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Driven: Natural aspirations for Lexus RC F

New breed: Lexus’ performance flagship, the RC F coupe, is priced from $133,500, about $33,000 less than the BMW M4 coupe.

Free-breathing V8 power fires the top performance tier of the RC Lexus coupe range

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Lexus logo12 Feb 2015

By STUART MARTIN

LEXUS has followed up the launch of its RC350 coupe late last year with the flagship high-performance 351kW/530Nm V8-powered RC F, now on sale in Australia and taking aim at the German leaders of the sports coupe market.

Speaking at the launch of the RC F at Mount Panorama this week, Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said the Japanese luxury brand – which is now looking for annual sales growth of between five and 10 per cent – was focused on delivering exciting cars without deserting its more conservative customer base.

“What I can say is to those interested in performance-luxury, keep a good eye out on the F brand for Lexus,” he said, alluding to more F-series models in the pipeline such as the forthcoming GS F.

Mr Hanley added that the RC F is an important addition to the line-up as it displays the passion within a brand already known for luxury and quality.

“The RC F is now the performance and image flagship of Lexus, and its development at the Fuji and Nurburgring circuits means that it is more than capable at the track,” he said.

“RC F has a lot of depth to its talents – it’s a vehicle that is very comfortable to drive in traffic or interstate, in complete luxury.”

Using a version of the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 seen in the previous IS F, the RC F delivers an extra 40kW of power and 25Nm of torque courtesy of new cylinder heads, exhaust and inlet manifolds, new camshaft profiles, as well as upgraded port and direct injection systems.

Running on 98 RON premium unleaded (drawn from a 66-litre tank), the RC F also features a larger throttle body and higher-pressure injection to produce a maximum 351kW at 7100rpm and 530Nm between 4800 and 5600rpm, and comes equipped with forged connecting rods and titanium valves enabling a 7300rpm redline.

Power is fed to the rear wheels via an upgraded version of the eight-speed ‘Sports Direct Shift’ torque-converter automatic transmission that the company says delivers “a more linear response to accelerator pedal action”.

Top speed is limited to 270km/h and Lexus claims 100km/h is reached from standstill in 4.5 seconds, while the powerplant can also switch between the high-efficiency Atkinson and Otto Cycles to maximise fuel economy.

The coupe’s combined-cycle fuel economy figure is 10.9 litres per 100 kilometres, with CO2 emissions at 253g/km.

Following the well-tested Lexus recipe of undercutting its key German rivals on price, the RC F starts from $133,500 plus on-road costs – well below the BMW M4 Coupe priced from $166,430. It is also more affordable than Audi’s RS5 Coupe, which starts at $157,900.

Standard fare on the F coupe includes 19-inch wheels (with the option of 20s), leather trim, heated and ventilated front sports bucket seats, keyless entry/ignition, LED headlights with automatic high beam, exterior and ambient interior LED lighting, satellite navigation, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson digital-radio-compatible sound system, an active adjustable rear bootlid spoiler and a sunroof.

The safety features list extends to the PreSafe accident preparation system, active cruise control, a three-stage adjustable torque-vectoring rear differential, eight airbags, electronic stability and traction control, reversing camera and parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.

An anti-lock braking system combines with the six-piston front and four-piston rear aluminium callipers grabbing large ventilated and slotted discs.

Stepping up to the RC F Carbon edition adds an active carbon-fibre rear wing, bonnet and roof panel, as well as some interior carbon-fibre and Alcantara trim upgrades. It retains the same drivetrain but loses front seat ventilation and is priced from $147,500.

The coupe is spawned from the same platform used with the 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre V6-powered RC350 – an all-new coupe bodyshell not yet shared with a sedan – but with additional underbody work and chassis bracing to cope with the extra output.

It retains the double wishbone front and a multi-link rear suspension set-up, but utilises monotube dampers in lieu of the 350’s adjustable variable suspension.

The F weight ranges from 1780 to 1860kg, around 100kg more than the 350, while other key exterior dimensions are largely unchanged at 4705mm long, 1845mm wide, 1390mm in overall height and sporting a 2730mm wheelbase.

Cargo space has shrunk from 423 litres in the RC350 to 366 litres in the RC F.

Atop the already-overt styling of the RC is an increase in aggression – a pair of larger front air intakes, a bigger rear diffuser, quad tailpipes and an adjustable rear bootlid spoiler all point to intent.

The rear wing can, when left in automatic mode, rise at 80km/h and will retract when the speed drops below 40km/h. However, if the RC F is driven in ECO mode, the wing will not deploy until the vehicle reaches 130km/h in order to reduce drag and improve fuel consumption.

Lexus has also introduced a multi-layer paint process dubbed Lexus Contrast Layering, which brings specialist paint techniques into mass production, alternating primer, clear and colour coats, baking the paintwork twice and hand-finishing during the process.

2015 Lexus RC F pricing*
RC F (a)$133,500
RC F Carbon (a)$147,500
*Excludes on-road costs

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