new Lexus RC F, Steve Sutcliffe was wrestling with his overnight bag on his lap as Jethro Bovingdon and myself seemed to be unable to focus on the ten-foot Plasma screens - and I couldn't be sure Chris Chilton had actually found the meeting room. But that's not unusual. We were shagged, and accordingly had the attention spans of horny goldfish.
To the point
Mercifully, the presentation was short - Japanese tech briefings can last days, which is fine if you're in the mood but brutal if you've been awake for 23 hours.
a BMW M4.
That's it. All that passion, all that engineering - titanium intake and exhaust valves, the ability to switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles, and so much besides distilled down into one simple barometer of success. Is it as good as a certain BMW?
A sad situation, when you think about it. But, in the modern consumer age, an unavoidable one and one peddled by people like me. I mean, does it really matter if the RC F is better or worse than an M4? So long as it's a great car that people want to own, should the comparison matter?
No doubt my pangs of sympathy were brought about by a quick peek at the spec sheet as we'd walked in to the room. Here's Lexus attempting to elbow its way into the M4's marketplace with a coupe that will not seat four adults in any comfort and that weighs 1,840kg but offers 392lb ft of torque at a high 4,800rpm. Forget peak power outputs and claimed performance times, we all know that if you want to know how punchy something will be on your everyday grind, run some arithmetic on the torque-to-weight ratio, then see where the peak torque arrives. I'll do it for you this time. M4: 405lb ft, 1,850rpm, 1,537kg. RC F: 392lb ft, 4,800rpm, 1,840kg
No matter that for those of you - make that us - who appreciate the styling. Who see the strands of LFA DNA and a shape which is more complicated than anything European in the class. Yes, Lexus appears intent on delivering a vehicle whose entire frontal area is an intake grille, but the rear haunches are spectacular, as is the way a few steps either side of a the square-on rear reveal different shapes and protrusions. The stacked exhausts? Not for me, ta.
The specification is a mixture of the sublime and the baffling - actually, it's almost all appealing but spoiled by the spectre of that kerb weight figure. The powertrain is IS F, plus quite a bit more. Capacity is now 5.0 litres, power is 478hp at 7,100rpm and you already know the torque figure. It runs the same eight-speed automatic gearbox as the old saloon. It's two-wheel drive only with a Torsen diff as standard with the option of a torque vectoring differential.
I hate judging ride comfort and chassis subtleties in the US for a European audience because the conditions are so different - in the States, you tend to either drive on perfectly smooth surfaces, or completely broken ones. And over the latter it won't come as a surprise to learn that the RC F crashes about.
On the smooth stuff it's firm, but controlled. I'd say it was more supple than an RS4, but less so than an M4 in its Comfort damper setting. But I'd want to drive them all in the UK to be certain. The transmission is easy in traffic and slushes neatly between eight ratios. Seven of those are performance related, the eighth is a true overdrive. The steering is notable for its clever weighting and I think if I back-to-backed it with a new M4 on the same road, I might prefer this aspect of the RC F to the BMW. But I haven't, so I can't make that call yet.
But why go to all this effort, then design some special front seats and not allow them to drop low enough? Yep, you sit too high in this car, and that's a big minus-point for me.
Track and field
After a two hours trundling through New York state we arrived at the quite excellent Monticello circuit. This is a private member's track, run just like a golf course and the full lap is so good you just know Herr Tilke had nothing to do with its design.
The engine is, in isolation, quite joyous - screaming to 7,300rpm with a more sophisticated howl than an AMG. But if ever you wanted proof that the new bi-turbo generation of Germans have moved the game on, try the RC F on a track. Even with a claimed 392lb ft, it seems strangely flat exiting second gear corners, and at no point does the car feel anything like as quick as the BMW. The outgoing C63 507 would disappear in a straight line too. Lexus claims 4.4 to 60mph and a little shy of 170mph, which should be more than enough, but you really have to work to make it feel that quick.
a £60,000 hot coupe which could easily be handed some manners by an M235i. And I'm not sure that's the way things should be.
The RC F doesn't leave the game at that though. Yes, it felt too big and heavy on a very challenging track, even with the clever, optional torque vectoring differential working hard, and running sticky Michelin Super Sports, but then it's a street car, so does that really matter?
On the road you have to rev it to make it move, but the reward is sublime noise, a crisp gearshift from the steering wheel paddles (which felt a little cheap to me) and what an Autocar road test in 1977 would have called 'good road manners'. I left it in comfort mode, and found that the best balance of response and, er, comfort.
BMW can rest easy, and Lexus has probably arrived at a 2014 party in 2008 clothes, but the RC F still has something about it. And it's not German, which for some people will be enough on its own.
LEXUS RC F
Engine: 4,969cc V8
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 477hp@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391lb ft@4,800-5,600rpm
Top speed: 168mph
MPG: 26.2mpg (claimed)
Price: £59,995 (before options)