Thursday 14 November 2019

Lapping it up: Lexus RC F hints at track performance

Blazing a trail: The RC F is the most powerful V8 made by Lexus
Blazing a trail: The RC F is the most powerful V8 made by Lexus
Lexus: Lots of gadgets, but some dials too small
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I was trying to explain bits about this Lexus RC F sports car to my daughter (and, if I'm honest, to myself) as we sat in on a bright April morning before heading to the country to mark a special day.

The curves, angles and crouch of a sports car were all big clues - not to mention that striking front grille.

Yet I was surprised at her well-informed preconception that because it was a Lexus it might incorporate a hybrid system in some way or other. Interesting association I thought.

But this is proof that not all cars bearing the Lexus name are petrol-sipping proponents of good and green. It is most definitely not a hybrid. It's a full-on petrol-gulping, ears-pinned-back 5-litre V8 sports car. Heck, it is even fitted with a lap timer so you can belt around Mondello. And, to be blunt about it, that is really what the most powerful V8 they have made deserves.

After a few kilometres of what felt like relatively mild driving on country road and motorway (with the acoustic backdrop of engineered engine and exhaust sound), my daughter needed to hear no more. No stranger to fast cars - she always books a front-seat spot for a spin when I have one - she 'got' the RC F. It's a high-octane Lexus sports car. No hybrid stuff here. Simple. And neither of us could believe we had covered so much ground so quickly.

I loved flicking between modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+) and was fascinated to feel the car's integrated systems control change the dynamics, tone, tune and temperament up and down the scale too.

The RC F was at its most engaging on subsequent drives when (daughter not present) I could sling this around twisty roads in the extreme end of performance mode. But I could only sniff its potential. Get this to a circuit and make use of that lap-timing facility because this needs to be really driven. I got as much from it as legally possible by switching the exceptional 8spd auto transmission to manual mode or by working the paddles on the steering wheel.

I may have only been scratching the surface but there can be a thrill too in pushing a car, feeling its grip, tension on bends, swiftness out of corners, and power on a short straight.

By the same token I drove for periods when it was no more than idling at 110kmh-120kmh.

I still think the Jaguar F-TYPE R has more immediate driver appeal; nothing compares with its sound. The Audi RS5 and BMW M4 have their attractions too.

It just takes a little bit longer to acquaint yourself with the RC F. It is a bit subtler in some ways. I put some of that down to its 'integrated' system looking after so much of the dynamics.

I liked it because it can be at once moderate and mad; if you couldn't get a thrill from this, there is something amiss.

But it's not all perfect. Even in its most comfortable mode, you really feel every bump; for some it was just too uncomfortable on poorer roads. I loved the immediacy.

And many of the dials are far too small, especially the one showing your speed. I was surprised and disappointed with that, though speed is digitally shown as well. Why bother with both?

You have to use a foot pedal to release or engage the handbrake. It's on other marques too. I do not like it at all, at all. Even an electronic one would have been better. I can see how they wouldn't want a normal one because it would have ruined the flow and balance of the central console that runs from dash to boot (there are two tiny rear seats for the toddlers by the way). I love the way that works, taking in storage, cup-holders, gear-shift, touch pad etc.

The touch pad is interesting. You can direct everything on the main innate clumsiness, I had no difficulty with it. The thing I liked was that despite the lightness of touch needed to get it to do something, it was reassuringly accurate in positioning.

The seats suited me too, especially the cool-air fanned ones on my test car. Plenty of adjustment and great support for thighs as well as lower lumbar. You need that in a car that can change direction quicker than a politician hunting for votes.

And I suppose that's where I enjoyed the car most, given the legal constraints of driving: how quickly the chassis and steering reacted to sudden demands and surges in power.

Cars like this change your attitude to, and preconceptions of, a marque. I left it wanting a bit more. But old habits die hard - and there will be a hybrid version later this year.'

Lexis RC F: the facts and figures

Lexus RC F 2dr Sports Coupe: 5-litre (4,969cc) V8 petrol, 477bhp, 0-100kmh 4.5 seconds, top speed 270kmh; 8spd, rear-wheel drive.

Standard equipment includes 19ins forged aluminium wheels, 10-speaker DAB audio system, eight airbags, Active Cruise Control, electric/folding/dimming mirrors, parking assists, retractable rear spoiler, 4.2ins information display, lap-timer, 7ins display screen operated by rotary dial/touch pad, steering wheel mounted controls, two USB ports, AUX socket, two-zone electronic climate control, 8-way adjustable front sports seats, paddle shift controls, sat nav, touch pad, Alcantara trim, front seats etc.

Premium spec adds: 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, heated/ventilated front seats etc.

Price from €106,950; Premium version: €114,950; Carbon version €118,950. Remember delivery/related charges extra.

My side of the road

It was lovely, and scary, to see a seven/eight-year-old boy grapple with a new, slightly-too-large, bicycle. Only it was on a foothpath. Beside a busy road. Captivated by the magic of self-propulsion, he was lost in his own world. Which meant he wasn't paying much attention to this one. There was no one with him.

I stopped my car as he slipped from pathway to road and back again. Several cars passed. One driver, going too fast, had to swerve a little. The boy got back on the pathway, pushing and pulling the bicycle with him and set off again.

That was just a simple minute of a young lad and his bike in comfortable suburbia. So why am I burdening you with it? Because I'm asking if you would let your child out like that? If anything happened who would carry the guilt for a lifetime? The driver, the parents? Yes. And me. For not getting out and asking him to cycle in a safer place. But where does one draw the line?

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