But that hasn’t stopped them venturing again into the high performance V8 petrol engined, rear wheel drive, 2+2 coupe market again with their RC F race-bred road and track-day car and there are more versions to come.
Priced at £59,995 for the RC F and £67,995 for the RC F Carbon it has a normally aspirated petrol V8, 5.0-litre, 471bhp and 530Nm of torque engine up front with drive to the rear wheels. As standard it has an eight-speed Sports Direct Shift automatic transmission with five selectable modes, a limited slip rear differential and the chassis has additional states of performance adjustments with Sport and Expert modes. There is also a Torque-Vectoring Differential option for an extra £3,500 but that is fitted as standard for the Carbon derivative.
The RC F combines everyday use with considerable track-day capabilities and it provides the basis of the RC F GT3, 533bhp race car available worldwide for GT3 series racing. The F designation stands for Fuji Speedway, the international race circuit where Lexus carries out much of its high-speed development work. Lexus sees their F models as the sporting pinnacles of the brand.
And there is more news on that front because Lexus has just announced they will extend the range early next year with the RC 300h with a 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine and hybrid function priced from £34,995. They will also introduce the RC 200t which has a 2.0-litre 241bhp turbocharged petrol engine with prices starting from £36,495.
Lexus in the UK said “It is important to us that ‘F’ cars remain a distinctive and exclusive choice for our customers, consequently our volume aspiration for RC F is around 200 units a year. Sales are in line with our expectations. The additional RC 300h and RC 200t will enable us to compete in the heart of the volume premium coupe segment for the first time. Therefore our sales aspirations are naturally significantly higher than for RC F.”
The RC F might be race-bred but it is designed to meet the skill-levels of road-going motoring enthusiasts. The on-board electronics can be adjusted by the driver to provide the performance and handling characteristics they are happy and safe with.
Although enthusiastic drivers will be the end-users, as the RC F is a 2+2 coupe it has the ability to meet family requirements in terms of seating. It sits between a conventional two door four seater coupe such as the Audi RS5 4.2-litre V8 and a pure two seater coupe such as the Jaguar F-Type 3.0-litre V6 or 5.0-litre V8. Perhaps its closest rival is the roomier BMW M4 3.0-litre V6 Coupe and other coupes from Mercedes AMG and Porsche should also be considered.
With most major manufacturers opting for forced induction turbo petrol engines mostly now with less than eight cylinders, the V8 normally aspirated petrol engine used in the RC F bucks that trend. This configuration no doubt appeals to markets such as the USA and Arab States where bigger is better with no qualms about fuel economy. The new V8 Lexus unit is the most powerful the brand has ever produced for a road car. Given Lexus current use of hybrid technology it was logical that sooner or later this element would be used within the powertrain hence the soon to arrive RC 300h.
In the RC F the muscular V8 unit with its DOHC configuration operating 32 valves and variable valve timing, supplies lots of power and torque and it is not prohibitively a gas-guzzler. It is high-revving with 471bhp developed at 7,100rpm and 530Nm from 4,800rpm which propels the coupe to an electronically limited top speed of 168mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is just 4.5-seconds. When it comes to fuel economy officially in the Combined Cycle the figure is 26.2mpg and CO2 emissions are 252g/km so VED road tax is £870 for the First Year rate and that reduces to £490 for subsequent years. Business executives using one as a company car will pay out the highest rate of 37% Benefit-in-Kind tax which equates to £728 a month for a 40% tax payer. Insurance is Group 48 or 50 for the Carbon version.
In real-life driving on congested and speed restricted UK roads where the opportunity for hard acceleration is very limited, the ECO setting can be used most of the time and in that mode my test driving with several motorway journeys returned and impressive 29.4mpg. Moving away from that setting the figure was 26.7mpg and around town it got as low as 22mpg.
Even driving it in ECO mode there was enough pick-up response to overtake slower traffic very quickly and whilst cruising on motorways at the legal maximum speed there was enough torque and flexibility from the engine to maintain that speed at low rpm so saving on fuel. When called up the eight-speed auto box provided smooth and seamless changes up and down the ratios although it wasn’t the fastest to change to a lower gear when instant power was asked for.
The RC F has numerous modes that can be selected using a rotary controller ranging from ECO to Sport S/S+ and a Snow mode has a separate button. Drive is to the rear vehicles with a Torsion limited slip differential as standard. Lexus also offers a £3,500 optional Torque Vectoring Differential which is capable of sending up to 100% of available torque to either of the rear wheels so that could be a must-have for track-day enthusiasts but for road use only – save your money. There are even more modes to choose from with the VDIM function – short for Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, where the driver can adjust the stability control systems to suit their skills. These modes are; Normal where the car does the thinking, Sport which gives the driver priority, Off where there is no handling support – it’s all down to you, and Expert which is similar to Off but with an extra layer of support if you get too enthusiastic.
In terms of handling with all the adjustments available to the driver there is a combination of settings to suit most driving styles and occasions. The steering is well weighted but lacked ‘feel’ and the suspension was always on the firm side but given its high performance that was to be expected. Overall the RC F didn’t feel agile enough, fast yes, nimble no.
All the power and technology is all wrapped within a boldly styled, two door coupe body. At the front is an aggressively styled huge grille leading down to the front ‘splitter’. This is flanked by sleek adaptive LED headlights which are cooled by independent fans. Below them are huge cooling ducts for the engine bay and brakes. Behind the wheelarches front and rear are distinctive vertical air vents to speed up airflow and to aid stability. Two wide opening doors give reasonable access to front occupants but with limited headroom through the door frames. Access to the rear seats is a bit more difficult but fortunately the electrically adjusted front seats slide forward automatically to speed up the rear seat loading process. At either side of the rear are diagonally positioned twin tailpipes and there is a pop-up bootlid mounted spoiler. This rises at 50mph and lowers when the speed drops to 25mph. In ECO mode it remains in the down position until 81mph is reached.
Inside it is good and not so good. The door trims and seats are really nicely shaped and beautifully finished as is the centre console and the instrument binnacle. But the fascia panel is a bit of a disjointed design with no flow of styling lines apart from the top edge. The multimedia and sat-nav 7.0-inch screen is mounted too far away from the driver and this is operated by a touchpad positioned in the centre console between the seats. Operation of the touchpad is tricky and very touch-sensitive and not easy to use if you are right-handed.
The RC F and its future RC versions are important additions to the Lexus range. They should energises the brand’s current conservative image of supplying well crafted quality saloon and SUV models with fuel efficient hybrid technology.
MILESTONES: Lexus RC F V8 2+2 Coupe. Price: £59,995. Engine/transmission: High revving 5.0-litre, V8, normally aspirated petrol, 8-speed automatic sports transmission and rear wheel drive, 471bhp, 530Nm of torque from 4,800rpm. Performance: 168mph (electronically limited), 0-62mph 4.5-seconds, Combined Cycle 26.2mpg (26.7mpg on test), CO2 252g/km, VED road tax £870 First Year rate then £490 thereafter, BIK company car tax 37%. Insurance group: 48. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,705mm, W 1,845mm, H 1,390mm, 2+2 seating, boot 366-litres. For: Big sporting coupe image with lots of kerb appeal, fast road or track use, high specification in terms of variable driving modes, well equipped, effortless high speed cruiser, reasonable cruising speed fuel economy, V8 engine soundtrack. Against: Lacks agility and handling finesse, haphazard design of the fascia panel and switchgear, fiddly touchpad operation of the multimedia system. Miles Better News agency