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Lexus RC F Review: A Track Day Beast Unleashed Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Feb, 16 2015 | 20 Comments

What's hot: Stonking quad-cam V8, brilliant chassis, simply beautiful premium interior.
What's not: Heavier than the M4 (but much cheaper), tightly controlled traction settings.
X-FACTOR: It's not one of ‘the' Germans, but, on track and on-road, the RC F can chest up to them for performance.

Vehicle style: High-performance premium coupe
Price: $133,500 - $147,500
Engine/trans: 351kW/530Nm 5.0 litre V8 | 8spd sports auto
Fuel consumption listed: 10.9 l/100km | tested: 18.2 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

How good is this? Bury the shoe from the apex at Forrest's Elbow, then full noise down Conrod Straight: 180, 220, 240… and still accelerating.

Full noise here, at Mt Panorama, this sacred ground of V8 racing, is “full noise". It's not a car we're driving, this new Lexus RC F, here, it's a V8 firestorm.

The howl that fills the cabin is glorious; it rises from a deep growl to a howling wail at the 7300rpm limiter. From 4000rpm and beyond, the 5.0 litre V8 simply pummels its 351kW and 530Nm to the tarmac.

Lexus has a very good one here with this car, the RC F, and is very proud of it.

We met it at it launch, and let it off the leash around the hallowed mount. The way the RC F goes, turns and stops is simply sensational. Awesome, in fact.

On the face of it, here is a car that is certainly capable of a head-to-head stoush with the Bavarian gruntmeister, the M4, and his twisted brethren (from Audi and Mercedes Benz).

Fast, it is certainly, sublimely balanced, no question, but also fastidiously luxurious. And something of a bargain (though I could never afford it).

At $133,500, the Lexus RC F holds a $33,000 price advantage over its most logical German opponent, that amazing M4 (at $166,900), and is nearly $40,000 cheaper than the RS 5 ($175,300).

That's not small change.

There are two models, the RC F GT and RC F Carbon edition, the latter at $147,500 with carbon fibre composite bonnet, roof and rear wing, and fibre-weave trims to the interior (among other up-spec features).

In the rarified air of prestige high-performance track-day weapons, the RC F surely buys itself.

Lexus plans to sell around ten a month. Ten? This car at that price, that's a shoo-in.

 

INTERIOR

  • Moon roof (not available Carbon model)
  • Smart key card entry, ambient lighting (touch sensitive switching)
  • Heated and ventilated electric front seats with leather accented trim
  • 7-inch electro-multivision screen
  • Sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB+ radio, audio streaming
  • 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio, iPod, USB connectivity
  • ‘Two layer' climate control system
  • Front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera
  • Blind spot monitor, cross traffic alert and lane change assist

Luxurious, sporting, the workbench for the RC F is beautifully and fastidiously crafted. Trim materials everywhere - dash, seats, doors and console - are of the finest Lexus quality and fit.

The sports seats too are superb: hip-hugging, trimmed in finely-grained leather and shaped right for the track, they are beautifully comfortable.

The leather trim on the seats and doors can be specified in choices of red, ‘Moonstone', white, or black (the RC F Carbon edition adds grey alcantara), and are highlighted with elaborate contrasting stitch patterns.

We can also find no fault with the purposeful, sports wheel. Electrically adjusted for reach and rake, its size and feel is just right, as is the weighting on road.

And, if you need some distraction from the intoxicating gruff rumble from the 5.0 litre straining at the leash under the bonnet, there's a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system that will fill the cabin with the thumping high-fidelity sounds of the DAB+ radio, streamed via Bluetooth or from your iPod or USB.

And, like all in the Lexus range, there is a (touchy) touch-pad for accessing its functions, complemented by button controls for manual operation.

There is also a simple rotary controller for accessing the performance settings for the transmission, engine management (Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+ and ‘Expert') and torque vectoring differential (Standard, Slalom or Track).

Extensively and intelligently equipped, and beautiful in its execution, it is very hard to fault this premium Lexus interior. Quite simply, compared to its German competitors, the RC F gives more for less.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 2UR-GSE quad-cam V8/8-spd direct shift sports transmission
  • 351kW @ 7100rpm/530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm
  • Torque vectoring differential with three operating modes: Standard, Slalom, Track
  • 19-inch alloys: Michelin SuperSport 255/35 front tyres, 275/35 rear
  • Double wishbone front suspension; multi-link rear (with suspension brace)
  • Monotube dampers with internal rebound spring and Teflon-coated piston band
  • On road, this car is a spear. If you overtake too enthusiastically, you will see 160km/h in a heartbeat.

