That Certain Smile
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2015 Lexus RC F
No one should be able to drive this car.
There are a few drivers who understand what this car is all about. It is not just a road car, but one that has proven its worth on the track. In fact, one test showed that this car had a faster time around a track against the benchmark in the premium performance coupe class – the BMW M4.
You know, these class names are getting insane. "Premium Performance Coupe" – what does that mean? Who made this one up? Why? Because we want to put our vehicles into pigeon holes that we cannot see the overall appeal of these machines that trump above all comers.
In the pantheon of automobiles, there are those that cannot be compared to anything. They are simply loved for what they are, not whom they beat at some motorsports venue.
Then again, a certain vehicle can be loved on an individual basis, not by what the hive mind dictates. Case in point: This 2015 Lexus RC F. It is simply extraordinary.
If you are familiar with the latest designs from Lexus, you know them by the brand's spindle grille. It is the focal point on all Lexus models. From there, every curve, shape, scallop and angle eminent from this prominent mouth. The normal RC 350 coupe reminds us on how much we miss the days of honest coupes with a long hood and a short deck. The F Sport adds more drama with its deep grille and aggressive details. The RC F takes this another level. There are more functional air slots maximizing brake and engine cooling. The rear defuser is deeper with four exhaust ports, along with an automatically adjustable spoiler that is designed to keep the rear of the RC F on the road or track. To me, it is always fun to that spoiler go up and down from the rearview mirror.
There is one piece of exterior that needs to be discussed. While V6-powered RC coupes have a sleek hood for better airflow and vision, the entire hood of the RC F is one big power dome. It had to be shaped as such to accommodate the mass of power underneath it. More on that piece later.
The RC F's aggression is born from its details. Nineteen-inch wheels wear Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. A lower stance forces more air up instead of below. When you look back at it from a distance, understand this is not just any premium or luxury sports coupe. This is a track-tuned beast.
Lexus cabins are designed to cross function with form. The LFA supercar dictated the design of the RC's cabin. In the RC F, one might say that the feel of the LFA has been translated almost on point. The only exception is the addition of a rear seat. Still, the driver gets settled into a cockpit with a customizable instrumentation cluster which its main dial slides over for a second screen with more information. The infotainment screen is up high above the center stack, loaded with audio and climate control functions. The flat-bottomed steering wheel offers switches for audio, instrumentation screen functions and cruise control. A pad is used to control the infotainment screen, not unlike a laptop's track pad. Of course, there is the Drive Mode knob – perhaps the most important piece of the RC's puzzle. Again, there will be more on what that knob does later.
If you ever raced a car, you may be familiar with the kind of seating that is in the RC F. High-back buckets are thinly constructed, yet upholstered with a nice set of hides. The bolstering is thick and deep, yet compliant for thicker bodies – like mine. You do not seek comfort behind the wheel in an RC F – you need to be locked in and be at full attention when piloting this beast. Headrests are given extra cushioning for better anti-whiplash protection.
The large single-dial instrument binnacle is familiar to those of us who drive F-Sport versions of the a few Lexuses. In the RC F, the same dial is stationary with the TFT tachometer reading for transmission position and speed. There is another dial to the right – a speedometer. It is small, which makes looking at the center dial a better option. To the left is a TFT information screen with all of the vehicle information necessary to make for competent piloting of the RC F. Gauges are TFT readouts and there are two small, indicators for the Drive Mode and the available Torque Vectoring Differential.
The rest of the interior is mainly from the RC. That is unless you look at the carbon fiber trim, the blue stitching and the F badge on the lower part of the steering wheel. A Mark Levinson audio system is available to add to the soundtrack that is provided by the four-port exhaust system in the back.
When driving a car, such as the Lexus RC F, practicality is not one of the things that come to mind. But, you can take enough luggage for a weekend away at Brainerd or Road America…or, to a romantic getaway somewhere…and stow it in its 10.4-cubic foot trunk.
