Driven: New Lexus RC is pure automotive rock 'n' roll
Durban - A V6 is fantastic, a V6 turbo better, a twin turbo V6 hits the mark brilliantly, but there is nothing better than a good old fashioned normally aspirated V8 to get the juices flowing.
And it’s a pity that in all likelihood we won’t be able to buy them in a couple of years as emission controls, tree huggers and legislation clamps down on all things fossil fuel and noise related.
Which, in a way, makes the Lexus RC F and RC F Track Edition even more special than they already are.
So if you have just over R1.3 million or a smidgen more than R2 million for the RC F or Track Edition respectively, go out and get one because the next generation will wonder in awe at the fantastic skill and design, powered by a petrol V8.
That V8 motor pushes out a respectable 351kW and 530Nm in a very smooth fashion to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic gearbox down a hollow driveshaft and expends the burnt fuel via quad exhausts in a magnificent cacophony of sound.
The difference between a normally aspirated and turbo-charged mill is the way the power is delivered. A turbo feels much harsher when the power kicks in while in this V8 it’s a lot less brutal and a bit more sophisticated as it moves through the rev range and tops out at just over 7000rpm.
Unlike some of its competitors, the beautiful noise emitted by the exhaust is AC/DC live on stage; no exhaust flaps or piping of noise through the speakers to give you an impression of a sound track. The titanium pipes of the Track Edition have more of a wail, while in standard form it’s a more guttural sound. Both, though, are immensely pleasing you’d have to be a soulless being if that doesn’t make you smile.
So where do you take this type of car when you launch it? To a track of course, and in this case the Dezzi Raceway on the KZN south coast. A track with a host of turns and twists which although not ideal for a car that weighs 1.7 tons, gives a very good indication of its cornering and overall driveability. The RC F Track Edition comes in 80kg lighter, achieved largely by carbon ceramic disks, lighter alloy wheels and carbon fibre reinforced plastic bits.
As a driver you get a choice of Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom modes but on the track the choice is simple. For the RC F Sport S+, and the Track Edition on the advice of South African racing ace Giniel de Villiers, Sport S because the suspension would be too hard for the bumpy track.
The throttle is wonderfully responsive and although the steering doesn’t always provide immediate feedback while it works hard to keep the vehicle on track it doesn’t affect the fun factor at all. The car is incredibly well balanced so getting the back out on the long corners takes some effort but when it does it never feels like it’s going to come back and bite you.
The Track Edition is a bit of a different animal. Aside from the visual differences, a fixed rear wing being the most obvious, the stiffer suspension and lighter weight makes it a true track animal and in the hands of De Villiers even more so. With his race face on, and me in the passenger seat you get to experience what the car can truly do and again that V8 brings out the best of both car and driver.
As he throws the car in to the corners shifting effortlessly up and down through the gears with the paddles, you understand and appreciate why there are cars such as the RC F and RC F Track Edition.
As an aside, it’s the same engine that’s in the Hilux Dakar that he has achieved so much success with, except that in the bakkie there’s a narrower intake restriction.
While the lump under the bonnet is undoubtedly the star of the show, the designers have built an equally dynamic and visually pleasing exterior package. Everything has been designed with aerodynamics in mind. From the front spoiler, side air breathers and concave surfaces to the rear diffuser the changes have been made to ensure the best possible result both aesthetically and practically.
Lexus luxury and safety are legendary. Heated and vented seats, Mark Levinson audio system, 26cm touchscreen, soft leather and the Lexus Safety System+ makes the cabin a very pleasant place indeed to spend time with the added peace of mind that if things happen to go awry there’s a list of safety features designed to keep you as safe as possible.
Lexus says it’s up against the Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG and BMW’s M4 and you can probably throw in the Audi RS 5 as well. They all have a variation of a turbo-charged 3-litre engine, but it’s the RC F’s big eight pot that sets it apart and makes it special.
Lexus RC F - R1 318 300
Lexus RC F Track Edition - R2 098 200
Both versions come standard with a seven year/105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan.