Lexus RC F Puts Germany on Notice: First Drive
It’s sort of an intimidating feeling when you turn the corner and Monticello Motor Club is staring you in the face. Especially for a young journalist that has never driven on a track in his entire freakin' life (i.e. me).
But with those butterflies there was an excitement factor that sort of diminished my initial concerns of tossing the car into some tires and looking like an ass. That excitement factor was the Lexus RC F — a V8-powered, 467-horsepower performance coupe that looks like it wants to eat everyone. Where BMW has the M4 and Audi has the RS5, this is Lexus’ answer to the German performance coupes of the world. Weirdly enough, the suspension is a mixture of the GS (front), current-gen IS (back), and, for some undisclosed reason, the previous-gen IS convertible (middle). It’s a wonderful mishmash of Lexus parts given a powerful engine, an aggressive look and thrown out into the world.
The engine isn’t anything new either. It’s pretty much the same 5.0-liter V8 from the previous IS F, but it’s completely revamped putting out more power and proving to be much more efficient. Though, we suspect RC F buyers aren’t necessarily going for efficiency. So the real question here is how does it perform?
On The Road
Driving the RC F on the road isn’t much different then, say, driving a standard RC 350 Coupe. In normal mode the engine isn’t obnoxious, nor is the steering too tight. There’s an eco mode, which, why the hell would you put it in eco mode? And if you like being arrested there’s a Sport+ mode that stiffens the whole car up, including the steering, and makes the engine wonderfully obnoxious. Truthfully, it’s more livable and more comfortable than the outgoing IS F.
On the Track
And now back to Monticello. Where the RC F’s performance cues limit you on normal roads, they definitely make up for it on the track. You’ve got 467 horsepower to work with, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and some really chunky tires. There’s also a massive amount of electronics on the speedo, from lap timers to a g-force meter and everything in between, which makes the car very LFA-esque. Here's a quick hyperlapse video I took on the track (can't see the video? Click here):
From what you can see, hitting the corners in the RC F feels precise. It's not laser sharp, but it's enough to let you get out quickly so you can really push that V8 down the straights. That speedy cornering was mostly thanks to the Torsen limited-slip dif, though, there was a new Torque Vectoring Dif (TVD) option that I didn’t get to drive. What that does, essentially, is send more power to the outer wheel getting you around the corner ASAP. You can also credit the Brembo brakes, which were massive, and got some amateur drivers (i.e.: me) out of a few hairy situations.
So what can I say about the RC F? It looks stunning, though many of you probably won’t agree with me. The V8 is a refined, beautiful thing that a lot of companies aren't willing to do anymore. And the 8-speed autobox is OK, but feels outdated. Me thinks it’s time for a dual clutch. Naturally, the next question would be — is it as good as the competition? You know, the Audi RS 5, the Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe and the BMW M4. I would say the RC F could totally take the Mercedes C63, put it in an armbar and have it beg for mercy. As for the other two (Audi RS 5 and BMW M4), though, you're talking about two cars that have been some of the best of all time. Arguably, both will probably be more precise than the newcomer, but the RC F proves composed enough to get German fanboys thinking. But there is good news. The RC F has more personality than both of those German stiffs combined. It just screams, "Look at me a-holes!" So yeah, you could buy an RS 5 or an M4 and shave a second off your lap time. Or, you could tell the German fanboys to shove it while you blast down in the road in your shouty orange paint job and obnoxiously beautiful V8. I'd choose the latter.
Specs: Engine: 5.0L V8 Horsepower: 467 0-60: 4.4S Price: $62,400 Curb Weight: 4,040 lbs Positives: Eye-catching design Refined V8 Quality interior Negatives: Aged 8-speed gearbox Heavy