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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Lexus RC F - TarmacTyrants Review

If you have been following the reviews of recent sports coupes, it would be obvious that the automotive world didn't exactly have very much nice things to say about the RC F.

Often, the young Japanese platform was bench-marked against the more established German BMW M4. Be it a horsepower scuffle or handling characteristics, the BMW was always published as the better driving machine. However, was that really true and was the RC F really that bad?

Last month, I had the opportunity to take the Lexus RC F for a few laps around Sepang International Circuit to find out.

First of all, Lexus has improved the V8 motor from the IS F and increased the output to a more impressive 470bhp and 530Nm of torque. Mated with an 8-Speed automatic transmission and a world's first Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD), Lexus claims that the RC F was designed to be enjoyed by anyone at all skill levels.

Stepping into the RC F, I was really impressed with the cabin and interior. The leather bucket seats were something to die for and the stitchings were top notch. Firing up the RC F and I was greeted by the LFA inspired instrumentation with 'PlayStation' like graphics that you will never see in any Munich machine.

With the transmission in manual, I rolled off with the pedal shifters and the exhaust note engulfed the heavenly cabin as I made my way out of the pit lane to the first apex in Sports S+ mode. The RC F steers pretty well with the 4 wheel steering but I could tell that it was a heavy car. After turn two, I floored the accelerator and the V8 came to life with such response all the way to redline with a familiar roar just like the IS F. Believe me, the RC F is pretty quick with lots of torque, making every exit from every corner very exciting.

Going around corners and changing direction at high speeds, the electronics of the RC F never failed to keep me on my line so much so that going sideways was almost impossible. Thanks to the Yokohama Advan Sport, there was massive amounts of grip at all corners and even at rapid decelerations. I think the most amazing thing about the RC F was the comfortable ride. Even when pushed hard around the track, the RC F displayed no sense of harshness but appeared very controlled and effortlessly balanced around the apex. Frankly, even striking the apex at over 100km/h felt like driving over carpet as the suspension took the 'shocks' off the steering. This was certainly great for the street but if you were looking into a serious track experience, think again. While the ride was certainly controlled and very well balanced, it lacked the 'raw' feel from steering to the road and 'reading' the limits of the tires on the tarmac were not straight forward. It was as if there was much 'intervention' in-between and I could never really get a true sense of response from the steering. The RC F steered sharply with no oversteer (thanks to the electronics) but a little more connection with the road behind the wheel would be great. I suppose this was where the RC F was unable to deliver that "man and machine" synergy. 

On the straights, the V8 was impressive with more power as compare to the older motor. Flat out, I managed to hit 210km/h despite being conservative with the braking distance so as to not wreck the test car. Given a couple more laps and more aggressive braking, I reckoned I could have gone a little faster. Nevertheless, top speed was limited electronically to 270km/h just like the IS F as Lexus felt that it was probably quick enough for some excitement. The 6-pot Brembo OEM brake system was adequate and delivered impressive stopping distances with no brake fade felt during my few laps behind the wheel.

The 8-Speed transmission was impressive with fast and accurate shifts throughout my laps with nice exhaust 'blips' on downshifts, making the whole experience extremely addictive.

I do somewhat agree that the RC F is not the perfect track machine and I am sure there are improvements to be made. Nevertheless, it did great on the track and was certainly lots of fun to drive. Tame at lower speeds, the RC F is a perfect gentleman's sports car because of its overall appeal, balance, comfort and performance, making it an excellent choice for a Friday night drive on the street. It is as practical as it is safe, with plenty of responsive power readily available throughout the entire rev range, a characteristic so typical of a naturally aspirated V8.

While I am certain that a more engaging track experience can be achieved with aftermarket parts, would anyone really want to go that way on this already refined platform? If you are a true track junkie on weekends, you may feel more at home investing in a more track spirited German or Japanese platform like a Porsche or GT-R for the same amount of dough.

Else, from S$450,000, you can settle for the RC F if you want a really nice sports coupe with excellent interior and instrumentation that's undoubtedly unrivalled in quality and refinement. 

In a Nutshell:

The Good: Comfort and excellent electronics for any driver skill level. Awesome interior and LFA inspired instrumentation that is out of this world! Great street car.

The Bad: Lack of raw tarmac feel on steering and weight of car. Unable to fully disable all electronic assistance for true "man & machine" experience by conventional means.

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