT Series.
“The RC F inherits without compromise our policy that F models must be fully capable of running on a (race) circuit as a venue for pursuing driving pleasure freely and safely,” Yaguchi San explained. “But it is also a road car with characteristic Lexus quality and refinement.”
We’d go further to say the stonking Lexus RC F contends with the likes of BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and Audi RS5 to be the best of these mega-desirable and very fast coupes.
Remember this is the same company which brought us the V10 LFA. Only 100 were made but it is quite possibly the best sports car of its type the world has seen.
Lexus RC F Overview
The high-performance halo vehicle of Lexus’ new RC coupe lineup, the RC F has been launched with one model very sharply priced at $133,500. Just around the corner is the even better RC F Carbon version stickered at $147,500 and boasting hard core looks, lighter weight (carbon—fibre roof, bonnet, rear wing and interior trim) plus seats trimmed in Alcantara.
And the Lexus RC F is no ‘stickers and stripes’ pretender – apart from the tremendous 5.0-litre V8 engine and slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission the RC F runs a wind-tunnel-enhanced aerodynamic body (including a active rear wing), specialized suspension and unique electronic driver aids befitting a car created by the racing team. And that theme continues inside with the usual Lexus opulence meeting racing-inspired sports seats, LFA-inspired instruments and even a unique sports steering wheel.
Like your ‘M’ BMWs and ‘AMG’ Mercs? Then you’ll understand the Lexus RC F.
Lexus RC F Engine
The 2UR-GSE 5.0-litre V8 engine is a development of the similar engine fitted to the IS F sedan. The naturally-aspirated quad-cam is the most powerful V8 produced by Lexus.
Compared to the 2UR-FSE engine in the IS F, the RC F’s engine has a multitude of new components including the intake manifold and throttle body, intake and exhaust valvetrain, electric motor-driven variable valve timing, cylinder head, the Lexus D-4S dual injection system, spark plugs, pistons, conrods, crankshaft, crank main bearing, exhaust manifold and heat insulator, sump and baffle, alternator clutch system and engine and transmission coolers just to name a few. So it has a higher compression ratio (12.3:1), breaths better, is 12 per-cent more powerful, more fuel-efficient and complies with Euro 6 emissions standards.
That all adds up to 351kW of power at 7100rpm and peak torque of 530Nm from 4800 to 5600rpm. Like the V10 in the Lexus LFA, this V8 has been designed using motorcycle engine technology so torque delivery is rapid and linear. Lexus claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.5 seconds.
And the noise is stunning – Active Sound Control delivering a deep tone up to 3000rpm and a high-pitched roar as you move above and up to the 7500rpm redline.
Drive is via that multi-mode eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle-shifters and throttle-blipping downchanges. This too has been redone for the RC F to provide a more linear response to the accelerator pedal.
And there is the world’s first torque vectoring rear differential for a front-engined car. Unlike other torque vectoring differentials which use the brakes to slow wheels, the Lexus system uses precisely controlled electric actuator motors (which operate 1,000times per second) and multi-plate clutches to ensure the appropriate amount of torque is distributed to each rear wheel.
Lexus RC F The Interior
Lexus says the goal for the RC F’s interior designers was to blend its luxury and track-ready personalities. Yep they nailed that one.
Open the door f the RC F and the gorgeous aroma of high-quality leather wafts into your nostrils but staring you in the face is a pair of curvaceous, figure-hugging sports front seats which clearly have backgrounds in motorsport. There’s even an Alcanta top for the centre console box.
Those seats use a motorsport technique in which they are filled with foam in a single process to eliminate shrinkage and slipping. The foam is applied in three sections (shoulder, lumbar and hip) to change shape three-dimensionally to integrate with the lines of the driver and front seat passenger.
The leather-wrapped 370mm diameter steering wheel is unique to the Lexus RC F and plenty of electronic adjustment for rake/reach and electronic seat adjustment provides a perfect driving position. Underneath are gorgeous alloy-trimmed pedals which again are in just the right (sporty) position.
The basic dashboard/instrument layout comes from the rest of the RC range but the gauges are borrowed from the LFA supercar – such as the large central rev-counter and analogue speedometer. to the left is the upright colour screen for the satellite navigation and upscale 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Two individual seats are fitted in the rear – with high fixed headrests and the same construction methods as the front. But like all high-performance coupes, rear leg-room isn’t massive.
Lexus RC F Exterior & Styling
Compared to the regular RC Coupe, the RC F is 5.0cms wider (wider wheel arches) and 10mm loner (aerodynamics). And of course it sits lower to the road.
