Lexus RC F Advantage put to the test: No hybrid here. A hefty V8!
Lexus and hybrid? Not in the case of the RC F. The F stands for Fuji Speedway, the track on which the tests are carried out. Lexus designed the rear-wheel-drive V8 rocket for use on the race trap, and gave it plenty of steam.
Now and then the folks at Lexus simply have to break out of their hybrid cage. Rational, future-proof, technocratic – all well and good. But to build such a furious V8 animal must have provided one or two of the engineers a little guilty pleasure: a five-litre naturally aspirated engine with 470 HP as in the Lexus RC F!
It is great that such a thing exists today, as ultimately the naturally aspirated V8 is under acute threat of extinction– except in the USA. And as such, the rear-wheel driven RC F assumes a special position within the German competitive environment: the BMW M4 likewise sends its power to the rear axle, but it is turbo-charged. The Audi RS5 is indeed (still) driven by a naturally aspirated V8, but it distributes its torque to all four wheels.
The Lexus RC F itself doesn't seem entirely traditional, but an eight-speed automatic transmission does take care of the power distribution. From the second gear it uses a torque converter, which counteracts the loss of torque. However, when kicking down, it gets lost in the multitude of transmission ratios, first switching and then switching back shortly thereafter, and responds slowly to the actuation of the lever.
The latter is annoying primarily on the race track and is a shame as the engine in the Lexus RC F merited a slick transmission. The eight-cylinder originates from the IS F. New additions include the intake module, throttle body housing, valve drive, cylinder heads, injection system, exhaust manifold, pistons, connecting rod and crank shaft. In Eco mode the engine now even masters the so-called Atkinson cycle, whereby pump losses are minimised by the longer opening of the inlet valve and as a result of lower compression.
The Lexus RC F with 470 HP and 530 Nm
However, the Lexus RC F has also taken emotional aspects into consideration: it emits a wonderfully deep mumble from the four-in-two exhaust system, before adding a naturally aspirated thud from 3800 rpm, which develops into a spirited racing engine tone. The speakers of the stereo system enhance the guttural sound, which nonetheless seems completely natural and makes a decisive contribution to the driving fun.
The sound is in keeping with the character of the naturally aspirated engine; it longs for revs. The needle can't fall below 3,800 rpm if you really want to move forwards. But even then you doubt the presence of all 470 HP and 530 Nm an. The V8 doesn't seem as beefy as one might have hoped. The Lexus RC F offers neither the low pressure of a Big Block nor the free-revving hysteria of a Porsche boxer engine.
However, the V8 has perhaps been install in the wrong body shell, which is too heavy. Theauto motor and sportscales show 1853 kilograms – 261 kilograms more than a BMW M4. This of course affects the dynamics. The engineers use every trick in the book to try and conceal the weight: direct steering, firm suspension, sporty tyres, sensitive ESP and active power distribution – in theauto motor and sportdrive dynamics test, this enabled the Lexus RC F to weave through the cones at a respectable, albeit not sensational for a new development, 145.1 km/h.
However, within the limit range it exhibits a nervousness, which requires quick reflexes. The active rear axle differential locking has a life of its own and it difficult to get to grips with: depending on the level of slip and the pre-selected mode, the Torque-Vectoring system distributes the power via two multi-disc clutches complete with planetary gear set, whereby the interventions become more noticeable from "Normal" to "Slalom" and finally "Track" – and the Lexus RC F responds increasingly more briskly.
The est values can be achieved with the ESP set to "Expert". However, if you disable the traction control, you will have to adjust to the changing self-steering behaviour. In manual mode the Lexus first understeers, but then tilts to the opposite side under load. When drifting, the Michelin Super Sport tyres occasionally find grip at unexpected moments, which can result in countering.
It is of little help that the display can, on request, show the torque distribution to the rear axle. Or the G-force in all four directions. Or the position of the extendible rear spoiler. Or the lap time. If so inclined you can satisfy your desire to play around and flick through the menus. However, the manufacturer has not thought the idea of the digital dials the whole way through: multimedia data is shown on a second display in the middle. The related touch-sensitive rocker switch on the cardan tunnel is unfortunately less intuitive than Lexus promise – and requires both fingertip sensitivity and an acclimatisation period.
The fact the luxury Japanese brand is viewed as the benchmark with regard to interiors is in any case evident in the Lexus RC F. The leather is nicely seamed and everything fits perfectly. However, the plastics feel far from premium. In contrast, the sports seats are very successful; with the host of adjustment options you can find the perfect position in relation to the steering wheel and feel perfectly elevated – unlike in the back: adults will hit their heads on the roof liner and will hit their knees on the front seats.
The Lexus RC F as an interesting alternative to the German competitors
Back to the drive experience itself. The RC F feels most at home on country roads. Where it isn't about lap times and drifts, but rather clean, safe lines. And on country roads, in dry conditions, it absolutely clings to the road surface, preferably taking corners widely. Here its excess weight doesn't seem like a negative – but rather the directness seems positive.
On a more grippy road surface, the Lexus RC F steers accurately, driving out of the corner with hefty traction as the ESP and locking carry out their jobs with competence. Unlike in the extreme disciplines on closed tracks, here the driver quickly starts to experience the fun side of the vehicle. And he lingers inside the car with the nice feeling of being in control of the drive at all times.
However, the Lexus does not offer the same lateral dynamics aha effect of a Nissan GT-R. At best, its V8 could achieve cult status – as one of the last naturally aspirated engines in this vehicle class. But not as one of the best. In this regard the Lexus RC F falls a little short of expectations. However: it is still an exceptional alternative tot he German premium heroes.The polar opposite of turbos
It is interesting that one of the last naturally aspirated V8 engines should come from Lexus – THE hybrid brand. As such the Lexus RC F is one of the few alternatives to the down-sizing turbos that have long been in the majority in sport coupés. So far, so commendable. It's just a shame that the V8 cannot show off its unique character properly in this heavy shell. It therefore remains merely a technical curiosity.
Date19 August 2015