Driven: 2015 Lexus RC F Track Review

Test Drives | October 23rd, 2014 by 29
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The outgoing Lexus IS F will be a future classic. I may sound silly in saying in light of the quirks I found in the …

The outgoing Lexus IS F will be a future classic. I may sound silly in saying in light of the quirks I found in the car but the wonderful 5.0L V8 shoe-horned into nose of the second generation IS sedan proved to be a highly rewarding idea. Going back to my review of the Lexus IS F earlier this year, my biggest takeaway was that, if Lexus can learn from what the IS F got wrong and push development of what did, they would have a winner on their hands.

Thankfully, the idea of what a performance Lexus can be has been redefined with the release of the 2015 Lexus RC F.

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The RC F, for Lexus, is their first foray back into sports coupes since the days of the Lexus SC. While Lexus has been out of this segment for over a decade now, the landscape has changed a little. The Germans still represent the strongest competition via the rear-wheel driven BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and the all-wheel-drive S5. Arguably the M4 is the de facto track weapon of this segment with the Mercedes being more of an insane tire-killer, and the S5 rounding out as more subdued Gran Tourer. This is where things get interesting for the Lexus as trying to conquer the current stalwarts – it must be a jack of all trades.

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In the mid-2000’s, the IS F was launched as Lexus’ first attempt to thwart the Germans via a hotted up IS sport sedan. However, the offers came with mixed reviews beyond the powertrain. Effectively, the IS F, as an overall package, didn’t lend to the credibility that Lexus is desired as a manufacturer of performance cars. The RC F is a full reset of the F line, Lexus’ equivalent to BMW M-built cars, as a mean to re-establishing itself as a performance car.

BMWBLOG was invited to the world class Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York to try out the all new Lexus 2015 RC F. Stepping from the glass lobby of the paddock into the morning sun, we were greeted by a flock of brightly colored Japanese coupes – all of which were quickly occupied by journalists thumping the start button igniting the thunderous V8 under the hood.

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Performance

After a quick introductory lap given by – of all things a Toyota 4Runner – we hit the circuit to wring out the sleek two door sports car. Romping on the throttle, I was rewarded with the throaty, deep pitch of the 467 hp V8. The revised V8 is a derivative of the outgoing IS F’s 5.0-liter V8 although with lighter valves,  revised crank and a resulting higher redline just a shade over 7,000 rpm. Lexus has managed to take a good thing and make it even better. When asked, exiting a corner the motor was more than capable to use all of its might to pull the coupe out of the corner and rocket it down the straight. Even more, as compared to the ISF’s rather dimwitted gearbox, left to its own devices the RC F’s new, smooth 8-speed automatic allowed me to hold gears up until the last rpm before kicking up to the next gear. A welcome addition and perfectly suited for dealing with the punchy  nature of the V8.

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While out-and-out power was a great means of allowing the Lexus to beat its chest, the party piece for the RC F is the optional torque-vectoring differential – a first for performance cars in terms of application on a rear-wheel drive car. The differential has two electronic locks to help regulate the application of power coming out of a turn. When set to Track mode, one of the TVD’s three different modes available at the push of a button to the driver, the differential allowed me to more quickly apply power exiting turn thereby making me a hair faster when pouring the big coupe onto the straight.

One thing must be said, I quite enjoyed the fact that the traction control and differential combination felt far less intrusive than the outgoing IS F and even that of the BMW M4. My experience with the M4 at Road America proved that the traction control was more than willing to intervene if I dared request power from the turbocharged S55 before the car was perfectly straightened out.

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Power, though, is nothing without control. To reign in the massive V8, Lexus equipped the RC F with pizza dish-sized Brembo 14.9 inch slotted rotor brakes with 13.5 inch rotors out back. The brake pedal feel is strong and the Brembos do an excellent job in scrubbing the speed as a flew past the pit lane and down into Turn 1. However, as strong as the brakes were, after a few hard laps the pedal feel would get a bit squishy – never failing but it was apparent that the RC F, as good as it is, cannot hide its girth. All told, the RCF is a shade above 4,000 lbs or about where the weight of the quattro-driven Audi RS5 clocks in. This heft certainly took its toll on the brakes, though, after a handful of hard charging laps.

