A bold move from Lexus saw the all-new high-performance V8-powered RC F Coupe launched to the media earlier this year at the Mt Panorama race circuit in Bathurst. Fortunately there was not a scratch left on the fleet of Lexus RC Fs and we all returned with smiles broader than Luna Park.
Since then we’ve been counting the days until a Lexus RC F arrived in the www.carshowroom.com.au garage for a week. Especially when we caught a couple of road tests from colleagues who decided the RC F deserved some fairly significant criticism.
Take it from us, in cricket terms, the boys have bowled a ‘wide’ with those views. By any measure the Lexus RC F is a tremendous high-performance coupe.
Lexus RC F Overview
Sure $133,500 is a lot of ‘folding’ for a four-seat coupe, but – like its German rivals – the Lexus RC F is more than tyre-shredding fast, loud and brash. In fact, not surprisingly for Lexus, it boasts a comprehensive list of technology and luxury inclusions (in fact the gorgeous interior stakes a claim to beg the best in-class).
That technology flows to the looks: all those slots, curves, active rear wing and flat underbody have been honed in hours of wind tunnel testing so the package actually works. And the immensely powerful 5.0-litre V8 engine benefits from a unique, sporty suspension calibration - again honed by the race team in testing at various race circuits and road courses – to ensure it puts all of that performance onto the road.
Yes, you bet – the Lexus RC F is a total performance package.
Lexus RC F Engine
There’s no surprise the RC F employs the most powerful V8 engine in the Lexus stable. With 351kW of power at an ear-shattering 7100rpm and peak torque of 530Nm from 4800-5600rpm, the Lexus RC F out-muscles the similar V8-powered Audi RS5 Coupe.
That audio track – Lexus calls it ‘Active Sound Control – is brilliant. And not just on acceleration – the sound as you work the eight-speed automatic transmission through throttle-blipping downchanges as you head into a corner is no less spectacular.
The RC F’s engine is actually a development of the V8 fitted to the IS F sedan – with more power and better fuel economy. That’s an impressive combination.
Assisting getting all that power to the ground is a torque vectoring rear differential which Lexus claims is a world first (front engine/rear drive). And unlike conventional torque vectoring systems which have the brakes being brushed to slow the wheels, Lexus RC F uses electric actuator motors and multi-plate clutches.
Lexus RC F The Interior
We’re going out on a limb here: we reckon the RC F has the best interior of any Lexus so far. The combination of hallmark Lexus luxury with the requisite sporty inclusions is an alluring package we think.
At first glance the gorgeous leather-trimmed front seats look nice and feel figure-hugging. But there’s more to them than meets the eye – in fact they were developed by the motorsport department and we have the foam applied in three sections (shoulder, lumbar and hip) but filled in a single process which ensures a perfect shape.
Behind the wheel you instantly get that sports car feel thanks to the gorgeous alloy pedals, tilt/telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel (electronic of course) and multiple adjustments for the seat. And the steering wheel itself? That would be a gorgeous three-spoke, leather-wrapped creation which is exclusive to the RC F.
And those in the back (despite the lack of legroom) enjoy two nicely sculptured individual seats.
Instrumentation is the usual Lexus standard and shows some lineage to the regular RC Coupe range. Except with noticeable sporting touches like the oversized central tachometer and digital speedo which can be traced direct to the LF A supercar.
Lexus RC F Exterior & Styling
Lexus stylists have ‘nailed’ the looks of the RC F. While delivering a genuine aerodynamics package honed in the wind tunnel, the folks with the crayons have also created a stylish look which of course benefits from starting life as the slick RC Coupe.
As well as sitting lower to the road - and riding on massive 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels – compared to the regular RC Coupe the Lexus RC F runs wheel arches which are 5.0cms wider and the aero goodies add 10mm to the length.
Those aero changes are plentiful and not all are visible – for example there is a flat underbody. We’re talking a massive front spoiler, wheel arch vents, full-length side ‘spats’ and an active wing at the rear which raises at speeds over 80km/h and benefits from airflow modified via shaped rear bumper corners.
Up-front there is a high bonnet line (to fit the new V8) with a heat extracting vent, the hallmark Lexus ‘Spindle’ grille and L-shaped DRLs.
Lexus RC F On The Road
There are a lot of Lexus owners around where we live so in terms of passers-by stopping to check-out our RC F and ask a few questions, this car was right up there with the BMW i8. If you owned a Lexus RC F, we’d expect this type of attention would go some way to making you feel good about an expenditure north of $133,000.
If we’re an owner, the first run over our high-speed mountain roads test loop with the massive V8 roaring and ridiculously high levels of grip and balance showcasing Lexus technology at its best…well there’s some major reasons for purchase right there. This thing is just brilliant – but on the road, don’t be selecting ‘Expert’ in the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system (it disables traction and stability control as well as pre-collision braking and is intended for track use only).
Nope, best to stick with ‘Normal’, ‘Sport S’ or ‘Sport S+’ even when you’re in the twisty stuff. You’ll discover Lexus has the RC F’s chassis spot-on with phenomenal turn-in, a racy mid-corner ‘set’ and remarkable balance on corner exit.
You can go apex hunting with judicious use of the throttle and despite the sometimes recalcitrant behavior of the eight-speed when swapping cogs manually, the 5.0-litre V8 offered prodigious amounts of performance whenever asked.
A word for the Lexus suspension engineers too. Often packaging restrictions in two-door coupes compromise rear suspension travel leading to some harshness especially when loaded.
Not the Lexus RC F. Over our standard mid-corner bump test, both rear and front suspension were impressively complaint and soaked-up the imperfections with ease.
Around town naturally the Lexus RC F was refined, supple and nicely isolated from outside noise. That interior hush is a hallmark of all Lexus vehicles – even the high-performance V8 RC F.
Lexus RC F Issues
Just as we gleaned when we drove the Lexus RC F at Mount Panorama, the eight-speed automatic transmission in manual mode is a too slow to swap ratios.
Lexus RC F Verdict
By any measure the Lexus RC F has its German rivals under pressure. Sure badge snobs will still favour Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz but the cold hard facts are the RC F is better appointed, better value and drives equally as well.
Unlike some of the questionable comments from a small number of our colleagues, we loved our week with the Lexus RC F. Just the way the 5.0-litre V8 sprang to life with a purposeful roar when you hit the starter button was a delight (maybe our neighbors might not share that view after those early-morning trips to the airport and golf).
But whether you were in the mountains or in the daily commuter grind, the Lexus RC F impressed. That’s versatility and smart engineering right there.
Lexus RC F The Competition
Audi’s RS5 coupe will set you back $157,900 – but what a car! Although surprisingly outmuscled by the Lexus RC F with ‘only’ 331kW/430Nm on-tap from Audi’s 4.2-litre atmo V8, of course the RS5 ‘aces’ its rivals for driving dynamics thanks to Quattro AWD. We’re ranking the RS5’s interior on-par with the Lexus RC F for ‘best-in-class’ honours.
From BMW of course it’s the $166,430 BMW M4. While some wrongly lamented BMW walking away from the V8, unless you’ve driven the 317kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged ‘M’ six-cylinder you’re talking through your rear anatomy. This thing is seriously fast and perhaps is the raciest of all contenders (in fact some may find the suspension too harsh…we didn’t but we’re ‘petrol heads’).
And Mercedes-Benz-AMG has the engine output covered with the hand-built 373kW/610Nm 6.2-litre V8 in the C63 AMG. Priced at $159,500, the C63 is a lot of coin but such is its brilliance Australia is AMG’s biggest export market.
In fact we love all four of the cars in this league. This is a good as current high-performance technology gets.