Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted June 24, 2015 15:00
The Highway Ninja
Each of the major luxury automobile manufacturers has a special division -a skunkworks unit- that develops and tunes their models to the next level of performance. Audi has quattro GmbH for their S and RS models, Mercedes-Benz has AMG and BMW has their M Division.
Now there's a new player in town, one that comes from half a world away, ready to challenge the German performance kings: Lexus F division.
For the last couple of years, Lexus's F brand has been steadily gaining prominence in the world of performance cars. In 2007 they launched the 423 horsepower IS F sedan, followed by the coup de grace, the V10-powered LFA supercar, in 2010. Then, like a ninja out of nowhere, Lexus entered the fray of high perfornance sports coupes with the 2015 RC F, aiming to challenge autobahn stormers like the Audi RS5, the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG and the BMW M4.
Walking up to this RC F for the first time, it's easy to see that this car ain't your daddy's -or grand daddy's- Lexus. There is a measured ferocity about the design with the huge spindle grille, the split headlamps (similar to the IS 350), the muscular bodywork with functional vents, the coupe profile, the wide and lower stance, tall rear deck and many more. The RC F rides on staggered 19 inch wheels, perfectly contrasting against a coat of orange, a color that is so un-Lexus... a brand known for impeccably shiny yet uninspiring hues.
Open the door and the RC F's interior just envelops the driver and passengers in premium leather, composites and other materials. There is actually space for four inside, all with sculpted seats embossed with the proud F on the headrest.
Settling into the driver's seat is a treat in itself. The F steering wheel is thick to the grip; all the more to attack the road with. Same goes for the feel of the paddle shifters, the gear stick and the steel pedals. Being a top spec luxury sports coupe, there are your usual controls like the buttons for the dual climate control system, the excellent 17 speaker Mark Levinson audio system, the seat heaters and coolers, the heat function for the wheel, a knob/button for the drive mode selector (more on that later) a variety of other stalks and even a new Lexus touch pad to control many of the above, and more. Yes, if you're a control freak this may just be the car for you.
With a push of a button, the Lexus RC F elicits a low growl, indicating that it's raring to go. Underneath that aluminum hood is a highly advanced 5.0 liter V8 which, thanks to dual injection and mechanical wizardry from Lexus's F division, makes 477 PS and 530 Nm of tarmac-ripping torque. Handling all that power is an 8-speed SPDS automatic gearbox sending drive to the rear wheels.
With the drive mode selector set to Eco, the RC F is actually easy to drive around the city on the daily grind. It's surprisingly comfortable, quiet, smooth, clears the large speed bumps common in villages and is relatively efficient for a V8, registering 5.9 km/l in moderate traffic (24 km/h average speed). Yes, it can also do grocery runs even though spare tire eats up plenty of trunk space... but that's not what we really want to do with a 477 PS super coupe is it?
With Sport S+ engaged on the drive selector, push that pedal to the metal and you'll hear the rumble turn to a roar. That's the electronic intake note generator at work, making sure you can hear the guttural growl of that V8 your right foot just prodded. Some say it's lip synching like Milli Vanilli but I say Lexus simply turned the intake note up to 11, something I don't mind for a sound so intoxicating.
The force of acceleration on full throttle is incredible, squatting the rear of the car and propelling the RC F ahead with gusto. Lexus says the RC F can launch from a standstill to 100 kilometers an hour in 4.5 seconds; the best I could muster was 4.9. That'll have to do, unless I want to replace the expensive rear tires to prove it. The active rear wing automatically deploys itself at around 80 km/h, though you can turn it on manually . Top speed is quoted at 270 kilometers per hour, but it would be nice to have a long runway or a dedicated test track to truly push it.
The RC F may have the straight line performance of a muscle car, but it's not all about going fast on the highway. On a challenging mountain road the RC F delivers incredible performance, showcasing the attention that Lexus's skunkworks paid to tuning the car to thrill on circuits under the watchful gaze of the Nurburg castle and Mount Fuji. And, just for a bit of trivia, the “F” actually stands for Fuji Speedway.
Stomp on the brake and the huge calipers each grab hold of the slotted and vented rotors, working overtime to slow the car down for a corner. Do keep in mind that this is a relatively heavy performance car, so care must be taken to feed the steering into the corner, hold the throttle, then rocket out using the massive surge of power from the V8. Personally I found the 8-speed gearbox to not be as intuitive as its Bavarian counterparts on a mountain pass, but it's great if you're using the paddle shifters.
After a high speed run up the mountain, there truly is greatness in the RC F. I've driven cars with well over 400 horses in these parts before such as the RS5 and more recently the Mustang GT, and let me tell you, that much horsepower can be very scary up here. Yet this RC F didn't feel that way; it always seemed confident with its grip, brakes, and precise steering. The most aggressive setting of the RC F is Sport S+ with Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) set to off, but for my drive, I just opted for Sport S+ with VDIM (traction, stability, ABS) set to Expert mode; a setting that allows the driver to have some sideways fun, only stepping in when a spin out is inevitable. Don't, however, let the electronics fool you into acting like a hooligan, especially with horsepower like this on a road bordered by a 500 foot drop down a cliff.
Overall, the RC F delivers as promised and certainly ranks right up there with the RS5, C 63 and M4... or M3, if you're still resistant to the new numbers. The real winning deal with the RC F, however, is the pricing by Lexus Manila. Thanks to JPEPA, LMI was able to price the RC F at PhP 5,868,000, much less than its German rivals.