I had no idea how I was going to review this car. Much like the RC 350 AWD F Sport Miranda reviewed and I also drove, I was in awe of Lexus’ design efforts. The RC is traffic-stopping-gorgeous: Low, wide, long, with a gaping face that cannot be ignored and a body that screams power, performance and prestige.
But then, the Lexus engineers had their way with her and spoiled her ─ or at least diluted what should have been exceptional. The car’s multiple personalities are at constant odds with each other and mar an otherwise good sports coupe. As I found myself stuck in traffic (not created by the RC F’s looks), a revelation struck me. Actually, it was the 65-year-old guy in his recently purchased five-year-old Volvo S80 that turned the lights on for me: His triple-take, enthusiastic dual thumbs-up made me realize who the RC F is for.
This high-performance luxury coupe is priced with and beyond the big boys, but a few days into my road test, I was unable to pinpoint the RC F’s reason for being, its target audience. That was until Volvo-dude showed me the way.
I’ve not had the privilege of driving the LFA supercar (nor will I ever), but I can’t believe that there’s much in common between the two. The LFA took a decade to create, while the RC F is an amalgam of already available parts attached to a sexy body. If former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson was enamoured with the LFA, I think he’d set the RC F on fire for daring to sport the same “F” logo on its side.
There’s little more I can say about this coupe’s styling. One evening, I pulled up to the vet to buy Ferry (my cat) some food and found myself parked and staring at the car’s reflection in the window for a few moments. The spindle grille still takes some getting used to but, unlike others, I like the Nike-swoosh headlight accents, and I love wide hips.
Having just stepped out of an Arancio Borealis (orange) Lamborghini, I was kind of oranged-out, but the Lexus’ Solar Flare paint did well for its bloated and muscular curves. The 19” wheels are nice, although a proper set of 20” HRE wheels would clear all doubts about the RC F’s place in car calendars.
If it’s what’s on the inside that counts…
The cabin design is fine, but it’s fallen out of grace with me. In the Lexus IS, I think it works wonders thanks to the dash’s multiple-tier stacks; however, the layout is not “sporty” or sensual enough for the RC. The seats look as good as they hold passengers in place, and the driving position is well sorted out.
I’ve said it before and I guess I’ll say it again: Lexus’ Remote Touch interface is rubbish. The previous “mouse controlled” unit was scarcely tolerable, but this new touchpad is horrendous. It requires far too much attention and controlled movements, making it more distracting than most other systems. A kind word goes to the Mark Levinson stereo for making pretty sounds ─ a nice way to fill the very quiet cabin when the RC F is not being driven. I must say that I like the dynamic gauge cluster that varies with the different drive modes.
So here we have the beginning of the RC F’s major crisis. As any luxury car should be, this Lexus is supremely insulated from the outside world. However, the posh interior is shaken up by a so-called sporty ride. The fully independent suspension is stiffly sprung for maximum cornering ability, while the dampers favour high-speed stability. Unfortunately, it’s borderline too much ─ or is that not enough? Ride quality depends heavily on how smooth the road surface is: The moment it’s anything less than baby-butt-like, the RC F gets uncomfortably out of sorts. True, the cabin remains extremely quiet and serene, but occupants get all shook up.
Another aspect of the RC F’s split personality is the engine noise. Below 4,000 rpm, you’d swear you were driving an LS, which is good. Above that engine speed, the 5.0L V8 comes to life with a lovely tune.
It delivers on fast
Said V8 produces 467 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 389 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. When it does come alive at the 4k mark, it begins to pull, and hard, snapping the 100 km/h barrier in 4.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 269 km/h. The all-important sprint to 100 km/h is covered in 4.1 seconds by the BMW M4 with the M DCT transmission. The difference lays in the low-end turbocharged torque.
Left in “D”, the 8-speed autobox disposes of its gears swiftly and without issues no matter which transmission mode you select. Personally, when I get the opportunity to review such a car, I automatically set it into manual mode and exploit the ‘box with the paddle shifters.
When in “M,” the RC F feels less comfortable where upshifts are slow to happen following a paddle prod, and the same goes when the left paddle is pulled. This is the case in Normal, Sport, and Sport+ modes. I will admit that the harder I pushed the car, the better the transmission reacted. Sadly, I missed out on an opportunity to track the Lexus coupe where I’m sure I could have learned more.
What about the Torsen torque-vectoring, limited-slip rear differential? On- and off-ramps did little to convince me that the TVD was working. What I can say is that steering is far too assisted, with little or no feedback from the front wheels. Steering wheel response is quick and precise, however. The large Brembo brakes all around are powerful and offer great pedal feel.
The issues lie here
Despite being supremely gorgeous and very fast, there are a few problems with the Lexus RC F, as you can see. The most daunting to me is the price. At $81,650, the sticker shock is immense. Consider that the 2015 BMW M4 is $75,000 (425 hp), the Audi RS 5, $84,000 (450 hp), the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe, $76,600 (507 hp), and the Chevy Corvette, $63,395 (460 hp).
As tested, my 2015 Lexus RC F retailed for $89,050. It included the nearly-worth-the-$7,400-asking-price Performance package (torque-vectoring differential, carbon fibre roof, carbon fibre rear active spoiler, and 19” forged wheels). That’s a lot of coin for a Lexus that’s up against the aforementioned cars ─ and for an unknown product.
I’m 39 years young. I know and love cars, and I care little about lifestyle. I want a car I’ll enjoy driving and owning. Most of you want a car that’ll make others jealous. A Lexus sports car (with the exception of the LFA) will not do the job. An M4 or an RS 5 always will.
The RC F must figure out where it wants to be. Marketing slogans like “Please fasten your eyeballs” and “It doesn’t just hit the road. It annihilates it” don’t make the car; that’s the car’s job. It needs to find its reason for being.