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Despite the heft of the car, overall, the performance does not disappoint. Thanks to the frankenstein chassis, composed of a reinforced Lexus GS nose, stiff IS Convertible midsection and IS rear; the over chassis feels taught and predictable when pushed through the hairpin on the back half of Monticello. Steering feel, while no doubt eletronic, uses Lexus’ EPS system with surprisingly good results. Haptic feedback through the wheel made placing the nose easy with play in the wheel tightening up as speeds and suspension settings are dialed to 11. As compared to its V6 counterpart, the RC350 F Sport, the V8 was somewhat less willing to change direction though I never encountered difficulties in placing the F where I wanted it.

Styling

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A car with a 0-60 time of only 4.4 seconds, massive Brembos and cutting edge handling tech like TVD cannot be wrapped in a dull package and the RCF makes a point of standing out against its German counterparts. The overall design of the RC can be likened to a combination of the latest IS sedan and the V10-powered LFA supercar. At the front, the now trademark spindle grille along with a pair of “swoosh” LED headlamps to accentuate the headlamps. Pushing past the long, rakish and vented nose, and the front haunches are flanked by massive vents ala the IS F before pushing down the frame to the widebody rear of the coupe.

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Admittedly, I enjoy the aesthetic of the RC F as, slightly chubby from some angles, the flared nose and haunches lend to a very brawny, aggressive stance of the Lexus which marries well with the sports car personality of the car. Gone are the somewhat bloated lower valences of IS F and questionable stacked quad-exhaust replaced by far more chiseled air dams and staggered exhausts that look like more than an afterthought. Performance credentials are further reinforced with the high-waisted trunkline equipped a pop-up rear spoiler sitting atop sleek, flattened L-shape tail lamps.

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The styling, no doubt, will be a polarizing factor in the overall appeal of the RC F. That said, I found the styling to be a refreshing departure from the sometimes austere design cues from the Germans. I enjoy the fact that the appearance of the RC F is tying back into a sleeker, and more consistent design language with the “younger” Lexi like the IS along with a dab of LFA. The long, raked nose hiding the massive V8 lends to the RC F appearing fast even while idling at a stop light. In my eyes, this puts the RC F on par with the M4 in terms of performance coupes whereas the Audi RS5 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG are too muted to give a strong sense of performance.

Is It For You? 

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Summing up the Lexus RC F in one statement is difficult but I would have to go with jack-of-all-trades. I was  pleasantly surprised with the fun had in Lexus’ newest sport car. Compared to the benchmark of the segment, the BMW M4, it is a close call as an all-round performer.

Admittedly, if I were to attend a track day, the M4 is going to be my weapon of choice in nearly every case. It is nimbler and more tactile, and has the party piece twin-scroll S55 straight-six with gobs of torque and, if you’re willing to pay for it, unbreakable ceramic brakes. Juxtaposed to that, the Lexus RC F lacks the sophisticated double-clutch gearbox and decades of racing pedigree but still manages to hold its own for a few laps.

However, calling the ball game there means you would be seriously shortchanging the Lexus.

While it lags a bit behind the BMW on track prowess, the RC F’s poise on the road coupled with the rev-centric V8 and relative luxury make for a great GT car. We’ll cover more on the road test portion of the RC F but priced from $62,400, anyone shopping for an M4 is doing themselves a disservice if they don’t take a serious look at the latest offering from Lexus.

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The outgoing Lexus IS F will be a future classic. I may sound silly in saying in light of the quirks I found in the car but the wonderful 5.0L V8 shoe-horned into nose of the second generation IS sedan proved to be a highly rewarding idea. Going back to my review of the Lexus IS F earlier this year, my biggest takeaway was that, if Lexus can learn from what the IS F got wrong and push development of what did, they would have a winner on their hands. Thankfully, the idea of what a performance Lexus can be…
While it lags a bit behind the BMW on track prowess, the RC F's poise on the road coupled with the rev-centric V8 and relative luxury make for a great GT car.

2015 Lexus RC F Review

Exterior Appeal - 8
Interior Quality - 9
Steering Feedback - 8
Performance - 8.5
Handling - 8.5
Price Point - 8

8.3

While it lags a bit behind the BMW on track prowess, the RC F's poise on the road coupled with the rev-centric V8 and relative luxury make for a great GT car.

29 responses to “Driven: 2015 Lexus RC F Track Review”

  1. Levi says:

    Nice review from a BMW Blog. I respect that. In general, you can’t go wrong with most cars out there. Just goes down to personal preference.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Thanks. Our goal is really to be objective and test the competition also so we can better report on BMW test drives. It can make us appreciate a BMW car more or allows us to see what’s missing.

