By Khulekani Dumisa
It is not every day you get to drive the latest coupe with a naturally aspirated V8 engine. Recently we got that rare opportunity behind the wheel of the refreshed RC F and all-new RC F Track Edition. If you are not familiar with the Lexus offering, these vehicles take the fight for Lexus directly to the likes of Mercedes-Benz C63, BMW M4 and Audi RS5. The biggest difference is that this German club now features turbo-charged engines making the Lexus a rarity in those circles.
Upfront there is a lot to marvel at in the updated RC F and RC F Track Edition. The new canard shapes on the front-bumper spoiler corners make the car look like it is about to take to the skies but actually help optimise stability across a variety of speeds. The spindle grille and lower bumper air intakes have been broadened.
Subtle visual changes include new high-grade LED headlights and L-shaped tail-lights shared with other versions of the elegant RC coupe, while a new side mirror design is borrowed from the stylish LC coupe.
The RC F Track Edition adds a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) front spoiler to further enhance front-end turn-in control. The CFRP bonnet and roof reduce vehicle kerb weight by 9kg while lowering the centre of gravity. A retractable spoiler is standard on the RC F. A CFRP fixed rear wing on the RC F Track Edition increases downforce by 26kg while delivering both a 3kg weight reduction and 2.0 per cent reduction in drag co-efficient.
A redesigned rear diffuser – painted in body colour for the RC F and produced in CFRP for the RC F Track Edition – incorporates vertical fins to further assist air flow.
In South Africa, the RC F is available in a choice of six colours including White Nova, Sonic Titanium, Solar Storm Red, Poseidon Blue, Naples Yellow and Graphite Black.
The RC F Track Edition is available in only four colour options which include White Nova, Sonic Titanium, Mercury Grey Metallic as well as Graphite Black.
The RC F Track Edition delivers approximately 25kg unsprung weight reduction thanks to the fitment of light-weight alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic disc brakes. This substantial elimination of weight removes pressure from the suspension componentry, significantly improving ride quality while greatly enhancing handling agility and body control on rough road surfaces and tough racetrack kerbs. We can attest to the latter having experienced the RC F Track Edition at the challenging Dezi Raceway and seeing the large car exhibit limited signs of body roll.
Lexus has not only invested in making the car agile but have taken into account that such a large performance car takes quite a bit to slow down, and as such, rear-disc diameter has grown by 35mm to 380mm compared with the RC F, while a front disc size of 380mm is shared by both Lexus sports cars. Brake pads on the RC F Track Edition are also thicker.
The RC F’s high-performance braking package, also developed by Brembo, shares the RC F Track Edition’s front six-piston and rear four-piston aluminium mono-block calliper design. The callipers of the RC F are black while those of the RC F Track Edition can be recognised by an aggressive red treatment.
The cabin of the RC F looks and feels premium. All RC F variants feature an expansive 10.3-inch widescreen centre display featuring satellite navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming including voice recognition. The system could do with the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
If you are not being serenaded by the sweet sound of the V8 engine, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system delivers crisp sound quality for you to enjoy your best tunes.
A circular thin-film transistor (TFT) meter placed ahead of the driver changes according to the driver’s selection with the Drive Mode Select dial. The display switches between a blue economy indicator ring in ECO, a standard tachometer and digital speedometer in NORMAL, a white and red cluster in SPORT S and orange in SPORT S+ with three-stage upshift indicator lights.
In terms of practicality, access to the rear seats is aided by electrically-adjustable front seats with one-touch walk-in function that automatically slides forward and then returns to position. Legroom is tight however. The boot offers a decent 366 litres of luggage space.
The RC F is available with four interior trims – white, black and pure red semi-aniline leather-accented choices plus “competition red” Alcantara exclusive to the RC F Track Edition.
Heated and ventilated seats as well as an electrically-adjustable steering column are standard for front and rear passenger seats on all variants except the light-weight, track-focused RC F Track Edition- which only has the functionality for the front seats.
As much as the RC F and RC F Track Edition are performance focused vehicles, Lexus has not scaled back on any safety features with a raft of passive and active safety features, including the Lexus Safety System+ suite of driving aids: Pre-crash (Brake Synchronised) safety system with pedestrian detection, Standard-Adaptive Cruise Control, lane-departure warning with steering assist and LED-Automatic High Beam. Blind-spot monitor, reversing camera, front clearance and rear parking sonars and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard.
Engine and drive
The Lexus RC F and RC F Track Edition are powered by a newly-revised and naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine which delivers maximum power of 351kW at 7100rpm and peak torque of 530Nm between 4800rpm and 5600rpm. This allow for a 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds sprint for RC F and an even quicker 4.3 seconds for RC F Track Edition.
The engine is paired with an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission that is said to be equipped with newly-developed Artificial Intelligence Shift control with drive mode switching that more expertly adapts to the driver’s intentions. The revised transmission further enables the integration of a launch control system, used for the first time in a Lexus since the hallowed LFA supercar. Drivers can opt for manual gear selection by interacting with a centre-console-mounted tip-shifter or steering-wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
The V8 engine produces a sweet exhaust note thanks to the quad exhaust pipes that are produced in titanium, deliver a further 7kg weight reduction and come with a signature blue tip for the RC F Track Edition. The steering feels precise and the large car pounces on the track like something much smaller and much quicker. Some understeer is notable in long corners but this is something you will barely have to live with out of the race track.
The RC F is built for driver enjoyment but also takes into account everyday driving. It is interesting that Lexus chose a route that included some highway and township driving. Unfortunately, townships do not have the best roads and have larger than life speed humps. The car was not shaken in these conditions and credit goes to the ‘Normal’ drive mode which operates to adapt to varying road conditions as the damping force characteristics are tuned to absorb large inputs from the road surface. Interestingly, this mode was extensively tuned and was also deemed best suited to a tough racetrack.
The vehicle can also be enjoyed on Sport S+ mode. When the vehicle is in the Sport S+ mode, a less restrictive vehicle stability control (VSC) setting is enabled. This mode allows drivers a high level of both driving confidence and fun that is suitable for a racetrack environment. When the vehicle is in Sport S+ and the VSC Off switch is pressed, EXPERT mode is enabled. Expert provides pro-active slide control of the vehicle that is suitable for a racetrack environment, allowing the driver to hone their skills on the track with a small degree of electronic assistance. The latter was experienced with SA champion racing and rally driver, Giniel de Villiers, behind the wheel with us riding shot-gun. What an experience!
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