2015 Lexus RC F Road Test

Can a Lexus Hang with the Big Boys?

The BMW M cars, Audi RS models and Mercedes-Benz AMG specials have all earned a prestigious place in the automotive world.

As many owners buy these cars for their badges and pedigree as they do for the performance. Lexus is trying hard to give the F line-up of cars the same status. For 2015 Lexus has introduced a new flagship F car, the RC F.

So it only made sense to head to the current mecca of automotive showmanship with the RC F – a Cars and Coffee event. As in vogue as craft beer, these weekly car shows are popping up in urban centers across America as places for adult gear-heads to meet in a setting that’s more mature than the local Home Depot parking lot.

Cars and Coffee

With wide body work, flared fenders, copious amounts of vents and Lexus’ trademark quad exhaust tip setup, the RC F has enough style to fit in with the dozens of high-end rides on display. Nestled on the front row amongst a 2014 Camaro Z/28, Lamborghini Diablo and a swarm of Porsche 911s, the RC F didn’t look out of place.

Measuring 185.2-inches in length, the new Lexus is longer than its key rivals, the M4 and the Audi RS 5. The overall look of the RC F may be a love-it-or-leave-it polarization, but one has to give Lexus credit for making the car distinct.

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Lexus impresses

As the morning rolled on, I was surprised at how much attention the RC F received. Part of this has to do with it being new and for many this was their first time laying eyes on one in the wild. Still, passersby knew exactly what the car was which proves Lexus has gotten word out about the RC F. I entertained quite a few questions about how fast is it, how it drives and how much it costs.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport Review

The owner of the Z/28 was particularly interested in the car, which makes sense since both are big, heavy, V8 powered coupes. He really liked the interior of the RC F and its luxurious, supportive seats. I’m in full agreement as the inside of the RC F is just as stylish as the outside and, unlike his Camaro, is finished in top quality materials.

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It looks heavy, is it?

As I strolled throughout the parking lot I noticed there was another RC F in attendance as well as a RC 350 F Sport. It appears the RC is garnering the respect of high-end sports coupe buyers. But one comment that kept coming up during the event was just how big and heavy the RC F looks.

Tipping the scales at 3,958 lbs., it’s no lightweight, but with a standard 5.0-liter V8 engine that makes 467 HP and 389 lb-ft. of torque, its power and weight does match up closely to another naturally aspirated V8-powered luxury coupe, the Audi RS 5. With a good deal more torque than the Audi, the Lexus splits the difference between the faster BMW M4 and the slower RS 5 in the 0-60 MPH sprint at a claimed 4.4 seconds.

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Where’s the manual?

Unlike those two German super-coupes, the RC F is not available with a manual transmission. The only way gears are controlled is through a conventional eight-speed automatic – much to the dismay of those I spoke with at Cars and Coffee.

2015-Lexus-RC-F-15One person said it was sacrilegious that Lexus would try to make a sports car that could only come with an automatic transmission. But honestly, the RC F is not a sports car; nor is the BMW M4 or the Audi RS 5. This type of car has morphed into a baby-grand touring class where, style, comfort and luxury are just as important as performance.

But as I defended the application of an automatic transmission in a car like this to a crowd of onlookers, it was hard to defend the transmission itself. Upshifts occur quickly enough, but downshifts take a long time, even in Sport+ mode with the steering wheel mounted paddles. It really hurts the car overall and a dual-clutch transmission would really elevate the RC F to the next level.

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How much power does it make?

With any sports coupe, power is always a hot topic of discussion. Many in attendance knew the RC F had a V8, but a lot thought it had much more power than it does.

The 5.0-liter may not make that much power (for it’s size), but it does have great linear throttle response and sounds mean at higher rpm. There is a noticeable lack of torque in the lower rev range though, much like the RS 5. With everything else going turbo, the lack of instant torque is a bit of a let-down. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a naturally aspirated V8, but it takes a lot of engine speed to really get the most out of it and the RC F is not a car that fits being driven around at 6,000 rpm all the time.

Like most modern performance coupes, the RC F has several drive modes. The most hard core is the Sport+ setting that makes the car louder and stiffens up the steering, amongst other things. I drove most of the time in Sport+ mode, using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to control the eight-speed automatic.

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How much does it cost?

The final question almost everyone asked after giving the RC F a good once over was “How much does it cost?” Beginning at $63,325 after destination charges, my test car came in at $79,740 as tested including options like the performance package. This package includes the torque vectoring differential (TVD) that replaces the standard Torsen rear differential.

How does it handle?

2015-Lexus-RC-F-04Oddly enough, not many were curious how well the RC F handled.

When corning, the TVD (torque vectoring differential) distributes power between the two rear-wheels to keep the car on its intended line. It can be cycled between, normal, slalom and track modes. In either of the latter two modes, it’s very noticeable in operation when taking freeway onramps at speed. It can be a bit unnerving at first if you’re trying to trail brake and induce some rotation by lifting off the throttle while the car is trying to do the same thing. This leads to a sensation at times that the car is going to veer off the road, even if it is not. One benefit of the TVD is the RC F loves to fishtail and slide at low speeds on command.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lexus RC F Review

The car corners better than expected or than it should for its hefty weight. Steering response is great, but feedback and feel is not. Although the car does what I want when I want, I don’t really know what’s going on with the front tires. The overall suspension set-up is a bit on the harsher side, a by-product of keeping nearly 4,000 lbs. from rolling around in the corners.

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The Verdict: 2015 Lexus RC F Road Test

If you’re looking for a Lexus sports car, you’ll be disappointed in the RC F. But if it’s a great Grand Tourer you’re after, the RC F fits the bill. It’s a great long distance hauler that combines luxury, style and comfort with above average performance.

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