Ride Review: 2017 Lexus RC F

2017 Lexus-feature

2017 Lexus RC F

I get plenty of questions from you.

It is not all consumer advice questions you ask. You sometimes ask of which vehicle you should send down on Hennepin Avenue during Pride.

Two common ones happen to be centered on picking a personal favorite or the proverbial “if I had the money, what would I buy” question. Not that I avoid such questions, but it does play counter to some ethical and editorial standards.

However, I will make an exception this time. It is because I never actually had the chance to indulge in talking about a favorite car.

Since you were nice in asking, I shall answer…

There is one car that does stand out above a lot I have driven and worked with extensively. It is one that I have put on a track—which speaks volumes about this car. It is also a car that I found that is balanced with a high-performance engine and a design that evokes memory and emotion. It is a car I simply love driving—period.

What is that “favorite” car? It is the Lexus RC F.

You’ve never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It is a performance machine that rarely is discussed in the same Eurocentric circles of Porsche, Ferrari, and so forth. Nor is it included in any muscle car discussion, either.

Maybe my (re-)examination of the Lexus RC F could spark a conversation here.

First off, it is the high-performance version of Lexus’ sports coupe, the RC. The RC alone is a compelling coupe aimed at the likes of the BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, Cadillac ATS Coupe, and Infiniti Q60, to name a few. Which means it has a balanced fastback design with its proportioned hood-to-roof line look, punctuated up front with a more prominent and highly functional version of the brand’s Spindle Grille.

Out back is a trunk lid, instead of a hatchback. This makes it a proper coupe if you ask any enthusiast. There is a retractable rear spoiler on the trunk lid that can be automatically actuated based on speed and brake force. All around the RC F are functional scoops and vents directing additional airflow through the RC F for better cooling of the engine and the brakes. The hood has a “power dome” to fit the big power plant underneath it.

My tester came with a package that included a carbon fiber finished roof and retractable rear wing. I also got the handsome 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, wearing Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. All of this worked extremely well with the Infrared primary color.

Lexus cabins are designed to cross function with form. The driver gets settled into a cockpit with a customizable instrumentation cluster which its main dial slides over for a second screen with more information. The infotainment screen is up high above the center stack, loaded with audio and climate control functions. The flat-bottomed steering wheel offers switches for audio, instrumentation screen functions, and cruise control. A touchpad is used to control the infotainment screen, not unlike a laptop’s trackpad. Of course, there is the Drive Mode knob; perhaps the most important piece of the RC’s puzzle. There will be more on what that knob does later.

If you have ever raced a car, you may be familiar with the kind of seating that is in the RC F. High-back buckets are thinly constructed, yet upholstered with a nice set of hides. The bolstering is thick and deep, yet compliant for thicker bodies like mine. You do not seek comfort behind the wheel in an RC F—you need to be locked in and be at full attention when piloting this beast. Headrests are given extra cushioning for better anti-whiplash protection.

The large single-dial instrument binnacle is familiar to those of us who regularly drive the F-Sport versions of a few Lexuses. In the RC F, the same dial is stationary with the TFT tachometer reading for transmission position and speed. There is another dial to the right, a speedometer. It is small, which makes looking at the center dial a better option. To the left is a TFT information screen with all of the vehicle information necessary to make for competent piloting of the RC F. Gauges are TFT readouts and there are two small indicators for the Drive Mode and the available Torque Vectoring Differential.

The rest of the interior is mainly from the RC. That is unless you look at the carbon fiber trim, the blue stitching, and the F badge on the lower part of the steering wheel. A Mark Levinson audio system is available to add to the soundtrack that is provided by the four-port exhaust system in the back.

When driving a car such as the Lexus RC F, practicality is not one of the things that come to mind. But, you can take enough luggage for a weekend away at Brainerd or Road America…or, to a romantic getaway somewhere…and stow it in its 10.4-cubic foot trunk.

That huge power dome up front has something lurking underneath it. It is a 5.0-liter V8 with 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic sends power to the back…the only configuration available on the RC F. For better gear selection control, there are paddle shifters; one of two ways to work the gears. The other would be to throw the gear lever to the left and shift between the gears that way.

If we have to talk about fuel economy, I averaged 19.4 MPG. Just a little over the average stated on the sticker.

I mentioned the Drive Mode knob and the Torque Vectoring Differential button on the console. Lexus drivers know about this knob, but I need to make a point here. Eco is not a setting you want to put the RC F in. Normal is fine enough. Even better, you need to flip the knob to the right twice for Sport S+. Sport S+ is where the RC F needs to be with a combination of aggressive shift points, a heavier steering feel, and firmer dampers. The TVD button has three settings to work with: Standard, Slalom, and Track. If you are just carving up a windy road, keep it in Standard. You could put it into Slalom, but it might think you’re looking for an autocross course. However, I would save Track mode for the oft time you will find yourself on some motorsports venue.

Driving the RC F is not for the meek. You have to be able to manage a 467-horsepower, rear-wheel drive 3,958-pound beast. But, honestly, it is rather easy to do. There is nothing complicated in setting up the car for what you want it to do. It takes a button, a knob, two pedals, a gear lever, and/or a pair of paddle shifters. Adjustments are made on the fly, but I would consider setting up the Drive Mode and TVD before you do something more involved, such as a track day.

One thing you will notice in the RC F is its sure-footedness. Even in Normal mode, the RC F responds to quick maneuvers to avoid getting into trouble. The steering setup is quick and precise. Wheel feel and reaction is good, even better in Sport S+.

One thing you will have to give up in the RC F is complete serenity. This is not exactly a quiet cruiser. The RC F sounds and feels as if it is always ready to go. I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I absolutely love it!

Stopping power is good. Brembo supplies the stopping power with six-piston calipers on a 14.9-inch vented set of front discs. The vented rear discs measure out to 13.5 inches with four-piston Brembo calipers making the stops. Big rotors mean big power on stops. Normal and panic stops are done with full power from the master cylinder onto to the Brembo calipers.

The RC F starts with a base price of $62,400. This fully loaded tester came with a sticker price of $80,839.

There is a question that remains to be answered: is this still my favorite car? I can confirm that the Lexus RC F is indeed one of the finest pleasures in driving ever. To say it is a “favorite” is still considered unprofessional in my business, let alone showing bias and skirting on ethical hot water. But…in this case…the RC F remains a car I love driving no matter the condition and setting.

Let me turn the tables here. Should the Lexus RC F be your favorite car? If you want a premium high-performance sports coupe with fine driving manners and controlled dramatics…then, maybe it should be your favorite car.

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