For decades Lexus has offered top class luxury sedans in North America. We wouldn't be surprised if your dad or grandpa owned a GS or LS while you were growing up—even my pops had a GS300. But in the last few years, Toyota's upper echelon brand realized there are plenty of younger enthusiasts they're not reaching. They've attempted to eliminate some of the old stereotypes with cars like the LFA and IS F, but success has been marginal, that is... until now. It might be early in the year, but we're confident the game is about to be changed with the all-new 2015 Lexus RC F!
A couple things off the bat: First, the letter F signifies where the car was developed and tested on—Fuji Speedway. Lexus didn't just make an IS two-door, throw in a bigger engine, stiffen the suspension and call it a day. No, from head to toe, the new RC was put under the microscope and beaten on one of Japan's most famous road courses until it performed how professional drivers would want it to. Second, the RC F is a completely new animal. It's not simply a successor to the IS F but is a 3.5-year project that features a newly developed chassis, engine and design all in the name of putting Lexus on the high-performance sports coupe map. We won't tire you with too much technical data—you can look that up online. But what we will give you is a little insight as to how the car feels—we did, in fact, spend an entire day with the RC F around New York's Hudson River Valley as well as take it to the track on Monticello's Motor Club's 3.6-mile private road course.
While I got a decent number of laps on the track at Monticello, instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs in between sessions, I decided to get a better feel for the car and do what any normal person who was thinking about buying an RC F would do—drive it on the street. So for two full hours, I took to the open road to see how the RC F would feel as if I actually owned one.
One of the most interesting things I learned about the RC F's development isn't that it was tested on Fuji Speedway—I wouldn't expect anything less, but I was surprised to learn engineers actually took the cars home every night after the track to get a feel for the car's reliability, comfort and everyday driveability. This was apparent when I finally got behind the wheel. The coupe has all the creature comforts you'd expect out of a Lexus but with a modern, sporty feel. Whether I was sitting in traffic or cruising 75mph down the highway, it's hard to imagine a painful experience in the RC F. From the high-end audio, ergonomics of the seats, design of the instrument cluster and dash to the leather and alcantara used for the upholstery, I felt relaxed and at home. But don't let the coziness fool you. The beauty of the RC F is that you'll feel at ease pushing the car to its limits!
When I asked the RC F's chief designer what his favorite part of the car was, he mentioned the sound. I was confused why sound would be more important than performance or styling. But during my intimate time with the car on the back roads of upstate New York, I couldn't stop smiling from the V8's rumble. I managed to find several miles of deserted road with no houses or cars in sight. From 35mph to triple-digit speeds, the 467hp 5.0-liter sounded heavenly. There's something about the deep, throaty and authoritative V8 growl that no boosted six-cylinder can match.
Not just about noise, the available torque was equally impressive. 389 lb-ft of torque is available at 4,800rpm. Whether I dropped the throttle at 30mph or 80mph, the coupe wanted to take off and the rear tires never broke loose. I wouldn't mind a car with a little more power and louder exhaust but that could easily be updated with bolt-ons.
It's important to note that even at triple-digit speeds, the car felt as quiet and stable as it did at 60mph. The RC F's construction and aero is simply spot-on. Seriously, the RC F is the best of both worlds!
Driving through the city, there's no question the RC F has presence and attracts plenty of attention. Sexy isn't an out-of-the-ordinary word for us to say, but when corporate execs at Lexus are using the word to tell us how it looks, you know the car's gotta be! The deep contouring lines and overall feeling of the RC is all about sportiness. Its stance is wide—actually wider than the current four-door IS. The flares are pronounced, bumpers are set lower and every element of the car's aero is designed for function and control at high speed. The front-end uses Lexus' signature spindle grille and features a chrome frame and black diamond grate finish. The two large cooling vents and bulging 'n' vented hood add aggressiveness. Throw in the LED lights all around, low and wide shape of the rear bumper with fins to help air flow, plus the dual stacked exhaust tips reminiscent of the IS F, and you have yourself one sexy beast.
Handling & Balance
On my mini-road rally, I noticed how easy the RC F was to maneuver. I was never fighting with the steering wheel or felt I was out of control—I don't drive like a grandpa on the street, either!
During my hot laps around the track, I had an 18-turn road course to push the limits of the car. It felt well suited for the track with incredible balance around corners. Less than an hour ago, I was sitting in traffic and cruising through the countryside. Now I was going full speed through one of the nation's most elite racetracks. The RC F plays both roles well.
On the track, two elements of the car I enjoyed are the brakes and torque vectoring differential (TVD) option. Lap after lap, journalist after journalist, the Brembos took a beating but still didn't fade on me or make me feel like I couldn't pound on them late into a corner. Second, the TVD option shouldn't be overlooked. Without TVD, the car still accelerates out of corners nicely, but with the aid, it'll make you better. TVD basically works by making use of two small electric motors, two multi-plate clutches and a set of gears for each driveshaft. With these parts, the advanced diff can distribute power to the outer wheels when cornering, but it's so advanced that it can adjust power every thousandths of a second. Overall, I noticed it helped me out quickly from tight slaloms and run the track smoother.
