PULLING A†SWIFT ONE

Garage

ASH WESTERMAN

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 Iíve gone from being a portly middleaged financial planner who likes golf and Grange, to a brash, 30-something tech whiz whoís into hiphop, pole positions and pole dancers.

Thatís 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 Lexusís 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 brandís 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 $156KĖ$171K. Then thereís 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 Iíll 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. Thereís also carbonfibre interior trim, so all very tasty additions Ė on paper at least. The brakes and exhaust warrant greater dissection, so Iíll come back to those next month. Itís 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 companyís sports coupe. And not just the obvious stuff, like ease of entry and egress into a low car with long doors. The rear seats donít fold (only a small ski port allows broom collectors to indulge their passionÖ) while inside, the door pockets are too small for anything bar the wallet of a homeless bloke. And once the two cupholders are filled, thereís nowhere to put the key other than inside the centre console box. And unlike the large touchscreen fitted to the RX, the RCís can only be controlled by the trackpad, an interface that tends to make me more potty-mouthed than Gordon Ramsayís heat at the swearing Olympics. Oh, and with the driverís†seat set to accommodate my six-foot frame, thereís 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. Itís properly quick once you ask the V8 to show you everything it has Ė the 0-100km/h claim is 4.5sec Ė 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 engineís seduction are enough to offset the fact that specced like this, itís priced almost line-ball with the Track Edition.

Look, Iíve had worse jobs...†

ASH WESTERMAN

REPORT ONE†INTRO

LEXUS RC-F

Price as tested: $165,797†

This month: 442km @ 16.2L/100km