The Lexus RCF is bit of a mixed bag, a Frankenstein. Even its chassis is a clobbering together of 3 separate platforms, the GS, the IS convertible and the IS sedan. I’ve had it for a few months now and getting to know the car very well.
Firstly, let’s get the looks out of the way. They’re polarising, you either love or hate it. It does grow on you and get ready for a lot of attention driving this car. If you want to “fly under the radar”, it’s not going to be easy with the large grill, quad stacked exhausts and retractable spoiler screaming “look at me” to everyone around you.
I had the chance to have a couple of track sessions with the car. The track handling of the RCF brings a lot of familiarity, having owned an ISF before. The handling characteristics at the limit are almost exactly the same, with the extra stiffness of the chassis and a bit of extra power to play with. Keen turn in, then the nose pushes wide which you can then turn into oversteer using your right foot. Unlike Jeremy Clarkson, do yourself a favour and turn off traction control before trying to drift in the RCF or you’ll understeer off the track.
The brakes – awesome, fade free, lap after lap and they stop the car very well. No problems here. But in daily driving, it squeals badly, just like the ISF did. Aftermarket brake pads and rotors will fix this.
Drifting the car – this was always fun in the ISF and the RCF does this very well as well, I had a chance to really fling the car around on corner 2 of QR. There’s a new mode called “expert mode” which the ISF didn’t have, which is between “sports S+” and “everything off”, which will allow you to drift the car but keep it on the road and remove the throttle away from you when it feels you’re going to spin. So this means you can be an absolute hoon in this mode, and I mean seriously I mean “get kicked out of happy laps” kind of drifting and the system will guarantee you never spin the car! It will allow a full 30 degrees of oversteer and as long as you don’t exceed this, you’ll look like a hero (or get in trouble pretty fast if you try this on a public road). If you’re hesitant or clumsy, the car will remove the throttle so you don’t spin. This, I feel, is an absolute treat. If you have the space to go full out like a skid pan or at a proper drift event, holding the traction control off button for 3 seconds will turn everything off and you’re on your own, you can spin and do burnouts.
Time attack – I haven’t had the opportunity to drive the car at full bore so I don’t have proper lap times for comparison. But with the torque-vectoring differential, I could certainly feel the effects and I felt I was back to my 2008 Mitsubitshi Evo X with the S-AWC moving torque on the rear wheels to best fit the driving style. In “slalom” mode, it feels very aggressive and you can feel it trying to constantly push the nose of the car in to combat understeer. “Track” mode I found the best to drive on the track as it tries to help stability and “normal” mode I found the best to drift with because it didn’t try to do something you weren’t prepared for. If you’re on a twisty mountain road, “slalom” mode with Sports S+ turns the RCF to be quite the effective corner carver despite its considerable heft.
Straight line speed – in all honesty, this is where the RCF is behind the competition. While the Germans are using turbos and blasting ahead, the RCF kind of feels a generation behind with its high-12 second quarter mile times. It doesn’t seem much faster than the car it replaces and hence the bad press. If straight line speed is your main criteria for enjoying a performance car, this isn’t your car.
On the road, the RCF is very well-mannered. It’s very comfortable, highway kilometres melt away as you snuggle into the comfortable seats and turn on adaptive cruise control. The Mark Levinson sound system is one of the best I’ve heard for a factory sound system and will keep you entertained for hours on end. The rear seats are actually useable if your passengers aren’t too tall or wide, and the cabin is very well appointed. Rear headroom, however, is quite limited due to the sloping roofline; I found I had to sit with my head cocked to the side to fit, and I’m 1.8m tall.
Don’t think of the RCF as a track car. It’s a sporty GT coupe that you can do occasional track work in. You can tell that Lexus still prioritised luxury with the RCF, as the car is never harsh or intrusive. Even with the steering in full lock and the rear hanging out, it still feels comfortable. The car feels heavy, which means you get this sense of mass at low speeds. The solution? Sports S+ and go faster where it livens up. Lexus should and could have made it lighter, but at this price point, considering the high quality of all the materials used, maybe it is an issue that everyone should finally stop harping on about and just enjoy the car for what it is.