New Orleans is a city renown for self-indulgence, and the perfect setting for the press introduction of the 2015 RC F Coupe. With its aggressive styling and racing-inspired technology, the all-new 467-horsepower RC F makes Lexus a solid contender in the performance sports coupe category and a serious challenger to European rivals like the BMW M4 and Audi RS 5. But what makes the RC F stand out from the competition is how Lexus managed to combine track-savvy performance and sheer power without compromising driver comfort.
The Lexus RC lineup includes the V8 RC F, the RC 350 and its RC 350 F Sport variant, both with a 306-horsepower V6. The RC F will cost you $62,400 to start, while the RC 350 comes in at a base price of $42,790. We sampled both models and each delivered an inspired driving experience. But we spent more time behind the wheel and decide to focus this test (surprise!) on the thoroughbred RC F
Sexy Sheet Metal and Pure Performance
The car looks sleek and fast even when standing still, but underneath it’s sexy sheet metal is pure-performance hardware that allows it to shoot from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and hit a top track speed of 170 mph. It does this using a 5.0-liter aluminum-block power plant linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Borrowing from Lexus’ RCF GT3 concept race car, the RC’s unibody and suspension are structurally enhanced for rigidity in order to effectively transfer power to it’s over-sized 19-inch wheels (manufactured for Lexus by BBS). Braking is provided by Brembo 15-inch ventilated rotors with six-piston aluminum calipers in the front, and 13.6-inch vented rotors with four-piston calipers in back.
Proving Its Muscle
We drove the new RCF both on congested downtown New Orleans city streets and out on Louisiana back roads, and it straddled both conditions with ease and inspired driving confidence. When the road opened up, the car begged to be pushed and proved it’s muscle with a unique visual G-force display in the instrument panel. The car cries out “Find a race track!” but during our test drive we had to keep it on the street.
The G-AI (G-Force artificial intelligence) control downshifts and maintains constant RPM through turns, while a Torque Vectoring Differential gradually transfers torque from the inner to outer wheels during a turn – and both combine to keep the car on virtual rails while driving the twisties. Need more traction? The RC is also available in all wheel drive.
During our test drive we switched between the three noticeably different driving modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. The instrument panel changed to reflect each driving style and the respective engine and suspension settings. For example, while in Sport mode, the multi-information display shows a lap timer, torque distribution and even a G-force indicator. It was like driving three different cars, and one of our favorite features.
Balance of Performance and Comfort
The RCF’s cockpit design offers a sensitive balance of performance features and stylish comfort. A 10-way adjustable driver’s seat can be shifted to hold the pilot in place, while padded surfaces on either side of the legs assist during aggressive cornering. Hands can remain on the wheel with easily accessible paddle shifters.
When you’re ready to shift your focus away from sheer performance to the doldrums of daily commuting, the RC F’s infotainment system includes the extensive Lexus Enform App Suite that allows everything from streaming music to buying movie tickets as well as a standard 10-speaker, 256-watt audio system with CD, AM/FM HD and SiriusXM satellite radio, USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth streaming and navigation. These features are all accessed via a 7-inch in-dash display operated by the updated and improved Remote Touch controller in the center console, which still takes some getting used to and time away from the driving task – and seems slightly ill-fitted for a car that begs all of your attention. The car’s Enform remote smartphone app has all the usual features: remote starting, door locking/unlocking, car location. And owners will like the Guest Driver Monitoring to alert them when the vehicle exceeds a certain speed or mileage limit, but valets won’t.
Consider Yourself Warned
Lexus vehicles are known for luxurious rides and creature comforts. The RC F checks those boxes but is also a performance beast that will have you taking the long way home. The distracting effect of the Remote Touchpad needs further refinement, like so many other new cars we’ve tested. But beyond that minor quibble, consider yourself warned: After driving the 2015 Lexus RC F, you risk giving into self-indulgence and taking one home for yourself. We would have gladly driven the car back to the West Coast, since after our experience even an airplane felt too slow. – Robert Bauld