2015 Lexus RC F First Drive Review

21 Oct 2015 Car Reviews

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2015 Lexus RC F First Drive Review

An oh-so-Japanese blend of V8-rear-driven performance and luxury that doesn’t cookie-cut heroic German rivals.

What is it?

A front-engined, rear-driven, high-revving V8-powered Japanese coupe pegged squarely in the same arena as premium Euro luxo-performers such as the BMW M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS4.

And while it’s certainly got the outputs (351kW/530Nm) and acceleration (0-100km/h in 4.5sec) boasts to stand toe-to-toe with Germany’s finest, it’s still very much a Lexus in form and function.

How so? Lexus reckons the RC F is tuned more to suit the ‘amateur’ gentleman driver. It’s not as white-knuckled in its dynamic character, or willing to tip you into the scenery as, say, an M4. It’s loaded to the hilt with spec yet also undercuts the Germans with value on price: a real Lexus hallmark.

And it’s typically Japanese in playing the ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ card loud and proud. 

Lexus RC F Front driving

Why should I care?

Because in a world where even Ferrari has gone to forced-induction to pander to leaner and greener credentials, the Lexus F (for Fuji) performance brand remains steadfastly high-revving and naturally aspirated. When Aussie carmaking goes dodo, your choice of naturally aspirated V8 performers may well just be RC F and Ford’s Mustang GT.

On merit, the Lexus RC F looks great, goes hard, sounds visceral when you approach the lofty 7,300rpm rev limiter, and is laden with enough fancy bells and whistles to make some Euro rivals feel low rent. It’s also, on balance, a nicer day-to-day device to live with.

There’s also a heavy whiff of eau de LFA about the RC F’s styling, execution and vibe. And all the better for it.

Lexus RC F Rear Driving

What’s new?

Well, it’s no IS F with a two-door bodyshell. Behind the 12-percent-boost in power claim is a 5.0-litre V8 that only really shares engine block with the IS F – the rest is almost entirely revised.

It’s tied to an eight-speed paddle-shifted auto that works a treat in sportier drive modes, while the rear axle features a clever torque vectoring system that uses clutch packs to distribute energy rather than the commonly used wheel-braking-type application.

From those aggressive rear haunches to the fancy PlayStation-like digital instrumentation – which redesigns the display in each different drive mode – there’s not much in common with the humbler RC 350 six-banger coupe. At over the twice the price ($133,500) for the base ‘F’ version, you’d bloody hope not either…  

Lexus RC F Side

What’s it like to drive fast?

Uncork that bent eight and it screams like a spoilt toddler, though with a tone that’ll plaster a grin on your face. That shades-of-LFA effect is also how linear the power delivery is, though it’s not terribly toey in the mid-range. It doesn’t quite feel as quick as its 4.5sec 0-100km/h claim.

Perhaps it’s the portly 1,860kg kerb weight – a quarter-tonne more than BMW’s M4 – that dilutes the accelerative juices.

Lexus launched the RC F at the motorsport mecca of Mount Panorama, and that I’m still alive to write this review is testimony to the coupe’s high-speed handling abilities.

It’s a planted, grippy, well-balanced and sure-footed super grand tourer that allows modest skills to explore very high-speed fun.

Though it’s not as frisky as some German rivals, but that it took the kink on Conrod Straight at 250km/h like it was negotiating a backstreet roundabout is no bad thing at all.

Lexus RC F interior Dashboard

What’s it like around town?

The ride quality of its non-adaptive suspension, firm but not unpleasant on the move, gets a bit choppy under 60km/h. When dawdling around, it is very polite and quiet – perhaps a little too quiet. Must be those Lexus genes.

From the heated and cooled leather-dipped sports buckets to the nine-speaker 835w stereo, the RC F certainly boasts ample creature comforts. And the coupe does strike a nice balance between grand touring manners and sportscar purpose. But if you habitually attack urban peak-hour like an Ayrton Senna qualifier, there are many punchier V8s out there to choose from.

Anything bad?

The RC F delivers plenty in most key areas but its performance is sadly dulled a little too much by excessive weight. It’d just be a livelier and more engaging beast treated to a few more rounds at the engineering gym. And it’d allow that gem of a powertrain to shine tangibly brighter.

How much is it?

At $133,500, the RC F undercuts German rivals handsomely. Fork out another $14K and you can slip into the Carbon edition, which introduces clear-finished natural carbonfibre to the bonnet, boot lid and roof and adds an active rear wing and Alcantara interior trim. None of this stuff positively affects kerb weight by any meaningful measure, but it sure looks suitably cool and purposeful.

Would you take the Lexus RC F over a BMW M4?

I would. Lexus isn’t the first brand name you think of for ‘character’ and ‘soul’ but the RC F offers plenty. And it does feel like a special car. Ensuring there’s enough feel-good factor in the experience is something many German cars, particularly the M4, neglect for the sake of incremental gains in numbers.

The new Lexus F flagship mightn’t set go-fast benchmarks, but it’s interesting, evocative, easy to live with, bloody quick on properly fast and flowing roads/circuits and brings a fresh spin on the V8 rear-driven luxo-performance landscape.

Click here to find out more about the Lexus RC F.