Recently, Lexus has been saturating their lineup with the addition of F-Sport variants of existing models. While I love the GS350 F-Sport and IS350 F-Sport dearly, they’re not exactly an accurate representation of what Lexus has been known to do with “F” cars. The current IS sedan range tops out at the IS350, with no inclusion of a V8-powered IS-F that the previous-generation IS had. The RC350 F-Sport I drove a few weeks ago was simply marvelous, but it still lacked two cylinders. No need to worry though, because the 2015 Lexus RC-F checks off all of the right boxes for performance enthusiasts longing for the return of the real “F”.
Despite all information pointing to the contrary, I went into my weeklong test of the RC-F expecting something with gobs of power, but far too tame in the driving department. After all, Lexus is known for refinement, comfort, and reliability, right? I could not have been more surprised at what I actually found – this isn’t a car; it’s some sort Satanic creature. The RC-F shares most of its design with the RC350, which in itself is derivative of everything else currently available for sale on the market. It looks like so much more than just a two-door IS sedan; the lines are bold and muscular.
The RC-F implements Lexus’ corporate spindle grille in the most unconventional way yet, and the entire nose of the car is unique. This is easily my favourite new production design this year, and this is a year that has seen the debuts of the new Audi R8, the Lamborghini Huracan, and the Porsche Cayman GT4. The roof is carbon fiber, the deployable rear spoiler is carbon fiber, and the chassis is a mix of three different Lexus models. Starting from the front, everything up to the A-pillar is borrowed from the GS sedan, the structure beneath the cabin area is borrowed from the IS-C hardtop convertible, and the rear is shared with the IS sedan. The RC-F also gets unique fenders, front bumper, and aluminum hood to differentiate it from the RC350.
Using the same 5.0L V8 as the outgoing IS-F, Lexus has tuned it for 51 more horsepower, totaling 467, available at 7100rpm. Torque is up to 389 lb-ft at 4800rpm, up 18 lb-ft at 5200rpm. This hasn’t been done through a simple tune – Lexus has used titanium valves (four per cylinder), as well as weight reduction in the crankshaft and connecting rods. The RC-F’s redline for the magnificent 8-speed automatic transmission is 7300rpm. Engaging “Sport+”, setting the torque-vectoring differential (TVD) to “Track”, and pressing the stability control button once enables “Expert” mode. This is the mode that awakens the animal that lives under the hood of Lexus’ new baby, and creates a sound almost reminiscent of the LF-A. Yes, this is a very good car.
Okay, the RC-F isn’t a lightweight at 4048 lbs, 200 more than the old IS-F sedan. That doesn’t mean it can’t dance; steering response is simply excellent and the car goes exactly where you point it. A slight throttle blip in the right spot will cause the rear end to dart out a little bit, if that’s what you desire. Its ‘lesser’ sibling, the RC350 does offer all-wheel-drive, but the RC-F is an extremely focused, performance oriented car and is rear-drive only. The aforementioned torque-vectoring differential is capable of sending all available torque to either rear wheel and adds 66 pounds to the overall weight of the car. What it does do very well is balance out front-end understeer perfectly. The three differential settings available are “Normal”, “Slalom”, and “Track”.
Thanks to a sound enhancer that “points” more noise towards the cabin in “Sport” and “Sport+” settings, the RC-F sounds exorbitant when you punch the throttle, and it’s a sound that I will not soon forget. However, it can’t all be the sound enhancer, because the car sounds like the devil it is from the outside too. Simply starting the engine when the car is cold produces a positively evil roar from the exhaust. The sound is unmistakably V8, and not overly artificial like the motor in the new BMW M4, which is one of the RC-F’s main competitors.
If you’re still reading, you have now learned (if you didn’t before) that the RC-F is the most driver-focused coupe ever to be graced with the Lexus badge. This is a car that makes it very easy to drive very quickly, but what if you decide that stopping is an equally important priority? Fear not, Lexus has you covered in this department – the RC-F has monstrous 15” rotors in front, 13.6” in the rear, and the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires equipped on my tester are capable of bringing the big coupe to a halt in what feels like no time at all. One thing Lexus (and parent company Toyota) do need to work on is enhancing pedal feel in the brakes; they work well enough but the pedal doesn’t exactly reflect this.
