Lexus RC F bears little resemblance to its siblings

Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.
Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.
Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.
Silence takes a back seat to power, performance and aural presence in the new Lexus RC F.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

RC F is a Lexus offspring that bears little resemblance to its siblings

When you think of Lexus, what do you see in your mind's eye? It is likely to be blue skies, cottony clouds, rolling green meadows with birds chirping in the background. Excuse me, but let me show you a Lexus that will shatter that picture into a million pieces.

The RC F is a volcanic coupe powered by a 5-litre V8 that makes 477bhp and 530Nm of torque - and a mighty ruckus in the process. All that output is channelled to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic that you can override with handy paddles on the steering wheel.

It is a traditional and treasured recipe that lets car and driver get to know each other without turbos and all-wheel-drive getting in the way. And it allows the aggressively styled RC F to get from zero to a hundred in 4.5 seconds, and onto a top speed that is electronically capped at 270kmh.

To minimise the times when things go from "wow" to "woah", there is one little electronic trickery which Lexus calls torque vectoring differential.

It works by distributing torque between the two powered wheels to keep rubber and tarmac in intimate contact. It sounds like what most differentials do, but Lexus employs lots of electronics and motors to make minute adjustments on the fly.

And it works beautifully, as a test-drive last year at the Monticello race circuit in the United States proved.

The RC F allows the driver to put his foot down harder around corners than any other car of its size and configuration.

It is exceptionally well-behaved, with none of the twitchiness that high- powered cars often betray. On that score, it is all Lexus.

Even so, it is easy to forget that at the helm. Its steering is heavyset and weighty, its suspension decidedly sporty (with just enough yield to prevent your molars from chattering), and contact with the outside is far less filtered than in any other Lexus (except the LFA supercar, of course). In fact, it comes across like a beefy Continental racer. So much so that nine out of 10 times, I find myself activating the wipers when I want the indicator.

Yet, it is nowhere as harsh or unwieldy like the Nissan GT-R, which is a hardcore race machine that feels a tad out of sorts outside a race track.

The RC F's closest rivals would include cars from Mercedes' AMG, BMW's M and Audi's RS line-up - cars you can drive to a race and a black-tie event.

But it is able to delineate drive modes a little better. In the default Normal mode, the RC F is very gentlemanly (sometimes, too gentlemanly as it allows other cars to fill gaps in stop-start traffic). In this mode, it is best to be a leisurely frame of mind because there is often not enough distance to keep the engine on a boil.

In Sport mode, the Lexus is edgy enough to keep things lively. But I would go straight to Sport+, which is a "gloves off", rev-happy mode.

Being a big normally aspirated V8, it becomes truly alive only after 3,000rpm, and Sport+ allows that to happen more effortlessly. Still, there just are not enough open roads here to enjoy the breadth of the RC F's abilities.

When the rare occasion arises, the car breaks free and into song with abandon. Its wonderful mechanical symphony is channelled to quad pipes that poke through the rear bumper like machine gun barrels in a bunker.

Yes, the RC F is loud, in every sense of the word. But its repertoire is a bit wider than what you get from other sports cars. The throttle is almost like a volume control, getting the car that hums at speeds below 1,500rpm to emit a low- frequency "whoosh" between 3,000rpm and 4,000rpm, and a fangs-baring growl beyond that.

It is a sound you will not forget easily. Alas, it is also a sound you will rarely get to enjoy in Singapore. Even so, you can enjoy the car's other traits, such as its impeccable cornering, effortless tracking and superb stopping power. In fact, the car sheds speed with the slightest caress and yet is able to come to a halt with incredible comfort when you stomp on the brake pedal.

Accompanying its aural and dynamic appeal is a visual and tactile feast. The RC F displays lots of masculine and aerodynamic lines. Yet it is not dripping with testosterone. Build quality, fit and finish, and choice of materials inside are class-leading. And this is evident in the milder V6-powered RC too.

From what the driver's eyes, hands and even nose tell him, it is 100 per cent Lexus. Until he presses the Start button, that is.

christan@sph.com.sg