Text by: John Kim
Photography by: Jose Tutiven
Produced by: Dan Hwang
Denoting the brand’s high-performance division of luxury vehicles, the Lexus F designation delivers “refinement with a razor-sharp edge.” More prosaically, the “F” stands for Fuji Speedway, Japan’s FIA-certified Grade-1 racetrack, representing the primary testing site for Lexus prototypes. It’s where the most recent bearer of the Lexus F marque -- the Lexus RC F -- was originally put through its paces.
The goal was a track-ready car for any driver, accessible to all skill levels. - Yukihiko Naguchi, Lexus Chief Engineer
We recently got up close and personal with the 2015 Lexus RC F in Brooklyn, and we were impressed by its bold design language and the throaty roar of its 467 hp V8. Both will set it apart as it takes on its German counterparts.
The RC F represents the first attempt by Lexus to re-enter the sports coupe segment in over a decade. It’s also the newest and last remaining F model standing, as both the LFA and IS F sedan have completed their productions runs. Consequently, the RC F is now the performance flagship that sets the tone for the entire brand. According to Brian Smith, vice president of Lexus marketing, the RC F is the type of niche product that acts as a “brand amplifier,” one that highlights the automaker’s “engineering, design, and performance-car building prowess.”
The 2015 RC F shares the same architecture as its RC 350 sibling, featuring a platform that borrows elements from the GS sedan (front suspension) and compact IS sedan (rear suspension), as well as the IS C convertible (the stiff center portion). The similarities between the two vehicles start -- and promptly come to a close -- there. The most obvious demarcation point occurs below the hood: the RC F 350 has a 3.5-liter V-6 , while the RC F boasts a thundering and naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 block, borrowed from the IS F sedan. The addition of new cylinder heads, forged connecting rods, titanium valves and a narrower cross section result in class-leading 467 horsepower, 389 pound-feet of torque and a 7,300 rpm redline. The car bolts to 60 mph in a scant 4.3 seconds, ultimately reaching a top speed of 170 mph.
The eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters -- also a carryover from the IS F -- has been critically praised as the best conventional torque-converter automatic to date. It’s also perfectly suited to handle the forceful V8. Switch over to Sport mode on the console’s oversize rotary dial and the transmission harnesses a bit of AI, measuring g-forces to decide when a shift is necessary.
The 2015 Lexus RC F is made to accommodate and complement the driver, especially when the road underneath starts to twist and turn. Much of the car’s responsiveness owes to an adaptive suspension, consisting of a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear setup, as well as an optional torque vectoring differential. The TVD comprises two small electric motors, two multi-plate clutches and a set of planetary gears for each driveshaft. The technology allows for adjustments every thousandth of a second, intelligently distributing power to each rear wheel based on one of three possible modes -- Normal, Slalom and Track. As you’d guess, Slalom is optimized for quick steering response, Track for high-speed circuit driving.
In short, the RC F is engineered to kick butt. Its distinctive exterior design reflects that attitude. Previously, a quick round of word association invoked by the name “Lexus” might have elicited adjectives like “luxurious” and “refined.” Maybe even “sedate.” That all changes with the exterior design of the RC F, featuring a wider and lower stance, crisp lines and a front fascia showcasing the most aggressive iteration yet of the Lexus spindle grille. The grille itself is flanked by two huge vents, and then there the curved headlamps, quad tailpipes stacked at a 45-degree angle, 19-inch 20-spoke wheels, an active rear spoiler that deploys at 50 mph and chrome accents throughout. Polarizing? Maybe, but the farthest thing from sedate, and guaranteed to elicit emotion, if not second looks.
Inside the cabin, the look and feel are more reminiscent of classic Lexus tradition. The layout combines luxury and technology with premium details, such as chronograph style digital gauges seemingly borrowed from the LFA, dominated by a large center tachometer that changes color based on the selected drive mode. The thick-grip steering wheel is wrapped in perforated leather, and the cocooning sport seats feature “integrated foaming” construction, in which the upholstery and interior foam are molded together for a taut fitting seat with trim material that stay fixed. The standard audio system has 10 speakers in total, but there’s an optional Mark Levinson 17-speaker setup.
The base MSRP for the RC F is $62,400, which means it’s cheaper than its main rivals – i.e., the BMW M4 and Audi RS5 – by up to $7,000. Aside from the sticker price, it’s obvious that Lexus maintains a sports coupe strategy that differs from its competitors. It’s highlighted by a fidelity to the luxury built into the brand name, while also delivering real-world performance for a car that’s simply fun to drive. In the words of Lexus chief engineer Yukihiko Naguchi, “The goal was a track-ready car for any driver, accessible to all skill levels.” He adds, “We wanted a car that can captivate experienced enthusiasts and create new ones from novice drivers.”
For more on the 2015 Lexus RC F: www.lexus.com/models/RCF
Speed-activated rear wing - The rear wing is triggered at speeds above 50 mph and delivers greater aerodynamics by increasing downforce. Also enabled through manual activation, the wing seamlessly integrates into the trunk lid when not in use
Brembo braking system - Huge slotted 14.9-inch brake rotors clamped by massive six-piston monoblock calipers in the front, and 13.5-inch slotted rotors with four-piston calipers at the back
L-shaped LED taillamps - They illuminate faster than conventional bulbs while consuming less energy
Functional cooling ducts - Aerodynamic ducts channel cooling air to the front brakes, the transmission oil cooler and the engine oil cooler
Full-LED headlamps - Eye-catching L shaped headlamps feature an all-new three-projector design and LED side turn signals
Naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 engine - The engine delivers 467 horsepower with greater efficiency, thanks to innovative components that include lightweight titanium valves paired with high-strength, forged connecting rods
Dynamic gauge cluster - The full-color LCD multi-information display within the gauge cluster offers performance data at a glance, including drive mode, gear position and odometer information
Race ready cockpit - The cockpit is engineered to form an unprecedented connection with the driver, from the positioning of the sport seats to the design of the racing pedals
High-back sport seats - The exclusive low-set sport seats feature a unique foam construction that disperses body pressure, increases support and helps to keep the driver firmly planted through turns
Carbon-fiber trim - Available dark carbon-fiber interior trim adds to the premium feel
Thick-grip sport steering wheel - To keep focus on the road, the steering wheel features intuitively placed controls including audio, voice activation, multi-information display, available Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and paddle shifters
Driving Modes - Drive Mode Select enables more responsive or efficient driving with a simple turn of the switch
Remote Touch Interface touchpad - Use pinch, swipe and flick gestures to access multimedia, climate control and more
Push-button ignition - Accessible through theSmartAccess keyfob that also unlocks the door from simply touching the front door handle
Lexus Enform Safety Connect - 24-hour assistance that can be sent directly to your vehicle's GPS location