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Lexus RC F

Click to view picture gallery“Best known for its hybrids, luxury
  saloons and SUVs, Lexus has again
  ventured into the high-performance
  V8 petrol-engined, rear-wheel drive,
  2+2 coupe market with their race-
  bred, road-and-trackday RC F...”

THE RC F COMBINES EVERYDAY USE with considerable trackday capabilities and it also provides the basis of the 533bhp RC F GT3 race car available world-wide for GT3 series racing. The 'F' designation stands for Fuji Speedway, the international race circuit where Lexus carries out much of its high-speed development work. Understandably, Lexus sees its F models as the sporting pinnacles of the brand.

As standard it has an eight-speed Sports Direct Shift automatic transmission with five selectable modes, a limited-slip rear differential plus its chassis also has additional states of performance adjustment with Sport and Expert modes. A Torque-Vectoring Differential is a 3,500 option.

“The RC F might be race-
bred but it is designed
to meet the skill levels of
road-going motoring
enthusiasts —
the sophisticated on-
board electronics can
be adjusted by the driver
to provide the performance and
handling characteristics
within his or her own
comfort zones...
Lexus are also planning to extend the range early next year with the RC 300h priced from 34,995 and powered by a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with hybrid function and the RC 200t, which comes with a 241bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet. Prices for these other RC models start at 36,495.

Given Lexus' current use of hybrid technology it was logical that sooner or later this element would be used within the powertrain hence the soon-to-arrive RC 300h.

Lexus' volume aspirations for RC F is around 200 units a year in the UK primarily because they want the 'F' cars to remain a distinctive and exclusive choice for customers.

The RC F might be race-bred but it is designed to meet the skill levels of road-going motoring enthusiasts: the sophisticated onboard electronics can be adjusted by the driver to provide the performance and handling characteristics within his or her own comfort zones.

Although enthusiastic drivers will be the principal end-users, as the RC F is a 2+2 coupe it also has the ability to meet family requirements in terms of seating.

It sits between a conventional two-door, four-seater coupe such as the Audi RS5 and a pure two-seater coupe such as the Jaguar F-Type. Perhaps its closest rival is the roomier BMW M4 Coupe; other coupes from Mercedes AMG and Porsche should also be considered.

With most major manufacturers opting for forced induction turbo petrol engines and mostly now with less than eight cylinders, the normally-aspirated V8 petrol engine used in the RC F bucks that trend. This configuration no doubt appeals to markets such as the USA and Arab States where there are no qualms about fuel economy and the 'bigger is better' way of life still reigns.

In the RC F the muscular 5.0-litre V8, with its DOHC configuration operating 32 valves and variable valve timing, supplies lots of power and torque and yet it is not prohibitively a gas-guzzler. A high-revving 471bhp is developed at 7,100rpm backed by 390lb ft from 4,800rpm good enough to push the coupe to an electronically-limited top speed of 168mph with zero to 62mph acceleration in 4.5 seconds.

“The muscular 5.0-litre
V8 serves up 471bhp at a
high-revving 7,100rpm —
enough to push the
coupe to an
168mph with
zero to 62mph in
4.5 seconds...
When it comes to fuel economy, officially in the Combined Cycle the figure is 26.2mpg. CO2 emissions are 252g/km so road tax is 870 for the First Year but reduces to 490 for subsequent years. Business executives using one as a company car will pay out the highest rate of Benefit-in-Kind tax: 37%, which equates to 728 a month for a 40% tax payer.

In real-life driving on congested and speed-restricted UK roads where the opportunity for hard acceleration is very limited, the ECO setting can be used most of the time and in that mode my test driving with several motorway journeys returned 29.4mpg. Moving away from that setting the figure was 26.7mpg around town it got as low as 22mpg.

Even driving it in ECO mode there was enough pick-up response to overtake slower traffic very quickly, and whilst cruising on motorways at the legal maximum speed there was enough torque and flexibility from the engine to maintain that speed at low rpm so saving on fuel.

When called up, the eight-speed autobox provides smooth and seamless changes both up and down the ratios, although it wasn't the fastest to change to a lower gear when instant power was asked for.

The RC F has numerous modes that can be selected using a rotary controller. These range from ECO to Sport S/S+ and there's also a Snow mode (operated by a separate button). Drive is to the rear wheels with a Torsion limited-slip differential as standard. Lexus also offers a 3,500 optional Torque Vectoring Differential which is capable of sending up to 100% of available torque to either of the rear wheels a must-have for trackday enthusiasts but for road use only, save your money.

There are even more modes to choose from with the VDIM function short for Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management via which the driver can adjust the stability control systems to suit his or her individual skills. These modes are: Normal (where the car does the thinking); Sport (gives the driver priority); Off, where there is no handling support it's all down to you!; and Expert which is similar to Off but with an extra layer of support if you get too enthusiastic.

“The RC F’s adjustability
delivers a combination
of settings to suit most
driving styles and
occasions. However,
while well weighted, the
steering lacks ‘feel’;
and the suspension is
always on the firm side
although given the
s high
performance that was
to be expected...
In terms of handling, with all the adjustments available to the driver there is a combination of settings to suit most driving styles and occasions. The steering is well weighted but lacks 'feel' and the suspension was always on the firm side although given its high performance that was to be expected. Overall the RC F didn't feel agile enough: fast, Yes; nimble, No.

All the RC F's power and technology is wrapped up in a boldly-designed, two-door coupe body.

At the front is a huge, aggressively-styled grille leading down to the front 'splitter'; this is flanked by sleek adaptive LED headlights which are cooled by independent fans. Below them are huge cooling ducts for the engine bay and brakes.

Behind the front and rear wheelarches are distinctive and functional vertical air vents to speed up airflow and to aid stability. At either side of the tail are diagonally stacked twin tailpipes plus there is a pop-up bootlid-mounted spoiler. This rises at 50mph and lowers again when the speed drops to 25mph. In ECO mode it remains in the 'down' position until 81mph is reached.

Inside it is good and not so good. Two wide-opening doors give reasonable access for front occupants, albeit with limited headroom through the door frames. Access to the rear seats is a bit more difficult but fortunately the powered front seats slide forward automatically to speed up the rear seat loading process.

The door trims and seats are really nicely shaped and beautifully finished; as too is the centre console and the instrument binnacle. That said, the fascia panel is a bit of a disjointed design with no flow or styling lines apart from the top edge.

The seven-inch multimedia-cum-SatNav screen is mounted too far away from the driver, and this is operated by a touchpad positioned in the centre console between the seats. Operation of the overly touch-sensitive pad is tricky and not easy to use if you are right-handed.

There's definitely no 'ugly' but there is both 'good' and 'bad' First, the 'bad': the RC F lacks agility and handling finesse, the fascia and switchgear has a haphazard design, and the operation of the multimedia system's touchpad is fiddly.

The 'good' points include its big sporting coupe image with plenty of kerb appeal, high specification in terms of variable driving modes for fast road or track use, a decent kit tally, reasonable cruising speed fuel economy, effortless high-speed cruising, and a V8 soundtrack.
David Miles

Lexus RC F | 59,995
Maximum Speed: 168mph | 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds | Test Average: 26.7mpg
Power: 471bhp | Torque: 390lb ft | CO2 252g/km