We were invited to the latest Lexus launch at Dubai Autodrome and were expecting a routine track day schedule. Lexus RC 350 along with its F Sport variant and the most powerful V8 holder - RCF - were introduced by Lexus executives and the chief engineer. Here, I'll go by my track experience for each model, but will emphasize more on the RCF.
To begin with the RC family; RC stands for Radical Coupe. A two door version of the IS sedan, it's got the front looks of a GS and the rear is similar to the ISF. It is slightly longer and wider than IS350. The regular Lexus RC 350 Coupe is powered by a 314 hp 3.5 liter V6 engine mated to an eight speed automatic transmission and rear wheel drive. Moving onto the F Sport package, you'll see 19 inch wheels unlike the 18s, adjustable shocks, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, 14 inch front brakes with high friction pads and advanced steering wheel settings. RCF plays a successor to the obsolete ISF while it is positioned between ISF and the monster LFA.
Interiors are again an extension to the IS portfolio with few upgrades and premium leather toting ups. RCF has a primary instrument gauge developed from LFA with large centrally mounted tachometer with drive mode indicators, a G-Force meter, differential torque vectoring monitor and the regular parameters. The steering wheel is thick and firm which is good for greater control. Front seating space is impressive, but that wasn't the case in the back; yes, we know it's a coupe, but there are others who've done better. RC350 has a normal boot space, but the RC F had a bulge in the floor due to the spare wheel under the floor. Awkward!
Here's what is in the RCF. A new 5.0 liter, 32 valve, V8 engine which produces 12 percent more power than the IS F engine on which it is based, to reach a figure of 471hp from 417hp. The hood has been raised to fit the V8 engine. Power transmission to rear wheels comes from an eight speed sports direct shift (SPDS) transmission. A performance package adds a carbon fiber roof and rear spoiler, along with a torque vectoring rear differential. There's a meshed scoop in the center of the hood to offer aerodynamics and cooling. By the way, RC F is the world's first front engine RWD car to use torque vectoring differential (TVD). Apart from this, the RCF has wider wheels and tires, air scoops, a rear wing, cooling ducts and carbon appointments. Inside we noticed a new remote touch interface (RTI) in the center console that works like a laptop mouse click/pad operation. Though I wasn't too impressed, this would most likely change as one became more familiar with using it.
There is no compromise to safety in a Lexus, that much we know. Here's a full list of features: eight airbags, remote anti-theft alarm system, front and rear parking sensors, child seat anchors, engine immobilizer, stability and traction control, pre-collision system (PCS), dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
On the move, the RC350 is a nice cruiser with a decent amount of power to push through. Track corners and curves are safely maneuvered with very little body roll. Steering is on the firmer side with an upright overall handling and the engine transmission is smooth. The RC350 behaved like a classy front bencher with a good boy image, which you'll understand when hearing the rather shy exhaust notes.
Next up, I got inside the RCF and quickly stepped on the accelerator pedal and boy, that was awesome! The vicious rumble through exhaust pipes reminded me of the LFA. It kicked the tail out on some occasions when I hit the gas on the track's "S" curve, but again, I had wished to see more of the tail game in a RWD setup. Who doesn't?
High cornering speed with barely a body roll tells you that you won't be struggling with the steering. Lexus has made a purpose designed sound and power delivery channel to add more excitement. The progressive pitch tone was heard from the start all the way to hitting 6,000 rpm. Transmission was linear and we liked the way it was handled. There is no denying that the RCF is heavier than a BMW M4 and so it needs to make it up more in the future. The TVD that I mentioned before is a system wherein it optimally distributes torque to each rear wheel even when the accelerator is not applied.
There are three operating modes: Standard for a stable ride, Slalom for a zigzag performer and Track that for extreme stability. Traction is enhanced with torsen limited slip differential which is a standard option. Further, we've got the following modes to adjust the body language, namely Normal, Sport S, Sport S+ and M mode which basically list the Sport factor in ascending order. Brakes are excellent and precise. They could've painted the calipers with fancy orange or reds instead of grey. The heavy feel of RCF was evident, but the car was quite planted and the thrust was felt in every aggressive downshift. We did not find any issues with the comfort aspect, particularly when considering the RC as a daily coupe.
Lexus can bet on its value as it starts with an attractive entry level price tag for a luxury car and to a good extent can handle the German rivals. But when it comes to performance and true spirit, there's a little bit more in the offing - I expect. As for the company's transformation from a decent luxury image to a somewhat aggressive figure, with this launch, it's quite clear the intention is there and they look to thrive on it.
Rivals: BMW 4 series (M4 vs. RCF), Audi A5 (S5 vs. RCF), Mercedes Benz C-Class (C63 AMG vs. RCF), Cadillac ATS Coupe (ATS-V Coupe vs. RCF)
Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 306 hp, 375 Nm
Transmission: 8 speed automatic, RWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 6 sec, 9.5 L /100 km, Top speed: 230 kph
Engine: 5.0 liter V8, 471 hp, 527 Nm
Transmission: 8 Speed Sport Direct Shift Automatic, RWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 4.6 sec, 11.5 L /100 km, Top speed: 274 kph
Gross Vehicle Weight: 2250 kg