A vehicle that many car enthusiasts have been anticipating hitting the streets has finally arrived. The new 2015 Lexus RC-F is now available at your nearest Lexus dealership. This is not a vehicle that you see everyday; many have only seen it in auto shows. I was lucky to have the opportunity to get some time with the car, and it did not disappoint.
Due to the weather here in Chicago, I knew I might be limited on how I would be able to review it and give it my honest opinion. Once I knew when I would receive it, I checked the weather to plan and maximize the driving time over the two days. I also had to consider how it might handle a frantic trip through the city as I received the car when my wife and I were just a few days from the expected arrival of our second son. As it turns out, we were able to test the car on the way to the hospital the morning of his birth.
Once the car arrived, I was floored. I had seen it several times at various auto shows, but seeing it on everyday streets was completely different. It was like seeing the focal point of a black and white photograph in vivid color. The car was an instant head turner, which was something I noticed repeatedly as I drove throughout Chicago.
In doing the walk around, I was drawn to the massive front grill and sleek headlights with the LED L shape driving lights right below them. I also noticed the extra vents on the hood and side fenders. I wondered why it wasn’t equipped with fog lights, but I then realized the area that they would have gone was fitted with a transmission oil cooler and an engine oil cooler. Not a big deal because it looked like the headlights would produce enough lighting…I’m just a fog light guy. I really liked how low and aggressive the vehicle stance was. The back of the car had its traditional quad exhaust, and I really liked how they tapered the tail lights into the rear fender. Though a sporty two-door, the car wasn’t small by all means. In fact, it’s actually an inch longer and wider than the IS, with a shorter wheelbase by just under three inches.
This vehicle is pretty much made up of 3 vehicles, as elements of the IS, GS and ISC all contributed to the design of the RC-F. It’s powered by a V8 5.0L 32 valve engine producing 467hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. This vehicle certainly doesn’t lack in power. With those stats, the first thing that may come to mind is, how much of a gas guzzler is this? As it turns out, not much of one at all, advertising 16 mpg in city and 25 mpg on highway, averaging 19 mpg. Not too shabby at all for an engine pumping just under 500hp. Lexus also made sure the RC-F had sufficient stopping power by adding Brembo 14.96 inch diameter slotted disc brakes with 6 piston aluminum mono block calipers in the front, and Brembo 13.58 slotted disc brakes with 4 piston aluminum mono block calipers in the rear. Combined with the 255/35R19 and 275/35R19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, I knew I’d have no trouble stopping in this car.
I got inside the vehicle and immediately noticed the vibrant red leather with black complements. There were also suede and carbon fiber accents on the center console and the upper door panels. The leather was luxurious, but the bright color combination and accent pieces solidified the sport feeling you get in the F-Sport package. I was a bit surprised at how comfortable the seating was. These seats really wrapped around, which gave me a good amount of support and stability. The double stitch leather wrapped steering wheel felt powerful, with many feature controls built in and easy to use.
The center console was equipped with a remote touch interface pad, which replaced the mouse-like knob found on many other Lexus models. This provided the means to adjust the drive mode between Eco, Normal, Sport S & Sport S+. In any of these modes, you can use the pedal shifting feature found on the steering column. The dash gauges are in sync with the driving mode, and will change according to your selection. The dash itself was very impressive in the amount of information it provided. In addition to the interface pad, there were touch sensitive controls for adjusting the cabin temperature and cabin lighting. It’s like using your smartphone, but easier.
As far as safety, the RC-F had all of the safety features you would see in a luxury vehicle, including a blind spot monitor, rear crossing traffic alert, pre collision alert, dynamic radar cruise control. It also had one of my favorite all-around features - a Mark Levinson surround sound system, which provides 17 speakers and all popular listening apps already installed. Like other Lexus models, the RC-F also included the Inform system, which connects the car to your smartphone. You can lock, unlock, remote start, check the vehicle status, and even check the GPS location right from your phone. This is customizable to your liking, and I think this is a very useful feature.
I knew my son would love riding in this car, so I was eager to check out how much room I would have to install his car seat in the back. I was very surprised at what I found. Not only was there plenty of room to install his Britax Advocate 70 convertible car seat, it was the easiest installation I have encountered in all of my car reviews. In most cars, I have a hard time locating the hooks to install the seat using the LATCH system, primarily because the fit is so perfect and it is usually difficult to squeeze between the seats to access the hooks. Lexus solved that here by adding two domino sized flaps for each seat. These flaps are directly in front of the hooks, so I just had to push the latches through and I was done. The top hook on the rear deck was just as easy to access. This absolutely floored me, and I think could be a selling point for someone with a young child who doesn’t want to give up a sporty or fun car for something bigger. Of course the front passenger loses some leg room…it’s still a coupe. But for a short ride or trip to the store, this would definitely fit the bill. As far as storage, the trunk is decent size. I would even say it’s bigger than others in its class, but again, perfect for a short ride or run to the store, not for a longer trip.
