I have a problem.
Lexus says MOTOR’s long-term RC F is fitted with its Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which was added as part of an update in late 2016. This makes sense, as at a similar time the RC F’s four-door twin, the GS F, scored an identical upgrade which substantially improved its day-to-day ride comfort, erasing one of our key criticisms of an otherwise very likeable car.
Herein lies my problem. According to Lexus: “AVS has seven damping-force control strategies. In Eco, Normal and Sport, the system prioritises ride comfort while … in Sport Plus mode the focus of the damping-force control is handling stability”. Trouble is, as much as I flick the dial between Normal and Sport Plus I can’t feel a blind bit of difference.
Now, I’m not at all suggesting Lexus hasn’t fitted the AVS, rather that the difference between the damping strategies must be relatively slight. Or I’m a terrible road tester, which hasn’t been ruled out at this stage.
The cloud to this is that the ride isn’t exactly great – not terrible, but irritatingly reactive to smaller bumps – however the silver lining is that the RC F can be driven around in its most aggressive Sport Plus mode with little to any deterioration in ride quality. This endows Lexus’s 5.0-litre V8 with the crisp throttle response you’d expect of a naturally-aspirated engine as well as ensuring as much of that eight-cylinder growl – artificially enhanced by the Active Sound Control system – enters the cabin as possible.
It’s not an engine that offers the instant gratification of today’s over-torqued turbo units but it sneaks up on you, continuing to gain pace as the revs rise all the way to the 7100rpm cut-out.
Second month report of our RC F long termer
A long drive over the Christmas break in tandem with DC in a BMW M4 Pure proved the RC F’s potency. Out of corners the M4’s generously endowed mid-range would steal it a couple of metres, but from there on it was virtually level-pegging as the Lexus dug into its sweet spot higher up the tacho.
Having an M4 along, perhaps not quite the benchmark in this segment – that would be the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe – but certainly a formidable foe, proved instructive on a number of levels.
Coupe comparison: BMW M4 v Lexus RC F v Jaguar F-Type V6 S
Usually cars perform better in insolation only for their flaws to come into sharp focus when compared to their peers – see the Lexus LC500 at PCOTY in this month's issue – but in this instance it was the RC F’s strengths that came to the fore.
Aside from that stonking V8 (though it’d be nice if the noise was less manufactured) the RC F’s brakes – 380mm rotors with six-piston calipers up front twinned with 345mm four-potters at the rear – are far superior to the BMW’s in feel and stamina, its behaviour at the limit is less edgy and its stability control system far more lenient and subtle in its intervention, though the amount of opposite lock it permits in ‘Expert’ mode means the name isn’t meaningless marketing rubbish.
The eight-speed auto can’t match the shifts of the M4’s dual-clutch for swiftness, but it’s brisk enough to prevent annoyance. Working against it is its weight. Virtually every negative compared to the M4 – specifically insufficient urge under 4000rpm, a relative lack of agility and lower ceiling in terms of outright grip – could be largely nullified by a hefty diet.
Very stiff the structure may be, combining the front of a GS sedan, the reinforced centre section of the old IS Convertible and rear end of the IS sedan, but no wonder it’s heavy – it’s made out of three cars! A little more weight to the steering wouldn’t go astray, either.
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Nonetheless, the Lexus earned plenty of points this month. I appreciated its differences to the German hegemony before, but there’s now a greater appreciation for how much engineering depth is behind those polarising looks. But is there enough to withstand some hot laps at one of Australia’s fastest racetracks? More on that next month.
This is Clever
Brakes that continually stop 1800kg-plus without complaint. Lexus can do it, why can’t everyone?
Fuel Consumption this Month: 18.48L/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 14.91L/100km
Distance this Month: 1081km
Liked: The RC F revealing hidden qualities
Disliked: Damper settings indistinguishable
Favourite moment: Keeping a BMW M4 in sight