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Lexus RC F 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the 2015 Lexus RC F.

Step right up, step right up. That's the sales pitch from Lexus to lovers of top-end, homegrown muscle cars. While its luxury rivals trade on exclusivity, Lexus says its new RC F coupe will tempt buyers of mainstream performance cars who aspire to "step up" to a luxury brand. 

With Holden Special Vehicles pushing the boundaries of what people will pay for a local performance sedan - and HSV's donor Commodore sedan marked for extinction - Lexus boss Sean Hanley sees an opportunity to woo Australia's V8 heartland.

The strategy explains why the company chose Mount Panorama as the venue for this week's media launch. It also explains why Hanley believes the brand is a "50-50" chance of going V8Supercar racing.

While previous bosses would have drawn comparisons between the RC F and the BMW M4 - and avoided mainstream comparisons like the plague - Hanley says the idea of a V8 performance coupe "resonates culturally very well in Australia".

"Australians still love the rumble of a naturally aspirated V8," he says. He dismisses any suggestion the Lexus brand could be tarnished by an association with "cashed up bogans". "I come from a working class background ... and I think that people who work hard have a right to aspire. Lexus is a brand for everyone and I don't feel comfortable categorising customers," he says.

While it may seem expensive to mainstream buyers, the Lexus coupe is a bargain in luxury land.

But while Lexus may be a brand for everyone, the RC F most certainly isn't a car for the masses. A starting price of $133,500 will stop many buyers in their tracks, especially when its V6 sibling, the RC350, starts at $66,000, less than half the price. A Carbon model adds lightweight, space age bits and lifts the price to $147,500.

But while it may seem expensive to mainstream buyers, the Lexus coupe is a bargain in luxury land, where it boasts more standard equipment than the $178,430 BMW and $156,400 Audi RS5.

Visually, the RC F distinguishes itself from the RC350 with slightly wider haunches, a lower ride height, a small bonnet scoop and big blue Brembo brakes peeking through its 19-inch, ten-spoke rims.

Inside, there are carbon-fibre highlights and heavily bolstered sports seats with leather accents. A classy, well- appointed cabin, it is a million miles away from the ambience of an Aussie muscle car - and feels more special than the rival M4.

The instrument panel combines a small, analog speedometer with a digital tacho that changes colour depending on which of four driving modes is chosen - blue for the ECO setting and angry red for Sports+.

For boy racers, it also has a lap-timer and readouts that show torque distribution and G-Forces. Elsewhere the RC F styling is a little fussy, and the touchpad system for the audio and entertainment controls is fiddly. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system makes amends, though.

A generous safety equipment list includes driver aids such as lane departure alert, rear safety camera, automatic high beam, a blind spot monitor and a rear cross traffic alert. Accommodation is less generous, especially in the back, where anyone approaching six-foot is going to find it cramped.

Behind the wheel 

The RC F's main drawcard is its 5.0-litre V8. It is, as Lexus suggests, a formula that resonates with Australian buyers. But not entirely. The engine provides most of its mumbo at higher revs. Off the mark, it lacks the brutal shove in the back of a typical Aussie V8.

Maximum power of 351kW comes at 7100rpm, while torque peaks at 4800rpm, which means it needs a healthy dose of revs to impress. But impress it does, especially when you flick the switch to Sports + and the eight-speed auto intuitively holds on to lower gears to keep the engine in its sweet spot through the bends. It will also blip the throttle coming into corners if it senses you're hard on the brakes.

It sounds great too, although the tone is more tenor than baritone and there isn't the addictive crackle and rumble you'd get from, say, a Mercedes V8.

Well-tuned suspension  strikes a balance between keeping the car planted and cocooning occupants from the potholes and corrugations

Lexus claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 secs, which is genuinely brisk, but you can't help feeling that performance off the line is blunted a little by the car's hefty kerb weight. It tips the scales at 1860kg, where the M4 is more than 300kg lighter. Lexus says the extra weight comes from structural changes designed to stiffen the chassis.

That extra weight makes itself known through the bends as well, with the nose wanting to push wide on tighter corners, although it does manage to disguise its extra bulk well, thanks to sharp steering and well-tuned suspension that strikes a balance between keeping the car planted and cocooning occupants from the potholes and corrugations.

Flicking the switch to Sport+ stiffens the suspension for more control on smooth surfaces, although it becomes quite busy if the road is less than perfect.

The car also has what it calls a torque vectoring differential that distributes torque to each rear wheel for better turn-in and balance through corners. It has three modes, but it is hard to pick the difference at road legal speeds.

Verdict

The RC F is an impressive vehicle and a worthy halo car for the brand. Its bulk makes it more grand tourer than out-and-out sports car, but it is generously equipped, genuinely fun to drive and luxurious inside.

Pricing guides

$43,990
Based on 20 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$39,990
Highest Price
$72,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RC F 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $52,800 – 66,770 2015 Lexus RC 2015 RC F Pricing and Specs
RC F Carbon 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $66,000 – 83,490 2015 Lexus RC 2015 RC F Carbon Pricing and Specs
RC350 F Sport 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $35,700 – 46,200 2015 Lexus RC 2015 RC350 F Sport Pricing and Specs
RC350 Luxury 3.5L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $31,400 – 41,140 2015 Lexus RC 2015 RC350 Luxury Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$39,990

Lowest price, based on 14 car listings in the last 6 months

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