      Also Lexus is cool for understanding we’re professionals and not fanboys. Well, maybe a bit only :)

  2. Obi says:

    I admire your objective review. To be honest I was expecting BMWBlog to have bias towards the BMW M4. I believe the M4 is better on the track mainly because of it massive weight advantage (nearly 200kg lighter than the RCF) and better weight distribution. However the RCF will probably perform better as an everyday car.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      Thanks Obi! As I said before, we have to be objective. And people always say: Why a Lexus/Audi/Mercedes review on a BMW news site??? Constantly we need to explain that no automaker makes the perfect car and if they look at the competition to learn, we have to do the same to see the full picture. How could you appreciate the M4 on the track if you don’t see how others drive?

      Andrew has done a phenomenal job with the review and we hope to do more from competitors.

  3. jason bourne says:

    Whoever designed and green-lighted that absolutely hideous and garish front grille should be sentenced to life imprisonment in a third-world jail.

  4. Gaetano Cimmino says:

    Nice Review! Don’t know if this car is going to hit the Italian market (I do not think) but what this new Lexus is missing IMO is not only the track prowess I can’t say anything about (as I did not drive this one and the new M4 either, and I’m not a pro driver, while I viewed the test drive from Steve Sutcliffe – Autocar) but the fit and finish of a BMW that does matter in this price tag. Toyota’s approach is too much “cost driven” when it comes to make for example fine interiors (I drove the IS Hybrid that shares with this one the same dashboard, the new NX follows the same trend) where the new “design language” hides costs reductions (rigid plastics vs foamed assemblies for example). A german car and especially a BMW is still unrivaled in that area too.

    • Horatiu B. says:

      You need to drive a bit the M4 also, it’s a great car.

      I would venture to say Lexus plays a bit more safe, building a car that appeals to more people than just purists. While keeping the cost low. So that might be their angle.

      • I can’t wait to drive it! Meanwhile, even if it is one year away I’ve put my eyes on the 2016 M2. About Lexus I agree with your standpoint Horatiu and I read that RCF Chief Engineer’s goal was not just to set the best lap time at the Nordschleife in the segment but to create an everyday sports car. I think however they’re still a bit confused sitting in between a luxury comfortable car (the original Lexus mission) and a pure sports car, thus not having a clear brand identity as they do not lead in neither case. What I do like in their cars as I owned a couple now, is their top product quality.

        • Horatiu B. says:

          Definitely top quality and reliable, and I think they will find a niche for themselves, but they won’t win in a direct competition with AMG or M when it comes to performance.

          On the other hand, they have the LFA :) Which is AWESOME!

        • Andrew W. Murphy says:

          You’re correct in that they haven’t yet established a strong foothold in either the niche of luxury or sports coupe segments. However, I did find the RC F to be a nice compromise to the occasionally harsh M4 on surface streets. I found the adaptive suspension in the RC F to be more forgiving in comfort compared to the M4.

          • Thanks for the info Andrew unfortunately I could not test the RC F as I’m quite sure it will not be available in Italy as in many EU countries and compare it with the M4, I have to wait for my next trip to the US

          • Andrew W. Murphy says:

            I hope you get to. I really like that Lexus have stepped up their game with the RC F. I’m obviously biased to BMW but the RC F is a legitimately good car. The biggest hurdle it will face is the polarizing design.

          • Levi says:

            My favourite BMW cars are of those that were polarizing, the E65, E64/E63, E60, E90. They looks so good IMO. M6 V10, still looks so futuristic.

          • Horatiu B. says:

            E60 was so misunderstood. Bangle’s design was ahead of its time.

  5. Ayo DocMkize says:

    Well i have to say i am pleasantly shocked that this bmwblog does not have fan brand bashing going on. It is so refreshing to find BMW owners/loyalist who are purely objective about another car brand.
    I lived in a country were owners/fans and non BMW drivers are so brainwashed that the only executive sport coupe is a BMW and everything else is just rubbish.I think its high time we have more blogs like these which are objective and have a mature following audience.

  6. uzo says:

    Clearly there’s a huge bias towards BMWs here. Reading these comments, it’s obvious that we’re mostly looking for validation in the BMWs we’ve purchased given their hefty price tags. That’s OK. BMWs make the finest mass-production vehicles today.

    However let’s be real – Lexus and Toyotas are very different cars. If anyone believes the contrary, then that’s purely ignorance. Lexus has come a long way with its GS and RC (both in F & F Sport). When you fail to realize how much your closest competitors have advanced, you fall prey to hubris.

    The BMWBloggers get it, which is why they’re objective in their review. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the readership.

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