Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Lexus RC F

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Jumbo Sour Suckers We at never come between Jacob and his sour keys...

I have been known to eat an entire Costco tub of sour key lollies over the course of a single day. So when I tell you that I am prone to excesses, I mean that I if I was a rock star I’d have died in a powder-shower so intense it was a hotel-room blizzard.

And when I tell you that after just two days I decided to never turn the traction control of the Lexus RC F off ever again, I mean that I had drunk my fill. I was done. Full. Stuffed. I had worked it out of my system.

Either that or I had suddenly become aware of the massive tire bill that would await me should I continue on my path.

It’s not that the RC F is some sort of wildly powerful monster – well, not in a way that’s not controllable at least. It’s not even that the RC F has tail-happy rear-wheel-drive dynamics that make oversteer a constant, cheerful companion. Nor is it the bizarrely short gearing/final drive ratio (one of the two) that makes the back wheel spin with just a gentle feed of throttle while you hold it on the brake. (Seriously, don’t try to preload revs while waiting to launch – it just lights up the tail). It’s not the engine note either. You have to rev the thing to its 7,500 rpm redline before you even hear it in the tomb-like cabin, but once it infiltrates, the sound is intoxicating.

It’s more than the sum of those parts.

Some of it is the way the instrument cluster changes colour and style from boring to “oh wow!” when you turn the drive select knob from Normal to Sport and then to Sport +.

Some of it’s in the way you then select “Track” on the Torque Vectoring Differential setting.

A lot of it is the way the RC F calls you an “expert” when you do both those things and then hit the Traction Control button – instantly removing all driver stability aids and traction nannies. That was one of my favourite things. No long press required; if you’re in Sport+ and already fooling about with the TVD (a device Lexus says is a first on a front-engine RWD car), then a single press of the Traction Control button turns everything off. Woohoo!

It starts long before then, though. It starts at the vivid cop-bait orange paint and the angry looking grille. It starts at the functional air intakes, carbon-fibre roof and carbon-fibre automatically deployed rear spoiler – all of which are options in the $7,400 performance package.

The enthusiasm continues when you slide into the deeply bolstered, beautifully detailed leather sport seats, and grip the thick, well-sized and (best of all) heated steering wheel.

With three fingers balanced on the suede-covered dashboard I thumb the awkwardly placed start button and listen to the engine roar into life. I close the door, and immediately check to see if it has stalled. No fake engine note piped in here!

The throaty 5.0L V8 is good for 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to hustle the 1,795 kg coupe up to speed quickly. I never could get the g-force meter to register more than 0.7 G during acceleration however, probably because I couldn’t get the rear to connect – ever. That 1,795 kg figure is significant, because as our own James Bergeron pointed out, that is 80 kg heavier than the RC F’s predecessor – the IS-F – and 195 kg heavier than the BMW M4. Yeowch.

Still, I was ecstatic every time I tromped on the throttle from a set of traffic lights, or off the end of a merge ramp. For reasons I can’t fully explain a naturally aspirated V8 feels better than a turbo-six despite giving up low-end torque and overall drivability. Something about the V8 makes for a more visceral experience, even with Lexus levels of sound deadening.

You may wonder why I haven’t yet said anything about the eight-speed automatic transmission. Like my mother used to say, if you haven’t got anything nice to say… Sadly, this eight speed is woefully slow to respond even in Sport+ mode. The paddle shifters are essentially useless unless engaged before the braking zone, and even full-throttle kick-down is languid. It’s like Lexus accidentally coated all the pieces of the gearbox in treacle before sending it out. The transmission is the real weak point in the drivetrain. The Torque-Vectoring differential is neat, and makes up for the lack of a proper LSD somewhat, but that gearbox – arg.

When you consider the RC F against the M4, the transmission is going to factor in. Especially given the M4 is available with a manual. This is something I expect Lexus will address in short order. The speed of the shifts, not offering a manual transmission.

