It's fair to say that the Lexus RC F isn't your typical Lexus. The Japanese brand is better known for its luxury hybrid cruisers than screaming performance cars but models like the LFA and IS F have shown that there is some serious fire in the Lexus belly when it chooses to show it.
The RC F Coupe is another prime example of Lexus leaving the furnace doors open. It's a V8-equipped performance flagship for the Lexus RC range that combines the latest bold Lexus styling with the pace to worry rivals like the Audi RS5 and BMW M4.
Our previous drive in a pre-production Lexus RC F on track in the US revealed a very capable machine, but this is the first time we’ve been able to hit the road in a factory fresh European variant.
One thing that’s immediately clear is that the trip across the Atlantic hasn’t dulled the Lexus RC F’s aggressive looks. The humped nose treatment won’t be to all tastes, but the pumped up wheelarches, gaping grille, extra vents behind the front wheels and quad exit exhausts leave you in no doubt of the Lexus’ performance potential. Further highlights include the large 19-inch forged alloys wheels that hide powerful Brembo brakes and an active rear spoiler, which raises automatically at 50mph to boost stability at speed.
The racy theme continues inside, where you’ll find a pair of figure-hugging, high-backed seats, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel and an all-new TFT display for the driver. This neat set-up features a large central rev counter that changes its look depending on whether you’re in the Eco, Normal, Sport S or Sport+ driving mode. There’s also a screen that can be configured to display anything from the sat-nav guidance to your cornering G-forces.
Prod the starter button and the 5.0-litre V8 rumbles menacingly into life. The naturally aspirated unit is carried over from the old IS F, but boasts heavily reworked internals and a novel feature that allows it to run on light throttle openings using an efficient Atkinson combustion cycle. However, push the throttle pedal hard, and the Lexus delivers a whopping 471bhp and a thumping 530Nm of torque.
Yet despite these impressive figures, the RC F never feels as fast as the claimed 0-62mph of 4.5 seconds. Unlike turbocharged rivals such as the BMW M4, the Lexus needs to be worked hard to give its best. Peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4,800rpm, which means at low speeds the engine feels a little flat. However, once past this point the RC F accelerates with real urgency, while the V8 emits a spine-tingling bellow. The eight-speed automatic also delivers crisp upshifts in both responsive auto mode or via the steering wheel mounted paddles, but it’s jerky and a little clunky when going down the gears.
Head down a twisting back road and the Lexus impresses with its poise and balance. Despite tipping the scales at a hefty 1,765kg, the RC F turns in well, grips hard and has good body control, plus the steering has a natural response and decent feedback, helping the RC F to feel more approachable than the occasionally edgy M4.
Our car was also fitted with the optional torque vectoring rear differential, which allows you to alter the car’s handling characteristics to suit road conditions. Normal is for everyday driving, Slalom sharpens turn-in on twisty roads and Track boosts stability on race circuits. However, we found the car felt most natural when in Normal and Track settings.
Unlike its rivals, the RC F isn’t available with adaptive damping. As a result it doesn’t feel quite as composed as the BMW at high speeds, yet it suffers from a firm low speed ride. That said, it’s far from uncomfortable. Even better, there’s virtually no wind noise, and tyre roar is only an issue on coarse surfaces.
Elsewhere you’ll find a decent 366-litre boot and plenty of handy storage – although the rear seats are cramped. There’s also a lengthy list of standard kit that includes sat-nav, LED headlamps, a 10 speaker stereo and a whole suite of safety features. Go for the flagship £67,995 Carbon model and you’ll get the torque vectoring differential as standard, plus a carbon fibre roof, bonnet and tailgate spoiler.
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