Put 'track drive' in any invite and we aren't embarrassed to admit we'll be the first to raise our hands, so when Lexus told us about its RC F drive at the Sepang International Circuit, our first question was, "when do we leave?"
It's always great to put performance cars through their paces in a controlled environment and far from the prying eyes of busybody 'Stomper' types more keen on the $50 published 'fee' than any sincere sense of public-spiritedness.
(Click HERE to read about our fave two progressive sportscars, the RC F and the BMW i8 Coupe)
We consider the RC F to be a sort of a progressive sportscar. As we've mentioned before, Lexus isn't the kind of brand that will compromise its values for the sake of pure numbers alone, be it sales or dynamic, to the extent its products can only driven by 'pros' – or at the very least, those who pretend to be.
(Click HERE to read about the biggest 'F' of them all... the LFA!)
This consistency is the one quality that endears the brand to its tight-knit circle of fans and owners. Conquest sales are a bonus (as is the case for its recently launched NX crossover), but the first and foremost priority is to give its followers the driving and ownership experience that have become synonymous with the Lexus brand.
Think of M, AMG and RS in the same context as this naturally-aspirated (NA) beast and you would have missed its point entirely; that trio seems to be currently engaged in an almighty 'fast-faster-fastest' pissing match to the extent that it now takes more than just big cojones to drive their cars hard – you need a fair bit of talent as well, since there's a fine line between unrulyness for the sake of it, and the controlled aggression that we appreciated so much in the predecessors.
Instead of the overt rowdiness and samurai-style cuts and hacks that characterise some of its Teutonic counterparts, the RC F is an exercise in styling subtlety, especially in the track demo's Sonic Silver, which really brings out the car's discreet musculature and flared bodywork.
Compared to its RC 350 F Sport and Luxury counterparts, the RC F practically glows with an aura of indomitable force as it sits at rest in the pit-lane.
We work our way through the two lesser RC variants before slinking into the F's beautifully-sculpted and snug sports bucket seats. Even in Luxury trim, which doesn't include the adjustable damping, there's a balanced and natural poise to the car that lets you enjoy its performance at your limits without endangering life, limb or the ego.
The F takes it to a whole new level. We're huge fans of the explosively exuberant 5.0-litre V8 from the IS F, but it's been tuned to even more fury in the RC F. With a 1.8-tonne kerbweight, 8spd auto and no turbo-torque, we were half-expecting the RC F to behave like a grand tourer, but boy were we were wrong.
(To read about the same engine in the GSF, click HERE)
Firstly, it reinforced the fact that we really miss big NA engines, especially on a track where you can wring the V8 out to its soaring redline. True enthusiasts will appreciate the finesse in driving a car fast versus a fast car that ends up driving you (sometimes into the trees!), and there's even a nice degree of on-limit adjustability to the RC F's repertoire of tricks.
In fact, one of the key tenets in the RC F's creation was that the 2+2 sports coupe could be enjoyed by drivers of all skill levels, as opposed to just the top five per cent of drivers... in the world. In addition to the usual S and S+, the RC F has its fair share of electronic trickery, which includes Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) and G-AI (G force Artificial Intelligence).
The G-AI senses g forces and works with the 8spd Sport Direct Shift automatic to hold a gear as you're going into a corner so as not to unsettle the car with mid-corner shifts. The former features three modes: Standard, Slalom and Track to vary the amount of torque sent to the rear wheels.
In the city, we left it in Slalom so the F would behave like a smaller car, but on the SIC, we kept it in Track for high-speed cornering stability. The brakes are certainly up to the task of reining the car in from high speeds and there's a natural, progressive feel for fantastic modulation that provided fade-free performance lap after lap.
Charging hard, there's a good balance to the car that belies its size, while the steering feel is communicative and never feels over-assisted. We prefer our aural pleasure natural, so set the ASC to minimum – we didn't see any point in electronically amplifying the already-glorious V8's on-cam induction note! The gear-shifts are swift yet smooth and you don't quite miss having a dual-clutch or that contrived 'thunder' that often comes with those gearboxes.
Some folks may balk at the RC F's S$400+k sticker price, but we understand transacted prices could be slightly less. Moreover, based on the registered units so far, OMV is in the S$94k region, which seems commendable enough in this particular competitive segment.
Like the IS F, this is the thinking man's sleeper hit for subtle yet explosive performance on both road and track. The RC F's compelling blend of discretion and aggression should appeal to the enthusiasts who like the finesse of its dynamic package and certainly don't feel the need to be spotted in something garish.
Lexus RC F
Engine: 4969cc, V8
Transmission: 8spd auto
Top speed: 270km/h
Fuel consumption: 10.9l/100km
Availability: Lexus Singapore