Not long after the Lexus RCF came out, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson tested it on the program, and he didn’t like it. He wanted to, because of how much he liked the Lexus LFA, a savage V-10 powered supercar with a siren’s song for an exhaust note, but the RCF left him underwhelmed.
Why? If I recall correctly, it was because the car understeered when driven hard. As delivered in stock trim, it might well have pushed, so when an RCF popped up on the roster of cars we could sample at the Motor Press Guild’s Track Days event at Willow Springs International Raceway, well, let’s just say I was interested to drive it.
The track, which produces some of the fastest average speeds of any road course in the country, was littered with cones to prevent early turn-in and other dumb moves, and it was a great place to test the RCF. We weren’t racing or driving at 10/10ths, but we were able to push the cars hard enough to produce understeer if there were any.
In short, the RCF didn’t exhibit any overt signs of understeer. The car offered great turn-in and loads of grip. We had it going through Big Willow’s Turn 8 at 120 mph on 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza street tires with no problem. Those tires were developed specifically for the RCF, but they weren’t race rubber by any means.
If you’re interested in upgrading the tires, there are several manufacturers that offer tires in the wheel size that comes on the RCF. Bridgestone, Continental, General, Goodyear, Hankook, Michelin, Pirelli, Sumitomo, and Yokohama all offer tires for the RCF.
The only negative trait I uncovered during my hot laps at Willow was the downshifts, which tended to upset the chassis a little bit. The eight-speed automatic had paddle shifters, but it had a torque converter rather than a multiple-disc setup.
At the speeds we were carrying, and as aggressively as were braking and downshifting, it was more of lurch when the transmission engaged the next lower gear. The RCF’s nanny controls will probably keep it from ever causing a problem during really hard driving, but it seemed like something that could be engineered out with more software development.
But let’s get to the most endearing aspect of the RCF: the engine. It’s a glorious mill that produces 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque from 4,800 to 5,600, which is right about where the next gear starts when you upshift. With the torque in that range of the power band, upshifts present a huge surge in power. Upshifts also are super crisp, a reassuring kick in the backside followed by that big rush of torque. It’s a ball to drive and the exhaust note sounds glorious at its 7,000-rpm redline, too. It’s not LFA good, but it’s about as good as a V8 with a cross-plane crankshaft can be. Redline also produces an audible alert inside the cabin.
The factory performance numbers are pretty convincing, too. Zero to 60 takes just 4.4 seconds on its way to a limited top speed of 170 mph. The car will run the quarter mile — if you’re into that — in 12.5 seconds. If you baby it, the RCF is good for 16 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway. Part of that highway mileage could be attributable to its 0.33 coefficient of drag.
Inside, the RCF provides outstanding ergonomics for the driver. Seating positions are infinite and in combination with the power tilt and telescoping steering column, it’s possible to find the sweet spot for track driving (to learn how to adjust your seat, check out Driving Tips on Page XX). Once you find that sweet spot, you can log it into the car’s memory.
The digitally displayed analog dash offers numerous configurations suited to track driving. For example, the dash can display not only a lap timer, but also g force and rear wing position.
Like Jeremy Clarkson, I wanted to like the Lexus RCF. I had seen it on the street and in magazines, and it is a good-looking car. Some of its styling details are a little over the top, but that’s usually what keeps a car design fresh over the long term. The difference between Clarkson and me is that I liked it.
It’s fast and fun to drive with ample grip for HPDE sessions and it’s even comfortable enough not to jar your fillings loose on the drive home. At a base MSRP of $62,805, it’s priced competitively, too. That it isn’t offered with a manual transmission or a DSG setup will keep the RCF from ever becoming a serious candidate for a racecar, but for daily duties and maybe an occasional shot at TT glory, it’s got what it takes to do that.
|467 @ 7,100 rpm|
|389 @ 4,800 – 5,600 rpm|
|Double wishbone with high-mount upper arms|
|Independent, multilink with low-mount upper arms|
|8-speed automatic with paddle shift and manual mode|
Rear axle ratio:
|2.94:1 Torsen limited slip|