Lexus RC F: Review

Self doubt. It's not something that troubles the Lexus RC F's chief engineer, Yaguchi-san. This quietly spoken man spends his weekends at the Nurburgring and weekdays in his Lexus HQ. He lives, breathes and shapes the sportier end of the Lexus brand. Up to this point he's answered every query in Japanese through his personal translator, though his eyes have followed every one of our questions. There's a sparkle there that suggests he's not just pandering to journalists' questions, but enjoying the back and forth of ideas.

Beauty in the eye of and all that but there are attractions
Beauty in the eye of and all that but there are attractions
But then somebody voices the question we've all been wanting to ask and that sparkle turns to flame, just for the smallest of moments. "It is naturally aspirated, because I am an enthusiast. And this car is also for enthusiasts."

And no, he didn't need the translator for that one.

Missing the point?
It seems like Lexus is the only manufacturer who didn't get the email. You know, the one about turbochargers being the only way to deliver the power, the torque and the emissions targets? And for a brand created by Toyota, solely to keep the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz honest, it seems odd to choose a different direction at this point in history.

But, clicking through the paddles at 7,300rpm, this five-litre V8 is alive. It's not brutal, it's certainly not imbued with mid-range, but it IS fun. The figures don't lie, and 477hp is the most powerful Lexus V8 ever, and only the upcoming AMG C63 will trump that figure in class.

Flick left paddle and wait ... and wait ... and wait
Flick left paddle and wait ... and wait ... and wait
Maybe it's the breakthrough from low expectations, but the RC F is surprisingly easy to love. The flow from corner to corner is impressive in its delivery. The stratospheric top-end of that motor means you only ever desire the last 2,500rpm of the rev-counter. And the sequentially-driven gearbox, with its complete lack of block-shifting, works best with single shifts as close to the brick-wall rev-limiter as you dare to go. Keep it on the boil and the Lexus is one of the quickest coupes you could hope to pilot over a fast-paced A-road.

Flaws for thought
But if you let that pace drop, then prepare for incredible frustration. Picture the scene; you're in a queue of slow-moving traffic when a gap opens up. Suddenly the fuel-saving benefits of eighth gear are rendered unimportant. With no torque whatsoever below 5,000rpm, you want third gear right now. So you click that left paddle quicker than an eBay bid at 9pm on a Sunday night.

And over four seconds later, you'll have it. Four seconds. No kidding.

Why no turbos? It's for enthusiasts says design boss
Why no turbos? It's for enthusiasts says design boss
The powertrain is not alone in its weird and wonderful flaws. The interior ranges from the sublime to the stupid. The seats? Wonderfully comfortable and totally supportive in corners without the need for those hateful 'active bolsters' that we see in M5s and AMGs. The high-resolution, multi-mode dashboard? It's a TFT screen stolen from the LFA, and it's a thing of beauty. But the heater controls are some sort of conductive strip that's impossible to set accurately at first touch. And the indicators? The soft-touch, three-flash lane-change is a hit-and-miss affair.

With an EU kerb weight of 1,840kg (that includes a 75kg driver), you could be forgiven for thinking that the porky RC F might not handle so well. But here lies the biggest surprise of the day. Despite cruising at Grandma pace in absolute comfort, the RC likes the corners. No, actually, it loves them. Despite the passive Sachs dampers being the only thing on the car without a mode button, they handle everything except for the smallest and sharpest of bumps with aplomb.

Frustrations and delights in here
Frustrations and delights in here
Differential of opinion
And the balance that was lacking in the IS F is finally here. Slight understeer will transform to fantastically proportional oversteer, purely with driver input. On road and on Ascari (see below), it's clear that Yaguchi and his team of motorsports-enthused followers have had free rein to create a car to please themselves, and not some focus group of middle-aged company car pilots. It's so nimble and so poised that it takes multiple laps of Ascari for the huge six-pot Brembos to finally wilt and remind you how much mass they're having to contain.

A special mention must be given to the optional active differential too, which is a first because it uses two actuators to route the power perfectly between the wheels operating at up to 1,000 times a second. Unlike rival systems, this enables full torque transfer as required in both acceleration and braking. Not only does it make the Lexus harder to unstick on the power, it also allows the car to dive into corners with an accuracy that will befuddle you. The sense of controlled rotation is downright spooky, the system dragging the rear axle towards the apex with amazing accuracy.

It's not like the Germans and the better for it
It's not like the Germans and the better for it
Three modes (Slalom, Normal and then Track) give decreasing levels of effect on the diff, and combine that with the four different driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport and Sport+) and four levels of electronic aids (Normal, Sport, Expert and Off) results in a total of 48 different possibilities. That sounds worse than it is in practice, but it's worth remembering.

No middle ground
The Lexus does a lot of things really well. But it does nothing effortlessly. Slow cruising in total comfort might be possible and even enjoyable, but it's hard to resist the baser instincts. And if you do want to go fast, then it's down five gears (wait five seconds) and total commitment until it's time to cruise again.

The effortless mid-range point and squirt you might enjoy in an M4 is absolutely not here. With the Lexus it's either one thing or the other. You can swim with the shoal, or murder them all in one V8-powered frenzy.

Respect is due for the Lexus RC F. It might suit the more hardcore enthusiast, including both Yaguchi-san and those of a PH mindset, but it's certainly not a match for the accessible, everyday devastation offered up by the rivals. But in this context we'll celebrate that.

Onboard in the RC F at Ascari

4,969cc V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 477@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391@4,800-5,600rpm
0-62mph: 4.5sec
Top speed: 168mph (limited)
Weight: 1,840kg (EU, including driver)
MPG: 26.2mpg (claimed)
CO2: 252g/km
Price: £59,800


P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (60) Join the discussion on the forum

  • hughcam 11 Dec 2014

    Seems like a modern day e46 M3 SMG. If I had £60,000 to spend on a coupe it would be on the list!

  • TobyLaRohne 11 Dec 2014

    I get my hands on one of these next week for a day at the race track, cant wait to see what is is all about biggrin

  • MonkeyMatt 11 Dec 2014

    I think if you where in the market for a M4 or RS5 type car you would be mad to not at least have a go in one of these

  • idibbers 11 Dec 2014

    I love the look of the new Lexus' and this is no different, what a gorgeous looking car!

  • MyCC 11 Dec 2014

    Great write up and video Dale, keep it up as we would all like to see more of this!

    Credit due to Lexus here.



View all comments in the forums Make a comment