Once I checked on my wife to be sure she wasn’t having the baby that minute, I took the car out for the much anticipated drive. Being December, I didn't have great weather, so I drove it in the cold, wet sleet and snow that we had. I found that I was still able to really drive the car without slipping or any other issues as long as I kept it in Eco mode with the snow button engaged. Bad weather, rear wheel drive, and 467hp do not make the best combination, so I was ecstatic to find a way to still feel the power of this vehicle. I would recommend adding winter tires for your personal vehicle, should you choose to drive in the winter.
The very next morning, my wife went into labor. It came on rather fast and she was feeling ok, but we knew we had to get to the hospital quickly. I chanced it and we took the RC-F. She was a bit worried that the sport suspension would result in a rough and uncomfortable ride, but she still hadn’t seen the car so off we went. Yes, the car was very responsive to the road and there was a little bounce, but it was much more comfortable than she was anticipating, and she even let out a smile when I got on the gas a bit. I’ll mark that in the win column. (ps, we made it there in plenty of time, and our son was born 6 hours later!)
The next day was calm and dry, so while my wife and newborn slept, I took the car out for a real drive. I was able to open it up a little in a closed track, and wow could i feel the power and pull it had. It definitely pushed me back into my seat. In the Sport S+ mode, the gas pedal was very responsive and the 8 speed automatic transmission shifted very smoothly, going 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. There was some lag downshifting but not bad. One of the things I liked was the carbon fiber rear wing. In some paint colors, like the beautiful Liquid Platinum on this model, it’s not obvious while idle, but at certain speeds it automatically raises up, depending on the mode. As driven, it rose at 50mph, whereas in Eco mode it would rise at 80mph. It can also be manually raised should you choose.
Since the road was finally dry, I was able to test out the suspension. For a car weighing 3,958 pounds, it sure handled well in the turns. The RC-F is equipped with torque vectoring differential (TVD), which transfers coast torque from the outer wheel of the run to the inner wheel for cornering performance. As the car comes out of a turn, it gradually transfers the torque of the inner wheel back to the outer wheel giving high performance traction coming out of the turn. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires have their work cut out for them when this car is really driven, and both they and the suspension are very responsive with great traction and acceleration in and out of the turns. Thanks to the comprehensive dash, you can even see torque distribution and your lap times.
Back in the city, the driving was really nice and fun. The roar of the engine really echoed off of the buildings, which added to the head-turning appearance of the car. I even had the Chicago PD whip a u-turn just to ask me about the car. On the highway, it was smooth and very comfortable. It was very tempting to get on it, but I was responsible and followed posted speed limits. It was really quiet and when I accelerated; I could hear the motor but other than that it was like riding in a sedan. The dynamic radar cruise control came in handy while I was on the highway. I would set it to a comfortable speed and let it do the work. I just had to steer and the car would adjust to slower traffic and adjust back to the set speed when safe. I really liked the blind side sensors in the mirrors, which I think are a huge plus for both city and highway. I found the gas mileage to be comparable to what Lexus advertised, even a bit better than advertised at 18mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. This could be in part to the flatness of the Chicago terrain, but I wasn’t complaining. Interesting side note, this was better gas mileage than I achieved in the Lexus LS460.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic addition to the Lexus lineup, and a great sports car coming in at under $80K. The staggered wheels and sporty, futuristic look will keep you staring (drooling?) at the car for hours. It is just a beautiful piece of machinery, and I found myself discovering something new each time I got in it. The tight sports suspension provided a great feel for the road, both in the city and on the highway. The acceleration was nothing short of amazing and very powerful. That being said, it is in the hands of the driver, so please be sure the driver has some experience. I would NOT recommend this as a first car for your newly minted 16 year old.
There are few things that personally I didn’t like, which are mostly cosmetic and not concerning the heart of the car. The remote touch interface is easier to use than the typical knob at a stop, but it can be a bit sensitive so at times I got a bit aggravated in making my adjustments. The visor mirror is the manual shade, which is something you would find in a base model of any car. I like to think that a luxury or sport package would include all aspects of the car in creating a cohesive feeling throughout. The gas cap opens by manually pushing it in, whereas I would have expected an interior push button for safety. A passenger mentioned that the dash display screen was a bit hard to see, so perhaps a shorter person might have some difficulty seeing it due to the low profile of the car and seats.
Lexus has had a gap in this market for quite some time and I think they have now filled it. The RC-F is truly a track ready race car. It compares to Mercedes C63, Audi RS5 , BMW M4 and Infinity Q60. There are two other sport models in an AWD platform, the RC 350 and RC 350 F Sport, starting at $42K and up. The RWD RC-F starts at $62K, with the model I tested coming in at $74K.
I would like to thank Lexus USA and Drive Sti for the opportunity to review this vehicle. For further information and possible test drive, please visit your nearest Lexus dealer.
Pictures Provided by Chris Chavez Photography