What's great about the new RC F is that you can have fun whether you're a beginner or expert. It takes a lot to break the rear tires loose or let the back-end out. Even with all the electronic aids off, it still handled neutral and felt planted in the corners. The car instills confidence, and if you know what you're doing, you can get it going pretty damn fast. The majority of owners won't be taking it to a road course, but Lexus wants you to know that it's very capable of it—we can attest!
Random RC F Tidbits
- Front is based on GS, center floor from IS C and rear from IS sedan.
- Engineered body to satisfy regulations for entry into FIA GT3 series.
- In 2016, Lexus will offer an RC F race model to professional teams.
- Club Circuit Sports Racer (CCSR) RC F is already in development.
- Still gets 25mpg on the highway! Designed to act like a four-cylinder under light load.
- 0-60mph in 4.4-seconds and quarter-mile is 12.5-seconds according to Lexus.
- Aluminum block is only engine element carried over from IS F.
- New engine components include redesigned intake manifold, intake and exhaust valves changed to titanium, revised cam profile, higher strength rods, larger throttle body.
- From existing V8, compression ratio raised to 12.3:1 and redline to 7,300rpm.
- Up 51hp and 18 lb-ft of torque from the IS F. Max power is available between 4,800-5,600rpm as opposed to 5,200rpm.
- Eight-speed automatic is carried over from IS F, but programming and shifting has been updated to be sportier and quicker.
- Carbon-fiber options include a roof and speed-activated rear wing. In Japan and Europe, a carbon hood will be available. Want!
- Instrument cluster features lap timer, G-force display, torque distribution and more.
Lexus RC 350 and F Sport
While the RC F is the cream of the crop, we can't forget the other two family members—the RC F Sport and RC 350. Both cars are more affordable and might be your cup of tea if you're looking for an entry-level luxury sports coupe. You can get into a 350 at $42,790—no chump change by any means but the price does open the door for a lot of us!
We had a chance to drive both cars during our adventure in New York. They're not intended to be an out-of-the-box track car like the RC F, but they're also not pansies. Available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the 3.5-liter V6 is capable of 306hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. From our test drive, we felt both vehicles represented the typical Lexus label with a quiet and comfortable ride. The power wasn't anything to brag about but we'd consider it decent. According to Lexus, these cars can do a 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds with a quarter-mile of 14.3 seconds. The cars also performed relatively well in the corners. Lexus allowed us to take both cars around the track—felt a little mushy around the corners and the brakes faded after hours of abuse, but the RCs held their own for the most part. They're not meant to be an able track car like the RC F; however, we're confident with a few simple upgrades we wouldn't hesitate taking an RC 350 or F Sport back on the road course.
The first Rocket Bunny RC debuted at SEMA 2014. But because we're Super Street, we received a sneak peek of the rendering months before anyone else! If the build looks anything like this, you can bet it'll be one of the sexiest Lexus builds to date!
Our First Crossover Project!
Words & Photos Jofel Tolosa
Don't let our Instagrams fool you... There are times when this job becomes so stressful you'll want to crawl under the desk and assume the fetal position. On the other hand, there are days when Lexus would hand us a set of keys to its latest crossover SUV. Ladies and gents, here is our newest project car—the Lexus NX200t.
Like a boss, our NX is the top-of-the-line NX200t equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo, direct injection motor mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. What can only be described as Japan's answer to the BMW X3, the NX200T uses Lexus' first twin scroll turbo charger to generate 235hp.
In true Lexus fashion, the car drives swiftly when showing it some corners, particularly the ones on California Highway 41 heading towards Morro Bay, California. Luckily for us, we have the F Sport version, which comes with newly developed performance dampers. Switch from Eco to Sport mode and the car's performance attributes come alive with a more responsive throttle and steering input.
The exterior is a love it or hate it affair with Lexus' new signature spindle grille and L shaped tail lamps—we love it though! The door handles feature hidden key barrels and integrated lighting for a subtle touch of luxury. Hop inside and the interior design wins you over. From the bucket seats to the steering wheel and leather upholstery, everything feels top notch. Bits of the interior styling take inspiration from the brilliant LFA—a win in our book. Quite frankly, our Lexus NX200t F Sport in Ultrasonic Blue is the equivalent to a handsome young man in a well-tailored suit.
We know it's a bit different from our normal projects, but honestly, we can relate to this car. We plan to improve on the look more with a bigger set of wheels and suspension. It comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder, which means ECU tuning is in its near future, plus the design and functionality of the car are spot on. We wouldn't have a problem taking it on a trip to Vegas or taking a girl out on a date. Don't believe us? Just wait and see what we'll have in store!