QUICK COUPE IS OUT TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION THAT IT IS MORE THAN JUST A FAST FLING
IF CARS REALLY are a reflection of our personalities and socio-economic standing, I feel as though I’ve gone from being a portly middleaged financial planner who likes golf and Grange, to a brash, 30-something tech whiz who’s into hiphop, pole positions and pole dancers.
That’s a snap-shot of the difference between my outgoing Lexus RX450 hybrid seven-seater, and this, the RC-F which replaces it. The two represent pretty much the polar opposites of Lexus’s local range in terms of intended function, packaging, and the rate at which they drink dinosaur juice.
About the only thing they share, apart from that pervasive sense of Lexus quality, is that they are both long-serving inclusions in the brand’s line-up, and are in the latter phases of their respective lifecycles.
The RC-F, packing the 351kW /530Nm atmo 5.0-litre V8 also used in the LC and GS models, is the most sports-focused car Lexus builds. Which means it finds itself facing some stiff competition from the Germans, namely the Merc-AMG C63 S coupe, BMW M4 Competition, and Audi RS5 all straddling a similar price bracket of between $156K–$171K. Then there’s the four-door Alfa Giulia QV, or potential buyers could be casting an eye over a Tesla Model 3, for a different but even faster driving experience.
Part of the push to keep the RC-F invigorated is a raft of mechanical upgrades I’ll detail next month, as well as the availability of the snappily named EP3 package, a bundle of options that add a hefy $29,161 to the new base price of $136,636. Key among these are carbon-ceramic brakes (saving 22kg), forged 19-inch BBS wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber (replacing samesize alloys but saving 3kg), and a titanium exhaust which adds to the lightening program by 6kg. There’s also carbonfibre interior trim, so all very tasty additions – on paper at least. The brakes and exhaust warrant greater dissection, so I’ll come back to those next month. It’s important to also make the distinction between this car with the EP3 options and the $165,482 Track Edition, which is similarly equipped but strips off a few more kilos with a carbonfibre roof, bonnet and fixed rear wing.
My first impression, having jumped straight out of the RX450h is just how much daily practicality gets jettisoned with the transition into the company’s sports coupe. And not just the obvious stuff, like ease of entry and egress into a low car with long doors. The rear seats don’t fold (only a small ski port allows broom collectors to indulge their passion…) while inside, the door pockets are too small for anything bar the wallet of a homeless bloke. And once the two cupholders are filled, there’s nowhere to put the key other than inside the centre console box. And unlike the large touchscreen fitted to the RX, the RC’s can only be controlled by the trackpad, an interface that tends to make me more potty-mouthed than Gordon Ramsay’s heat at the swearing Olympics. Oh, and with the driver’s seat set to accommodate my six-foot frame, there’s precisely zero legroom behind for the tiny rear buckets.
So yes, performance does come at a price more than just fiscal. But stick it in Sport Plus, point it at a twisting, backroad, and those niggles evaporate every bit as quickly as the scenery starts to blur in your outer periphery. It’s properly quick once you ask the V8 to show you everything it has – the 0-100km/h claim is 4.5sec – although the lack of forced induction means you do have to chase big revs to keep it percolating.
My mission, which I stoically accept, is to establish if the driving rewards and engine’s seduction are enough to offset the fact that specced like this, it’s priced almost line-ball with the Track Edition.
Look, I’ve had worse jobs...
Price as tested: $165,797
This month: 442km @ 16.2L/100km