The weight, while excessive, isn’t intrusive. We had an Audi RS 5 in the office at the same time, but the winter tires fitted to it precluded a proper head-to-head comparison. Regardless, we noted that the slightly heavier RS 5 (1,820 kg) felt more ponderous on turn in and less sharp under throttle. Though for the 25 extra kilos you get AWD – which makes the RS 5 more capable off the line but gives you less sideways for your money. I always prefer RWD. Because sideways.

The RS 5 also helped highlight the lack of steering feel in the Lexus RC F. The steering is precise and responsive, but at the limits of grip it’s your backside, not your hands that let you know where the limit is. LOL. Listen to me… “let you know where the limit is.” Pffft. As if I ever got near the limit. Lexus wouldn’t let me track this thing.

The closest I got was some off-ramps and one traction-limited parking effort. I registered 1.2G on the onboard computer going around highway off-ramps and still felt like the car was snickering at me. It’s a genuinely capable ride, with rapid turn-in and a lively chassis. I get the impression that Doriftucus (the God of Drift, obviously) would be able to make this RC F dance in spectacular fashion. I would have tried, but I had no plans to fork out the arm and leg needed to pay for the 275/35 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports in the rear. Slightly narrower 255/35 19s sit in the front.

Ride comfort is – irrelevant.

Fuel economy is – also irrelevant.

Okay, maybe not quite. The RC F should be good for 15.2 L/100 km in the city and 9.5 on the highway. In a week of mixed driving I recorded a hilarious 16.8 – and I’d do it again too!

The ride is stiff but not jarring, there is a bit of suspension noise over bigger bumps, but nothing the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system couldn’t drown out. That system is accessed via Lexus’s new touchpad infotainment system. It’s finicky but better than the older system. I don’t like the graphics – they seem cheap and discordant embedded in the busy but beautifully put together dashboard. The interior materials are first class, the fitment tighter than an Aussie’s grip on a pint glass.

The back seats will fit adults but only if you don’t like them and visibility out the rear sides is non-existent. While we’re on the subject of “things people who buy this don’t care about” I should mention the boot. It has one. I put my shopping in it.

Aficionados of all-things gold-chained will be disappointed to learn that the Lexus RC F cannot be parked in douchebag mode. The rear spoiler can be left up in low speed traffic or even used to wave at cute women behind you using a button to the left of the steering wheel. But as soon as the ignition is off, Mr. Carbon-Fibre douche indicator retreats back into his cubby hole. Boo.

Thursday-night car meet gurus will be excited to learn that the RC F has some interesting detail in the engine bay. Pop the bulbous hood and you’ll be delighted by the vivid blue intake tubing flashing out from behind the engine cover. I loved the metallic blue paint – Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony thought it was garish. “Pfft, that’s lame!” he grunted, throwing his Gryffindor scarf around his neck.

It’s hard for me to articulate what I love about this car so much – and people who buy it will have to contend with the BMW M4 owners chuckling because their rig is lighter and crisper. RC F owners will also have to deal with Audi RS 5 owners chuckling at their winter storage costs – and they’re right.

But for the faithful, the RC F provides the promise of Lexus reliability, excellent execution of fit and finish, a proper naturally aspirated V8 and more character than the brand has applied to any of its cars in the past decade – combined. It’s a party animal with just enough decorum to introduce to your in-laws, and the ability to ratchet up the aggro and go when you want to get on with some serious pace.

Despite its flaws, the Lexus RC F is a fantastic car that will make you want to never let it go. It will leave a tire-mark-ridden void in your life when it leaves. A void I filled with a tub of Costco sour key lollies.

4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

Audi RS 5
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Model Tested 2015 Lexus RC F
Base Price $81,650
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,995
Price as Tested $91,145
Optional Equipment
Performance Package (torque-vectoring differential, 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, carbon-fibre roof, carbon-fibre hood, carbon-fibre active rear spoiler) - $7,400.