Few cars will launch like the RC F out of an apex. Down below is a superb rigid chassis and rear-end balance, and it can, as its maker intended, simply “blast through a set of corners".

There is perhaps not quite the ‘thread the needle' accuracy of the M4 to the RC F's steering, but there are scant margins in it, and there is a settled feel to the RC F that may prove the better companion on the long highway run.

Down below are 19-inch alloys (or 20-inch on the Carbon edition).

Even over the rattier secondary back-roads around Bathurst - and we gave it a good run here - the double wishbone front end and multi-link rear is free of jarring while also isolating the premium cabin from road noise and coarse bitumen. (It also does this somewhat better than its German counterparts.)

And the pumped guards over the wide rear haunches not only look sensational, but the nailed-down rear-end and torque-vectoring differential that sits below them is unshakeable at speed.

Even on the ‘loosest' traction setting, the lateral grip at speed is incredible.

We gave it a bit of a thumping, as you would, and smashed the fuel economy.

While the V8 in the snout switches from Atkinson to Otto cycles depending upon the demands being put through the accelerator, the 10.9 l/100km listed consumption probably won't be achievable for anything but a feather touch on the pedal.

There is always a cost, and it's to do with simple physics, for performance like this.

 

Mt Panorama Track Test

It is 6.213 kilometres of funnelling corners, steep climbs, heart-stopping drops and blistering straights.

The real tussle here is of ‘mind' and ‘machine'. Even seasoned racers attest that few ever fully know this track; they can learn it, but the mountain, lying in wait for the briefest moment of inattention, will always surprise.

And it is, of course, quintessentially the home of V8 Supercar racing in this country.

This then is the place to put the premium track-day thoroughbred through its paces. It helps, of course, that Lexus is toying with an involvement in V8 Supercar racing, but here we let it off the leash.

And here, it is an absolute heart-stopping hoot of a drive.

With a sub-five-second 0-100km/h sprint, 4.5 seconds in fact, the RC F is far from a slouch when given the shoe. (We recorded an unscientific 4.8 seconds.)

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And that 5.0 litre quad-cam V8 under the bonnet will sit hard up against the redline without complaint in the track-focussed Sport+ setting.

In this setting, gear changes are ‘electric', it simply fires through changes in response to the paddles with DSG-like lightning shifts.

And it allows some movement down below; the RC F will ‘drift' on exit if you get the boot in early, but is incredibly well-stuck. Turn-in response is equally electric.

Here, though, its character is different to the M4. That car allows far greater lateral movement - it will really hang the tail - than the RC F.

For point-to-point track times, however, there can surely be little between them.

We had the RC F howling up the mountain, running tight through the cutting, drifting wide across Skyline, hard down through ‘the Esses', then flying down Conrod.

Watching the speedo is a mug's game on a track like this, but quick glances saw 245km/h and still accelerating down Conrod Straight.

(With ace steerer Neal Bates at the wheel - showing how to really drive this track - that speedo was nudging 263km/h before he lifted in Caltex Chase.)

So, yes, this car is fast. Incredibly fast in fact; and certainly fast enough and nailed down hard enough to dish out some serious pain as a track day weapon.

Lastly, but importantly, it has been engineered for track-day durability. The claim is there ‘in black and white' in Lexus marketing - surely signalling a clear intent to stand behind the claim.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

If there was one word for the RC F, it would be “consummate".

Individual, muscular, this is such a complete and wholly satisfying high-performance luxury coupe.

Its greatest failing, for some, will be that it isn't German (but that isn't the RC F's failing).

Look beyond the price advantage, the premium craftsmanship and fastidious attention to detail, and you'll find a raw-boned V8 heart that puts its 530Nm to the tarmac with an iron fist.

The RC F sounds great, it looks sensational, it sticks like glue and it is a missile on road or track.

I've driven it, and I'd have one in a heartbeat. (Ah… but for that collapsed wallet…)

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

  • RC F - 5.0 litre V8 - $133,500
  • RC F Carbon - 5.0 litre V8 - $147,500

MORE: RC F News & Reviews | Lexus RC | Performance Cars

 
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