That huge power dome up front has something lurking underneath it. It is a 5.0 liter V8 packing 467 horses and 389 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic sends power to the back…the only configuration available on the RC F. There is no all-wheel drive or a manual gearbox to be had here. It is not even a dual- or single-clutch set-up available, either. There are paddle shifters…one of two ways to work the gears. Of course, I am OK with this set-up. Not that I am lazy since I can work the paddles if I needed to grab a different ratio up or down.
I mentioned the Drive Mode knob and the Torque Vectoring Differential button on the console. Lexus drivers know about this knob, but I need to make a point here. Eco is not a setting you want to put the RC F in. Normal is fine enough. Even better, you need to flip the knob to the right twice for Sport S+. Sport S+ is where the RC F needs to be with a combination of aggressive shift points, a heavier steering feel and firmer dampers. The TVD button has three settings to work with – Standard, Slalom and Track. If you are just carving up a windy road, keep it in standard. You could put it into slalom, but it might think you’re looking for an autocross course. However, I would save Track mode for the oft time you will find yourself on some motorsports venue.
Driving the RC F is not for the meek. You have to be able to manage a 467-horsepower, rear-wheel drive 3,958-pound track-bred beast. But, honestly, it is rather easy to do. There is nothing complicated in setting up the car for what you want it to do. It takes a button, a knob, two pedals, a gear lever and/or a pair of paddle shifters. Adjustments are made on the fly, but I would consider setting up the Drive Mode and TVD before you do something more involved – such as a track day.
One thing you will notice in the RC F is its sure-footedness. Even in Normal mode, the RC F responds to quick maneuvers to avoid getting into trouble. The steering set-up is just quick and precise. Wheel feel and reaction is good…even better in Sport S+.
One thing you will have to give up in the RC F is serenity. This is not a quiet cruiser. The RC F sounds and feels as it is always ready to go. I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I want my RC F to be noisy. It means that it has a pulse…it is alive! It will go to war if you have to.
Stopping power is good. Brembo supplies the stopping power with six-piston calipers on a 14.9-inch vented set of front discs. The vented rear discs measure out to 13.5 inches with four-piston Brembo calipers making the stops. Big rotors mean big power on stops. They do stop well, but you can tell it had some track time before I touched it with a minute lag on full stop. My advice is simple: Check the brakes before and after you decide to attack a motorsports venue…even a carting course.
This RC F was shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. I agree with those who have driven them – they are one of the best tires out there. The grip was tremendous and was part of a handling mix that is beyond something I ever experienced. Drive the RC F at any speed and go through a corner. I can assure you will not be disappointed.
Obviously, I have to talk about fuel economy. For the record, the RC F achieved an average of 20.4 MPG. I kind of expected that, but it should be the one of the lesser considerations when choosing a sports machine.
The RC F starts with a base price of $62,400. My Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 sampler was loaded with the TVD, Mark Levinson audio system and a few other goodies, bringing the sticker price up to $75,210.
At this stage of life, I am now catching up with some machines I never had the chance to drive in my earlier years. The Lexus RC F may have made up for my missing the previous IS F, but it has done more than that. It evoked a permanent smile – a rare occasion, if you ask any my friends.
The RC F also helped me build upon a higher confidence in driving I found a couple of months earlier in the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. It is partly due to the Lexus being so easy to drive…and very easy to set up. You can say it is because of the technology and engineering of the RC F. However, it also took the human factor – one that has to trust the car to be able to become confident behind the wheel.
The Lexus RC F signifies a new level of driving pleasure for me. Sure, I review sedans and crossovers – some are actually pretty exciting. But, to pilot a car that is made for optimal excitement…it was a pure joy. It was worth the permanent smile on my face.
Let me stand corrected by saying that, yes, one should be able to drive this car. If one is confident in working with a 467-horsepower V8 and driving dynamics that are superb beyond words, then they should drive the RC F to its limits – anywhere. The result should be the same – a permanent smile on your face.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor Sales USA
All photos by Randy Stern