The RC F is the first performance car from Lexus since the incredible LFA supercar, and bucks the current turbo trend with a traditional naturally aspirated V8. But has it got the goods to outmuscle BMW’s M4?
Where did this Lexus RC F suddenly spring from?
It’s based on the RC coupe which US dealers get very soon, but which we won’t get in the UK until next year when a turbo four will replace the Yank-spec V6. But you might recognise the styling from a couple of previous Lexus concept cars, the LF-CC and LF-LC.
What’s under the skin?
The front end is from a GS, the back end from the old IS-F saloon, and the bit in between, is borrowed from the IS-C cabrio. Seventy percent of the suspension components are new, however, and Lexus says the structure is massively stiff, which it bloody well ought to be, given that it weighs 200kg more than a BMW M4 coupe.
To deal with that heft, it gets a reworked version of the IS-F’s 5.0 V8, which receives a 48bhp boost and now sends 465bhp to the rear-wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. At the back there’s a Torsen limited slip diff as standard, with the option of a torque-vectoring unit.
A smile when you see that the exhaust tailpipes are genuine this time, instead of the nasty fake plastic things stuck onto the bumper of the IS-F. And an even bigger smile when the V8 wakes up with a growl and serves a perfect reminder of what’s wrong with the M4’s new engine. Then you squeeze the right pedal and realise what BMW got right. The truth is the RC F never feels that quick, not quick enough for the company it keeps, anyway. Lexus quotes 4.5sec to 62mph, but that’s 0.3sec down on an M4, and you really have to work it hard to get your kicks. It simply doesn’t produce enough torque for a car that’s too heavy. It’s around 6mpg thirstier than the BMW, too.
There are good points. On track, it feels absolutely faithful, the steering has a reassuring linearity to it and the brakes are strong. But it never feels as nimble or controlled as the BMW, even with the smart diff working its magic, and lacks the wallop you get in the M4 when you plant the throttle on the exit of a corner.
On the road it fares much better. The ride is mostly good, and while the paucity of low and mid-range power is even more apparent, the engine is actually a bit of a charmer. The interior, lifted straight from the IS saloon, is a lovely thing too. You twist the audio volume dial and everything from the texture and shape of the knob to the precision and gearing of the gubbins behind it exemplifies Lexus’s attention to detail. Less happily, the LFA’s unloved computer mouse controller has been swapped for a rubbish laptop-style trackpad to operate the multimedia system. It needs binned for a rotary dial. And while there are four seats, the rear is more cramped than an M4’s.
Anything else I need to know?
Well, you’d be advised to steer clear of the hideous RC F Carbon, which adds a massive £8000 to the £59,995 base price in exchange for a Mark Levinson hi-fi, heated Alcantara seats, tastier same-sized alloys and that trick diff, but also a carbon roof and bonnet. The roof, we could live with, and the two are said to save 15kg, but the bonnet is seriously OTT. Fortunately you should be able to cherry pick some of those options for the base car, which is predictably loaded with goodies anyway.
We ran an IS-F, a car that never troubled the old M3 much in group tests, as a long termer, and really came to admire it. Lexus cars have that effect on you. They’re about more than what you’ll discover on a brief test drive. But if you asked us where to put your coupe money today, we’d have to go for the BMW, or hang on for the new twin-turbo AMG C63 that’s due to pop up any time soon. As it stands the Lexus is heavier, thirstier, pricier, and not as much fun as the competition. It’s a three and half star car, but we don’t do half stars. The ray of sunlight that might turn those three stars into four is that Lexus’s engineers say there’s much more to come from the RC F. We’re ready when you are, boys.