Seeing as this is both a proper sports coupe as well as a personal luxury car, the Lexus RC-F isn’t exactly cheap. The starting price for the V8-powered monster is $81,650. My test car was equipped with a $7,400 Performance Package, which is an absolute requirement if buying. This package adds the torque-vectoring differential, 19” forged aluminum wheels, a carbon fibre roof, a deployable carbon fibre rear spoiler, and deletes the power moonroof for structural rigidity. The “Infrared” colour on my tester is also an additional $650, which brings the total sticker to $89,700 before freight, PDI, and taxes. This is right in line with the RC-F’s main competitors, the Audi RS5 and the BMW M4.
Pricing, equipment, and overall performance capabilities of these three great coupes, and between the three, there’s no poor decision. Where the cars differ heavily is in driving behaviour, transmission, and ultimate feel. The Audi and BMW both offer dual-clutch transmissions, and the BMW also offers a 6-speed manual. Though the Lexus has a traditional 8-speed automatic, it’s easily the best 8-speed automatic on the market and is very dual-clutch like in its mannerisms. It shifts flawlessly and quickly, and there’s no noticeable lag time in between gears when driving spiritedly. I love the M4, but I wouldn’t be able to buy one because of the noise the twin-turbo 6-cylinder makes. The RS5 is a wonderful car but the basic body style has been around for almost 7 years now, and it has started to look dated.
When shopping for a performance luxury sports coupe just under the $100,000 mark, fuel economy typically isn’t a huge concern. After all, it’s not like any of these cars are particularly frugal. Upon picking up the RC-F, I observed that the previous driver had managed 15.9L/100km, so I wasn’t expecting much better. Surprisingly enough, at the end of my week with it, which included our annual season opener drive with our friends and readers, I averaged 12L/100km on premium-grade fuel. This particular test week was approximately 70% highway driving. Getting around the city in the RC-F is particularly amusing, because it almost develops a bubble around it where other drivers avoid getting too close to it, and some even offer the thumbs-up as respect for its beauty.
The numbers the RC-F delivers are undisputed, but what’s a Lexus without attention to detail? The interior provides an unmatched driving position with memory linked to the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel position. The seats (heated as well as ventilated) themselves are unique to the RC-F and provide excellent bolstering as well as striking design. The “F” badge embroidered into the fixed headrests is also a great touch. Every single surface within the RC-F’s interior feels nice to the touch and it’s quite evident that Lexus invested millions of dollars into the development of the interior. Carbon fiber pieces accent the interior as well, adding that sporty charm to the otherwise luscious cabin. The LED map and dome lighting along the soft black headliner is turned on/off via touch sensitivity, and is very responsive.
I’ve gone on and on a thousand times after road testing Audis and BMWs about how great the Bang & Olufsen and Harman/Kardon audio setups are. During these ramblings, I often forget the underdog – the Mark Levinson 17-speaker system in recent Lexus applications is blissful. The sheer level of clarity and precision with which you hear every single note, vocal, or bass drop is unmatched by all but the best from Burmester. The rest of the infotainment is provided by Lexus’ new touchpad-based system, which is quick and easy to master. The fantastic instrument cluster smells strongly of the LF-A supercar and changes colour and style according to drive mode. Customization, trip computers, and track settings such as lap timers are all in play here.
The breathtaking sound of the RC-F’s V8, its outstanding transmission and unequivocal good looks mean it would be my clear choice over its competition. Winning any sort of rivalry in a class as fundamentally good as this one is no easy feat, so I have to hand it to the good folks at Lexus. Other than the LF-A, the 2015 Lexus RC-F is probably the only recent Japanese car that’s most likely to become a classic decades down the road. I wouldn’t want to wait to find out what happens down the road though; I want an RC-F right now, and as I write this, I need to hold back every single bone in my body to keep from going to the local Lexus dealer to buy one in Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0.