Apart from the aero enhancements, immediately obvious is the raised bonnet line (to fit the taller V8 engine) with a heat extracting scoop in the middle. There are also air scoops, cooling ducts and, at the rear, and active wing which deploys at speeds above 80km/h.
Not so obvious is the flat underbody.
The hallmark spindle grille gets a chrome horizontal strip at bumper height which enhances its appearance and behind is a transmission oil cooler.
And there are full-length aero spats along the sides.
Even the rear bumper corners were designed to maximize airflow and actually influence flow over the wing.
Wheels (19-inch or 20-inch) look brilliant and are special lightweight alloys to keep unsprung weight at a minimum.
Lexus RC F On The Road
‘Mount Panorama’ – for Australians those words need no further clarification. This is our Nurburgring, a race circuit where more hearts have been broken than melted.
For your www.carshowroom.com.au correspondent and almost all of our senior colleagues – those of us who have been around longer than the Lexus brand! – incredibly this was the first time we would drive on ‘The Mountain’ in race conditions. The road was closed to the public and no speed limits applied.
Not that it was just an uncontrolled blast. Lexus of course brought some logical thinking and in our first track session we were told to work through the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system – from ‘Normal’ to ‘Sport S’ and ‘Sport S+’ modes and finally in the ‘Expert’ setting which – as they say – disables TRC, VSC and pre-collision braking to such an extent it only intervenes when you are actually about to spin.
Lexus ambassador 1980 World F1 Champion Alan Jones and Toyota’s rally ace Neal bates were in attendance to give us some advice. ‘Big Al’ (as 1976 World Champ James Hunt referred to him) told your www.carshwroom.aom.au correspondent: “There’s no substitute for laps up here with all the blind corners and changes in elevation”.
Right so five laps wasn’t really enough to perfect all corners but we’re pleased to say the high-speed McPhillamy Park left-hander was one of the ones we ‘nailed’ on our last circuit and the Lexus RC F responded with a brilliant display – nice and flat, a smidge of oversteer on exit and brilliant feedback all the way through.
We also did a loop on the road down through Blayney and the combination showed Lexus has managed to provide a suspension calibration with sufficient compliance to reign-in bumps and potholes but also plenty of bite for when the going gets twisty. BMW and Merc – you need to buy one of these and drive it hard.
Lexus RC F Issues
Some imbecile looking to grab some attention will no doubt find something about which to criticize the Lexus RC F. A small boot maybe? Does boot capacity really matter for buyers of these cars?
For us, maybe the manual gear changes with paddle shifters were a smidge slow (but the cog-swapping in full auto was so good and so rapid they were a tad superfluous).
Lexus RC F Verdict
It’s as simple as this: this time around for high-performance driving dynamics there is nothing to separate the Lexus RC F from its German rivals. Oh you can split hairs about a few extra kgs here or there and a race circuit lap time a few tenths slower here or there, but trust us - the seat-of-the-pants-get-the-heart-racing axis has shifted meteorically in favour of Lexus.
What does separate them is price. And the indisputable fact is the Lexus RC F doesn’t just beat the Germans for value-for-money - it smashes them.
Now we’re the first to acknowledge many buyers in this segment aren’t driven primarily by dollars – and they’ll probably always buy a Mercedes-Benz, Audi or BMW. But as a drive and as a proposition, the RC F has just slammed onto the same page.
Yes, it really is that good.
Lexus RC F The Competition
And here’s the problem – three Car Showroom Favourites illustrate how good this segment is.
Opening the batting is the Audi RS5 ($156,400). 331kW/430Nm from Audi’s 4.2-litre V8 driving all four wheels via Quattro and the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission. A tremendous car which we hurtled round a private test track in Northern NSW just before Christmas – and you get the sensational Audi RS interior.
The BMW M4 ($166,900) provided one of the drives of the year in 2014 when we tackled the Hampton Downs race circuit outside Auckland, New Zealand and the terrific roads to Taupo. This time the ‘M’ gets a 317kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine and trust us, this is one of the world’s best engines. Brilliant dynamics but, now having driven the Lexus RC F, it seems unnecessarily hard and would be difficult to live with as a daily driver.
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG ($159,507) is for us the looker of the crowd (except for the Lexus RC F) and delivers a stupendous 373kW/610Nm from AMG’s 6.2-litre V8. Gorgeous AMG goodies everywhere but, like the M4 now suddenly appearing too firm in suspension tune.