Like most of its chief competitors, the Lexus RC F does not offer a manual transmission. Instead, Lexus mates its stout 467-horsepower, V-8 engine to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. No three-pedal workout is available, but you can control the shift points with the auto stick or by means of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Introduced for the 2015 model year, the rear-wheel drive Lexus RC is composed of RC 350 and RC F editions. Both coupes are based on the IS sedan platform. Auto Trends reviewed the RC 350 earlier this year; that review can be found here.
The Lexus RC F is a 2+2 sport coupe with a mostly useless back seat. If you can maneuver a car seat and position it on the rear seat, then you can bring your baby with you. However, a toddler sitting on a booster seat just might whine and complain about the lack of legroom. Never mind the crying and gnashing of teeth rejoinders from anyone larger than a tot.
Read “F” as in RC F and that means you’re taking in Lexus’ performance brand. “F” to Lexus is what “M” is to BMW, what “AMG” is to Mercedes-Benz, and what “RS” is to Audi. It is also the performance equivalent of the “V-Series” to Cadillac. But don’t ever confuse “F” with “F Sport” as the latter Lexus appellation is all about the looks, but not the performance. By the way, the “F” stands for Fuji Speedway where Lexus conducts its testing.
The luxury sport coupe class is what owners of the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang might consider when they want the ultimate combination of luxury and performance. Still, all three American mainstream brands can usually excel on the straightaway with the Europeans holding the advantage in handling.
In the Lexus RC F this sport coupe delivers a truly aggressive persona. Chiseled lines, deep scallops, a rakish profile and a dynamic rear fascia amplify this model. The front fascia is dominated by Lexus’ now common spindle grille or hourglass design, offset by sinister headlamps and swoosh daytime running lights. Got Nike?
Some other stand out features on this model include a hood scoop, cooling ducts, an active rear wing, and distinctive stacked tail pipes. Each model is outfitted with 19-inch forged aluminum wheels. Notably, the tire sizes are 255/35R19 in the front and 275/35R19 to the rear.
2015 Lexus RC F
Slide behind the steering wheel and you’ll immediately be enveloped in a comfortable, highly supportive sport seat. Indeed, Lexus says they employed special integrated foam construction to ensure that the seat conforms to a person’s body. Not only does it deliver customized support for each person, but it eradicates wrinkles and prevents cover slippage common to such seats.
The rear seat is fixed in place, but it includes a pass through to the trunk for your skis, golf clubs and other long items. Certainly, the extra room is beneficial, as the trunk offers just 10.1 cubic feet of storage space.
An electronic tilt and telescopic steering column moves into place when you start the car. The three-spoke steering wheel is small and raised, similar to what you would find in a race car. Finger rests, thick padding and oversized paddle shifters are notable features here.
The instrument panel offers an unusual design with an oversized analog tachometer centered within. To the left is the digital driver’s information center. To the right is an analog speedometer. A sport instrument hood covered in felt-like stitched material tops the panel.
The top of the dashboard is even, but just below that the lines are interrupted as the instrument hood gives way to the center stack. The color display resides at the top of the stack and occupies a recessed compartment. Operation of the screen is by means of a control pad located just below the transmission shifter. That pad works much like a mouse. Some may find it distracting, but I’ve gotten used to it and have learned how best to keep my eyes on the road by making darting glances as I harmonize the cursor with the intended command.
Below the color display are vents with an analog clock centered between them. Climate control switches, a CD player, and a micro SD card for controlling the navigation system are below that. Seat warming and cooling switches, the transmission stick and Lexus’ “vehicle dynamic integrated management” (VDIM) system follow. The armrest doubles as a deep storage compartment with two USB ports, an auxiliary input port and a 12-volt outlet present.
VDIM allows the driver to choose one of four drive modes: normal, eco, sport and sport+ (S+) modes. Choose S+ and you’ll enjoy the best of the driving attributes offered by this model. S+ automatically turns on the active sound control (ASC) system, what retunes the exhaust, intake and mechanical sounds inside the vehicle. In effect it transforms a rather sedate coupe into a sound beast, with notes heretofore muted now allowed to blast forth. Take note of the transmutation from low and deep tones under 3,000 RPM to vigorous bellowing notes as the tachometer passes 6,000 RPM.
Switch the gear shifter to “M” for the manual and the coupe’s behavior immediately changes. You get eight forward gears to work with and full torque-converter lockup is apparent from the second gear on. Rapid up shifts are possible and the transmission’s throttle blipping control matches the engine speed with each gear.
The RC F’s start/stop button is at the two o’clock position to the right of the steering wheel where the instrument hood intersects with the center stack. Press the aluminum-pedaled brake and the start button and the RC F comes to life. No huge roar from the exhaust, but enough of a welcoming note to say that this is no ordinary RC.
So what exactly gives the RC F the kick you desire? Well, the engine of course. But the experience is immediately tempered by a lack of a manual transmission, a deficiency found in competing Mercedes-Benz and Audi models, but not in the BMW M4. And as of 2016, not in the Jaguar F-TYPE.
I do realize that the take rate on such transmissions is much smaller these days, but to be taken seriously in this business, you need to offer one. The German makes have years of lead time on Lexus when it comes to performance cars and AMG shoppers may be more willing to forgive Mercedes-Benz for that slight even if they remain deeply disappointed just the same. Lexus needs the added credential and offering a slush box only is a problem waiting for a remedy.
Yet, the RC F performs admirably and is up to the task. Lexus says the luxury coupe can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds and that’s a noteworthy number. The naturally aspirated V-8 delivers ample punch when you need it, what should satisfy the majority of people.
On the straightaway, the RC F rockets and delivers an excellent kick when passing on the highway. You’ll hit 90 mph without much effort and that’s a danger when Smokey is on the hunt to fill his monthly ticket quota.
Take the RC F on curvilinear roads and you will see what this luxury coupe is made of. On the one hand, you won’t be thrown out of your seat. On the other hand, this Lexus handles every twist and turn with precision. And you won’t have to fight with the steering wheel to maintain control.
Power through the curves seems to fall just short, coming in below Lexus’ competitors. You can’t help but feel that this model’s two-ton weight presents a disadvantage, although body roll and turn ins are not the issue. Push the steering to the limits and the system pushes you back, unless you disengage traction control and operate the RC F in S+ mode. Make no mistake about it: the safety overrides are at the ready and for the driving enthusiast they subtract vigor.
Lexus quality, including fit and finish, the materials used and the layout are beyond reproach. The RC F is a masterpiece, as the interior is exquisite with carbon fiber, leather and soft touch materials used throughout the cabin. The price is competitive and the long-term value of the RC F is also something to consider.
2015 Lexus RC F photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.
See Also — Luxury Performance Sedan: Lexus GS F