Lexus RCF Carbon offers a frenetic V8 engine, a howling exhaust note, distinctive styling and impressive comfort
What is it?
The Lexus RCF is a two-door V8 coupe that indirectly competes with the likes of the Mercedes-AMG C63, BMW M4 and Audi S5.
The F part of the name is important. Lexus has gone through a brand revitilisation in recent years, stepping away from its previous image of incredibly refined, luxurious and reliable cars that were a little boring, to a fully-fledged prestige and performance marque with intentions of competing with anything from Europe.
Lexus’ F division injects the Lexus range with an aggressive and sporty character and customers can choose virtually any Lexus in an F Sport specification level, but there are Lexus F models that turn things up to 11.
At present, only the Lexus RCF and GSF are available as dedicated F models, and both share the same V8 rear-wheel layout and they’re a far cry from the Lexus models of old, and they’re definitely a sign of things to come.
What’s it cost?
The Lexus RC grand tourer – Lexus stresses the RC is a grand tourer, not a sports car – can be had in a number of flavours. The range opens with the four-cylinder turbo RC200t Luxury which is priced from a mere $64,869 and stretches all the way to $158,548 for the RCF Carbon Edition tested here.
While the RCF Carbon is by no means cheap, you do get quite a lot gear for your money. There’s a carbon fibre bonnet, a carbon fibre roof, an adjustable carbon rear spoiler, carbon interior trim, a torque vectoring system (TVC), various different drive modes, performance brakes, a huge digital speedo, adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, satellite navigation, an epic Mark Levinson stereo and heated and cooled racing-style seats.
What’s it go like?
The RCF’s 5.0 litre V8 is an interesting. Maximum power is 351kW, with maximum torque being 530Nm. These are unquestionably mighty numbers, until you realise that maximum power doesn’t come on song until a dizzying 7100rpm, and max torque isn’t produced until the tacho is swinging between 4800-5600rpm.
In the real world, this means the engine feels a little flaccid and lethargic a low revs, there’s none of the bottom end grunt you’d expect from a big V8. The exhaust note is similarly underwhelming, being nothing more than a muted rumble.
However, hit the open road and head towards your favourite ribbon of twisty tarmac, and flick the RCF into Sport + mode and the RCF changes its tune, literally. Sport + mode makes the whole package feel tighter, more aggressive; more willing. Plant that throttle towards the thick, plush carpet and once that digital tacho needle swings past the 3,500rpm mark the V8 angrily erupts, into a frantic, wailing beast. It is then you are pushed firmly into those grippy race seats and a grin slowly begins to spread across your face. At this point, the dozy, almost sluggish V8 that was pulling you along through a town centre is largely forgotten.
The RCF’s official 0-100km/h time is a solid 4.5 seconds, not neck-snapping, but it’s certainly quick for a GT car.
Lexus says the RCF Carbon can average 10.9 litres on a combined cycle, but we found 12.5 to be more realistic.
As aforementioned, the RCF Carbon is fitted with a complex bit of technology called Torque Vectoring Control (TVC). TVC offers a number of different modes, which include Slalom and Track. In short, TVC tinkers with the traction control and driver aids to adjust the car’s behavior.
Drivers who are expecting the RCF Carbon to be a razor sharp track attack tool will be disappointed. It’s a bit of a fatty at 1860kg – even with all that carbon fibre, and it that lard can certainly be felt in corners. A Toyota 86 – a car which I absolutely adore – offers greater poise, feedback and dynamism. But’s it’s a lot lighter.
The RCF Carbon’s turn in is fine, as is steering feedback and a quick blast through the Black Spur proved rewarding, if a little remote. And that’s the thing, it’s good, but not involving. You get the sense that the RCF is designed for weekend blasts as opposed to time attacks on race circuits, even if it does have a lap timer and G-force meter.
A positive trade-off is ride comfort. It’s by no means magic carpet, but it won’t pound your bones to dust either.
What we like:
- V8’s spine tingling exhaust note
- Driver assistance technology
- Angular, distinctive styling
- Snug, ensconcing cabin. The front passengers really feel like they sit in a cockpit, and the seats are wonderfully supportive
- Wow factor
What we don’t:
- Engine’s silly powerband
- Dated infotainment system with silly touchpad controller. Lexus seems to be completely against in car touchscreens – we can’t fathom why, everyone else offers them – instead, the RCF has a touchpad that isn’t too dissimilar to the mouse on your laptop. It’s fiddly, and hard to use on the move.
- Cabin space. Head room is tight, even up front, and those rear seats are only for occasional use, with minimal space all round
- Some Toyota switchgear sprinkled around the cabin taints the premium ambience
Sale or no sale?
Yes. But you need to understand the RCF for what it is, a hot-tempered cruiser, rather than a track day weapon.