Test Drive: 2015 Lexus RC F

0905140735262015_Lexus_RC_F_015There are those for whom buying a new car is simply a transaction — the exchange of money for a mode of transportation. Then, there are those of us who want to make a statement, to elicit the envy of friends and neighbors, to watch heads turn and see camera phones flash like paparazzi when we drive by. For the latter, there is the new Lexus RC F.

RC F is the blazing hot new high-performance sports coupe from Lexus, with a 467-horsepower V-8 under the hood and all the trappings of a luxury car in the cabin. Built with the expectation that owners will take it to the track, the RC F features an electronically enhanced driveline that, with a flip of the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system switch to one of the track modes, enables drivers to reach limits previously attainable only by professional racecar drivers.

In a recent test drive, the RC F screamed around the track at the NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, roaring to life and pushing me back in my seat with heart-pounding acceleration. Even with all of that speed and power, handling was a breeze as the RC F hugged the curves and streaked down the straightaways with intoxicating speed. In addition to the VDIM system, whose four modes (Normal, Sport, Expert and Off) coordinate the powertrain, braking, steering, traction and stability control systems for desired performance, a Torque Vectoring Differential system distributes power between the rear wheels for maximum stability during cornering, with three modes to match track conditions. Standard provides an ideal balance of agility and firmness; Slalom is for nimble steering; Track emphasizes stability for high-speed circuit driving.

With a zero-to-60-time of four seconds, the RC F is Lexus’ fastest-ever V-8, following in and improving upon the tradition set by other “F” designated vehicles in the luxury automaker’s lineup. The RC F calls upon the LFA supercar for inspiration. Gauges, steering wheel, seats and pedals are designed to give the driver maximum connection to the road, with a high degree of comfort. Sport seats are bolstered for support, with contrasting stitching in the leather giving it an eye-catching appeal. Aluminum and black carbon-fiber trim, and dynamic lighting give it a high-tech, posh countenance.

On the outside, this sharp-looking coupe was built for maximum performance, with functional intake and outlet ducts to cool the brakes and vent the engine compartment. Air outlets on the hood and fenders help smooth the airflow, and the sleek design, flat underbody, fender lines, and strategically placed aero fins all contribute to minimize drag for fuel efficiency, handling stability and reduced noise.

But with all of those performance creds, the RC F still manages to be downright civilized in everyday driving situations. Technically a four-passenger coupe, the rear seat is best left for diminutive passengers, or an overnight bag. After some track time, we took the RC F to the streets, and found it to be packed with all of the comfort and amenities you’d expect in a luxury vehicle.

2015 Lexus RC family 004If you’d prefer to stick to the roads rather than the track — and keep an extra 20 grand in your pocket — there’s always the RC 350, with all the style and head-turning looks of the RC F, but with a slightly tamer 306-horsepower V-6 engine and smaller price tag. Visually, styling cues like black mesh in the spindle grille, a lower and wider stance, wider tires, cooling ducts, and a raise in the center of the hood distinguish the RC F from the RC 350. An F-Sport trim on the 350 adds adaptive variable suspension and rear-wheel steering via the Lexus dynamic handling system, to up the performance ante to a notch above the 350’s character, but a step below the all-out racing capability of the RC F.

With audacious looks, dexterous handling and dynamic drive character, the tantalizing RC F is a sure winner for Lexus. In any iteration, the RC will not disappoint, enveloping you in luxury while providing an all-out thrilling ride.

The RC F starts at $62,400; the RC 350 starts at $42,790 for rear-wheel drive and $50,850 for all-wheel drive models.

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