How exactly is one to compete with giants? Consider the challenge of going toe-to-toe with legends of the automotive world that have grown over decades. This is the task Lexus has set itself with the RC F performance coupe.
Doing battle in this segment requires brilliance, anything less is only making up the numbers and adding novelty value. When analysing sports cars costing over 150k, to say the competition is fierce is an understatement.
In this colosseum, the Lexus RC F is best described as an automotive incarnation of David. Only here, there’s more than one Goliath to contend with. German muscle is everywhere. Mercedes has the C 63 AMG and BMW has a fleet of cars carrying the letter ‘M’. The Bavarian brand’s M4, M4 Competition and M4 Pure are a hard acts to follow when it comes to performance and value.
The 2017 Lexus RC F is an underdog, but history shows underdogs do get up from time to time and generally win plenty of fans in the process.
What we find instantly appealing about the RC F against its German rivals is the car is packed with standard features. It doesn’t require buyers to study half a dozen pages of options. The only extra to consider is the carbon pack. Our tester did come with this box ticked.
The carbon pack saves some weight by adding a carbon fibre bonnet, rear wing and roof. The carbon fibre roof comes at the expense of the tilt and slide moonroof. There’s also 19-inch forged polished alloys and carbon fibre ornamentation throughout the interior. It doesn’t sound like anything major, but this option dramatically changes the look of the car. We will leave it to you to make the call on whether or not this change is positive or negative.
With the carbon pack costing a wallet-busting $21,668, the total price of our RC F tester comes in at $158,837 plus on-road costs.
There’s a subtle elegance to the RC F’s exterior styling. It’s not as aggressive as the Merc and not as fussy as the BMW, the Lexus lands firmly in 'just right' territory. Every time you glance at the car, the eye can’t help but follow the simple lines that open up intricate details which serve a functional purpose.
Moving to the interior, simply put, it’s lovely. Lexus sets a consistently high standard for material choice. Beautiful matte surfaces decorate the console and centre stack. There is also a splash of Alcantara. The leather work is gorgeous with the red colouring bringing some personality into the cabin.
The front seats are comfortable to the point La-Z-Boy recliners would struggle to compete.
It’s a premium cabin that could easily keep company with cars twice the price, however, it’s not perfect. The infotainment screen is on the small side and the system itself is not intuitive enough for a car from Japan, it’s far too fiddly.
The rear seats are nothing more than a well-trimmed parcel shelf, it looks great but claustrophobia will quickly set in, there just isn’t enough space for anyone to sit comfortably making the car strictly a two-seater.
The most annoying aspect of the interior is the foot-operated park brake, what possible reasoning could justify the absence of an electronic option?
Cutting to the chase, the RC F’s headline act is the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 that resides under the hood. It can produce 351kW of power and 530Nm of torque. Naturally aspirated V8s are on the endangered species list and are unlikely to be with us for much longer. Smaller turbo units are the way forward, a change driven by European emissions legislation.
Pressing the start button sees the RC F come to life with a distinctive roar, it’s a great sound. Unfortunately, this is the high point of the car’s soundtrack. The V8 burble is present at low speeds, but when cruising on the highway the tyre noise drowns out the engine and exhaust note. This might be a dealbreaker for those wanting some grand touring ability. There is a bit of electronic wizardry deployed to improve the sound, but the result is underwhelming.
Power is abundant, the big V8 never feels under the pump even with the foot to the floor. Taking the power to the rear wheels is a decisive shifting eight-speed automatic. With the shifts being so quick, the paddles mounted to the steering wheel are redundant in most circumstances.
The RC F has the pace to satisfy those with the need for speed. Lexus claims a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.5 seconds and a 270km/h top speed.
Cars like the RC F tend to have a firm suspension set up and that is the case here. It can be uncomfortable on uneven roads. The RC F now boasts an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system, its purpose is to deliver improved ride comfort and stability in the bends. It nails the latter, but the former requires more work for Australian roads.
When things get a bit twisty there is a tendency for the RC F to feel a bit weighty at the front end. It’s not a big issue by any means but some of the RC F’s rivals offer greater feelings of balance.
Lexus claims the RC F has the world's first torque-transfer type torque-vectoring system for a front-engine/rear-drive vehicle. The torque vectoring differential (TVD) is designed to optimally distribute torque to each of the rear wheels.
The TVD system has three modes – Standard, Slalom and Track. Select the Slalom setting for the best steering response, it’s crisp and very entertaining in tighter turns.
Even in dreadfully wet conditions, the grip provided by the Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber is outstanding.
Braking power comes from Brembo aluminium monoblock callipers all round. With 380mm rotors on the front and 345mm rotors on the rear, the braking package gets the job done but felt oversensitive, even a delicate touch would bring the RC F to a prompt halt.
The feel and operation of the indicator stalk aren't as crisp as it should be. We like to hear and feel a reassuring click.
To say the RC F could be used as a daily driver is only true to an extent. It’s a comfortable car to sit in, however, it is also incredibly frustrating to be confined in congested traffic, more so than in the usual SUV or sedan. The constant urge to hit the throttle does nothing to improve a dreary daily commute.
Being a law-abiding citizen on public roads can also lead to feelings of frustration and shame. When taking the car back to Lexus, we were overtaken by a P-plater willing to risk a fine in an ancient Holden Barina. Where is the respect?
A car like this requires room to move and no speed cameras, meaning the track is the only place to exploit the RC F’s potential.
Another factor that may influence the decision to use the RC F every day is consumption. It’s as thirsty as a sailor on shore leave. Driving in the nightmare that is Melbourne traffic, the RC F was sucking down 16.4-litres per 100km. The RC F likes the taste of premium fuel making the numbers hard to warm to. During a mixed run of city and highway driving with the car in eco mode, we were able to achieve 11.6L/100km, which is slightly above the claimed figure. It would make more sense to give the carbon pack a miss, buy a sensible daily driver and keep the RC F for weekends.
To date, Lexus is yet to offer capped price servicing. Maintenance intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km. A Lexus dealer will collect the car and return it providing you live or work close enough. Customers who visit the dealership are entitled to a Lexus loan vehicle while maintenance is undertaken.
The RC F is backed with a four year/100,000km warranty. This level of owner support is above average in the premium segment, however, Lexus could and should do better.
No one can accuse Lexus of lacking courage. Taking on the establishment and convincing buyers to think differently is a herculean endeavour. The RC F is a very commendable challenger to the offerings from Mercedes and BMW. It has the performance, styling and build quality to land a few blows. Slightly sharper pricing would give the RC F a bit more height and reach in the search for a knockout.
Then there’s the allure of owning what is perhaps one of the last naturally aspirated V8 engines before they all go the way of the dodo. This is an ace up the RC F’s sleeve.
Lastly, the RC F is unique. Buyers are unlikely to come across too many on the road. There are three-pointed stars and roundels everywhere these days. As the German marques continue to oversaturate the market their respective performance cars just blend in like white t-shirts. How boring can you get? Spending this sort of coin only to blend in somewhat defeats the purpose of a premium purchase.
The RC F isn’t a perfect car but it’s different and in this day and age, we are led to believe differences should be celebrated. Here is your chance, motoring enthusiasts.
2017 Lexus RC F Specifications
Price from $138,420 plus on-road costs Carbon from $158,837 plus on-road costs Engine 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol Power 351kW @ 7100rpm Torque 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Performance 0 to 100km/h 4.5 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 10.9L/100km Tank Capacity 66L Length 4705mm Width 1845mm Height 1390mm Wheelbase 2730mm Turning Circle 10.8m Kerb Weight 1860kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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