All-new Lexus RC F is a 21st-century Toyota Supra

When giving up a little performance returns a lot of comfort

Published: October 06, 2014 03:30 PM

Effectively replacing the Lexus IS convertible as the two-door companion to the IS sedan, the RC coupe combines power, luxury, and refinement. Then the F kicks it up a notch, falling somewhere between hardcore sports car and grand touring coupe. The resulting machine had several members of our team uttering the words “modern Toyota Supra” under their breath.

The RC F carries an aggressive expression of Lexus’ latest exterior design theme, and it ensures the driver receives a fair amount of attention behind the wheel. Or perhaps it was the screaming orange paint on our borrowed example.

For some, the extroverted appearance might be too much; it makes a car like the BMW M4 look staid by comparison. And if you are in the market for either vehicle, receiving attention is expected and possibly a motivational factor. But with a large V8 and raucous styling, the RC F also targets the likes of the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. So where does the Lexus fit among these performance icons?

We’re pleased to say that the RC F is not the 10/10ths performance machine that we know the 911 and Corvette to be. What Lexus has brilliantly done is create a car that gives up just a little performance and gets back enough comfort to make the RC F a far better daily driver than other more dedicated sports cars.

That is not to say the RC F isn’t a monster when you want it to be. The naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 makes 467 horsepower—12 more hp than a Corvette Stingray and 67 more hp than a 911 Carrera S. The V8 is mated to an eight-speed direct-shift gearbox and sent to the rear wheels through an advanced torque-vectoring differential that has three modes (Standard, Slalom, and Track).

Research the other new Lexus at our track, the 2015 NX.

An expert driver may be able to tell the difference in the modes, but we think the fancy diff will not get used nearly as much as the drive mode selector. Situated to the upper right of the shifter, it features Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ modes, each with its own unique throttle response and shifting algorithm. The different modes are emphasized by varying gauge cluster themes that change with the selection. The changing display is novel at first, but it could become a distraction after a while.

The cabin is far more welcoming than most sports cars'. The passenger footwell is quite deep, and the dash is far enough forward that the passenger seat can slide to allow a shorter adult to sit in the backseat. The seat behind the driver is good for storing small items, which is helpful considering the center console storage is not very deep. Thankfully, the trunk has a surprising amount of room; it will hold several bags for a weekend journey.

The center stack is home to the Remote Touch controller, which, unfortunately, is a regression of the technology. Previous incarnations of the infotainment controller at least had some good old-fashioned redundant buttons. Too many system controls are baked into this touchpad cursor setup. Is it too much to ask luxury automakers for a simple touch-screen navigation system?

Thankfully, driving the RC F will make you forget about most of that. The steering is firm and direct, but it feels appropriately light when getting around the parking lot. The engine also remains calm at low speeds, but open it up on a highway on-ramp or back road, and the 5.0-liter V8 simply roars. Once you push past 2,800 rpm, the exhaust note becomes pronounced and so will your grin. The weight-balance makes the car feel a touch nose heavy, contributing to the handling feeling less sharp than the BMW M4's.

On highways, the RC F has a tolerable ride that soaks up potholes well for a sports car, while being ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. When in Normal mode, you have to really encourage the RC F to make a move, so best to click it into Sport when passing. Ultimately, you’ll be using these modes to get around town more than any owner will ever use them on the track.

Most M4, Corvette, or 911 owners seldom push their cars to their limits. In fact, many of those owners would probably love a more comfortable ride in exchange for just a smidge less performance. Therein lies the brilliance of the RC F. It delivers what most sports car owners want: a head-turning car that can hang with the best. And though it might not outgun a Corvette on the track, the RC F is a much more realistic sports car for daily use.

—George Kennedy

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