Think Lexus, and quality and efficiency come to mind but little emotion. So driving the high performance RC F coupe£ it was a shock I preferred it to the BMW M3/M4 which have rather lost their way as enthusiasts£€™ cars.
Powering the Lexus is a thunderous 470bhp 5-litre V8 while the BMW uses a 425bhp twin-turbo straight six-cylinder with artificially boosted engine sounds. Ultimate power isn£€™t the whole story and the BMW has more torque from lower revs and is five mpg more economical.
Lexus says it only considered a V8 and hybrid technology was rejected because it can£€™t operate at high enough levels in consistent track use. Honda clearly feels differently about its new NSX. The Lexus sends power to its rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential.
An extra cost torque-vectoring rear £€˜diff£€™ can send all the available torque to either rear wheel. The RC F is a computer on wheels with lots of menus to learn.
Eco, normal, sport S and sport S+ alter engine, transmission and power steering responses. There are another four modes for the stability control and three for the £€˜active diff£€™. No wonder tech dominated Grand Prix racing is getting duller by the week.
The instrument dials show different displays according to which driving mode is selected. Even after 700 miles I didn£€™t know all I wanted but Sport S+ with the £€˜diff£€™ set to standard seemed best for the road.
The RC F draws inspiration from Lexus£€™s LFA £350,000 hyper car. The chunky steering wheel is lovely to use but there have been media moans that the paddle change gearbox isn£€™t fast enough. The test car was fine; perhaps some software has been updated.
It takes confidence to discover the car£€™s dynamic abilities. even on an airfield runway. In normal the torque vectoring diff makes the car quite adjustable in corners while in slalom mode the back wants to slide and you can easily cremate your tyres.
Track mode delivers better grip but you can tell the RC F is a porky 193kg heavier than an M4. Even so, if you work the motor hard the RC F hits 62mph in just 4.5 seconds.£
I always used the gear change paddles because that£€™s how I like to drive and the auto hesitated and changed oddly at times. The RC F is docile around town and fast and alert when you are going for it, but below 4,000rpm much lesser machinery can get the drop on you.
But I loved that engine and its instant response when the revs were right in the same way I love Lamborghini engines compared to Ferrari turbocharged ones. So much noise and personality but you pay at the pumps. A late night run low on fuel saw 29.1mpg but the RC F averaged 23.2mpg.
You sit high for a sports coupe and I needed more steering column adjustment. The optional Mark Levinson audio system though was amazing. The car£€™s ride is lumpy and it feels better going quickly.
The front seats rather pinch your bum and ugly cup holders show the importance of the American market to Lexus. Engine start up is as raucously look-at-me as with a Ferrari. A long list of standard equipment and better second hand values than the M4 make the RC F a good buy for private buyers.
After a diet, with some careful tuning of the handling, the RC F would be a truly great car. The opposition is already tougher as BMW now offers the M4 with a competition pack of different springs, dampers and anti-roll bars to tame handling that was scary on the wrong surfaces.
Verdict Wonderful old school mixed with high tech