There’s little more compelling than bang-for-your-buck when it comes to performance vehicles, and when the equation slants to providing more car than what you paid for, you’re onto a winner.
With the 351kW Lexus RC F costing almost $30,000 less than the price of others in its class, the on-paper equation checks out… but we wanted to know if the Japanese performance machine is capable of taking on the Germans in terms of overall performance.
On price, competition such as the BMW M4 ($166,040) and Audi RS5 ($157,510), make the $133,110 excluding on-roads Lexus RC F look cheap, given its specification.
Before officially launching the Lexus RC F was pitched as a highly anticipated BMW M4 competitor, but we will dispel this thought right now: it isn’t. The M4 is Jean-Claude Van Damme compared to this heavy sumo wrestler. But more of that later.
The Lexus RC F is rear-wheel driven through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission that’s latched to the front-mounted, Yamaha developed 5.0-litre V8, which produces 351kW at 7100rpm and 530Nm from 4800-5600rpm. There is however one point of concern in the specs: its 1860kg kerb weight.
By way of comparison the BMW M4’s turbocharged six-cylinder will provide 317kW at 7300rpm and 550Nm at 1850-5500rpm in a 1537kg package. That’s some 323kg less than RC F.
There is a carbon edition available which shaves 83kg off the body courtesy of a carbon-fibre bonnet, roof panel, rear spoiler and interior trim facades, but a 280kg deficit remains.
Parked on the street, RC F’s large coupe body makes a presence with its pointed aggression and athleticism. The front styling isn’t for everyone, and I took a liking to the rear and side aesthetics more easily. It looks as though whoever sculptured the RC F held up the clay by both ends and simple pinched them in a little. Simple, but effective.
The cabin is plush and the leather-wrapped, heated seats are extremely comfortable. It’s refreshingly different to German interiors who all share an underlying methodology. There’s contrasting leather and suede colour configurations enveloping a sculptured dash with carbon inserts that add a touch of performance atmosphere. It’s luxurious and refined, and although Lexus may have been absent from the sports coupe market for over a decade, they have applied their knowledge about interior comfort.
A touch pad dictates the infotainment screen and combined with the digital instrument display and wizardry that’s on offer through the menu system it’s a sleek combination of new Japanese-tech and almost retro-technological styling.
The touch-pad in reality isn’t fluid to use, yet, but it’s nonetheless effective. Moving through the driving modes (all four of them) the dash brings up a graphic of the car’s chassis in its current configuration along with some unneeded graphical bling. Perhaps over-the-top for some, it’s par for the course and creates an appreciation for the technology Lexus has crammed into the RC F.
Driving out to the hills the RC F feels well suited to Aussie roads, comfortably dealing with the poorly lain black stuff we have down under. Giving some stick into the first few corners the RC F rides relatively flat, feeling comfortable when poking the throttle further as the corners tighten. Turn-in is responsive and although the heavy body weight is felt as the body roll gets a little unsettled, it’s a manageable affair and a mix of light understeer and oversteer is intertwined with dabbles of V8 grumble.
However the chassis tech doesn’t translate as well as hoped on the road when pushing things hard, and the battle between the computers handling dynamics algorithms and the sheer weight of the beast begin to meet at odds. It’s quite unfortunate because the Yamaha-derived atmo V8 creates a deep bellowing roar that requests you feed it wide open throttle at all times.
Acceleration from a standstill in a straight line is quick, reaching 100km/h in 4.5sec; 0.4sec behind the M4. However it’s another demonstration of the specs not living up to expectations, as it’s hard to get full whack of that acceleration when exiting a corner due the electronics truncating the power. Add to that the simple fact there’s not enough torque down low when compared to its turbo-doused competition and the result is quite unfortunate, especially considering the engine never feels as though it’s working that hard. More points to the BMW, then.
Steering is electronically assisted and for most driving conditions the weighting and ratio feel as normal as expected. Pointing the nose into a corner with more pace however exposes a weakness in the system; the response from the front end becomes a little detached while the wheel starts to dither as the limit is explored.
Unlike some cars which enjoy a fight with the driver and reward them with what seems like infinite adjustability when treated harshly, the RC F simply ploughs across the corner until almost two tonnes of inertia returns to the vehicle’s natural balance point. It’s a pity it’s just so heavy, and we’d argue the carbon option will not relieve this on its own.
The engine however is simply sublime, and the eight-speed automatic keeps up with the action very well. The shifts are rapid and complaint, without feeling harsh. Sport modes alter the transmission so that it plays nicer with spirited driving, and unlike some which fail at this attempt, the RC F rarely misses a beat (or gear).
Coping the brunt of all this heaving and hoeing are 255/35 front and 275/35 rear Michelin Pilot Sport tyres on 19-inch alloys. They do a commendable job, however it’s the brakes that are a victim after descending a long piece of twisting tarmac. While the 380mm front and 345mm rear disc brakes are responsive with good progressive brake feel, they do get a little hot and soft when pushed hard in extended spurts.
City traffic and country road cruising is much calmer. The interior features fantastic ergonomics and very fine exterior sound exclusion, not to mention some of the best in-car audio reproductions of my favourite music via the 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson sound system. The extra weight disappears when the car’s not being asked to fight against itself, and it’s an excellent cruiser. Poking the engine will excite a throaty thunder from the quad exhaust pipes, but beware the engine is a little thirsty at 10.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
It’s a shame that there’s just too much weight in the RC F as it feels like it could be so much more. The engine sounds terrific and there’s obviously more power in there to be brought out. There’s a fair bit of electronic assistance happening, perhaps mostly to control some of the heavy weight dynamic issues, but it would be great to have a little less of it interfering with throttle response and steering.
While the RC F provides one of the more comfortable drives with a very well-appointed cabin space, Lexus has missed the mark in competing with some of the big names that, although more expensive, will provide a better experience for driving enthusiasts.
|Specs||2015 Lexus RC F|
|Price||$133,110 (plus on-road costs)|
|Power||351kW at 7100rpm|
|Torque||530Nm at 4800-5600rpm|
|Power to weight||5.30kg/kW|
|Tyres||255/35/19 front, 271/35/19 rear|
- Comfy interior
- Powerful, throaty V8
- Styling is different, and works well
- Steering isn't pure enough
- Electornic aids can hamper throttle too much
- Too heavy to be an agile performer