Lexus lights up with V8 power
RC F coupe range gains two high-performance derivatives with thundering 5.0 engines
Sometimes there’s nothing like a high-revving, normally-aspirated V8 to elevate your mood and blow out the mental cobwebs, but these engines are a dying breed.
In an age of high performance cars dominated by downsized turbo engines, the new Lexus RC F is one of the few that still employ good old-fashioned cubic capacity, in the form of a 5.0l eight-potter that flexes muscles and hollers in the way the high-performance driving gods originally intended.
Lexus has launched two versions of this car to take on the likes of the BMW M4 and Ford Mustang in SA’s sports coupe segment: the RC F priced at R1,318,300, and a more track-oriented counterpart called, appropriately enough, the Track Edition which goes for R2,098,200.
They both get the same 351kW and 530Nm V8 engine, but the Track Edition is optimised for chasing laptimes by being 80kg lighter and adopting boosted brakes. The weight saving is achieved by making the Track Edition’s roof, bonnet, front spoiler and rear wing out of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), and fitting lightweight alloy 19-inch wheels.
Further weight is shed by using high-performance Brembo carbon-ceramic disc brakes instead of the standard car’s cast-iron versions.
Both cars are fitted with newly developed Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres and a lightweight hollowed driveshaft connects to a limited-slip differential.
The Lexus doesn’t quite generate the heroic 0 to 100 numbers of its turbocharged peers in the thin air of high altitude, though it’s no slouch at sea level with its sprint time of 4.5 seconds for the standard RC F and 4.3 seconds for the Track Edition.
There is plenty of bottom-end shove but this engine truly prospers when the revs are soaring, making its 351kW peak at a high-revving 7,100rpm and its maximum 530Nm of torque between 4,800rpm and 5,600rpm.
It’s a somewhat different experience than the instant anger of a turbocharged car like the BMW M4, which serves up its 550Nm from just 1,850rpm. The normally aspirated Lexus has more of a linear power progression with a climactic buildup.
If this implies any lack of urgency, that’s not so. The RC F hustles with great haste and a thundering soundtrack. It’s an aggressive sound worthy of an American muscle car and gives this Japanese sports coupe a more rebellious nature than is usually associated with Lexus.
That goes even more so for the RC F Track Edition which, by virtue of being lighter and having a lower centre of gravity — not to mention those more fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brakes — is a more focused corner-carving weapon.
It felt the more livid and edgy of the two cars around the tight Dezzi raceway on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast where part of the launch was held, in keeping with the racy look created by its contrasting black CFRP body panels. Topped off by a big carbon-fibre rear wing, the Track Edition looks like an underground street racer from a Fast And Furious movie.
The brand is no stranger to sporty cars, the V10-engined LFA being a prime example, but this Track Edition is Lexus again letting its hair down.
Rear-wheel drive seals the deal in terms of all-round purist appeal. Electronics keep it all safe and steady with various modes that vary the throttle intensity and suspension firmness. It is quite a heavy car at about 1.8 tons but has a surprisingly sharp demeanour and a quick turn-in.
Tail sliding action is also on the menu, as Dakar Rally star Giniel de Villiers was on hand to demonstrate as he smoked a pair of rear Michelin tyres into hastened retirement.
Driving the car on a racetrack won’t affect the seven-year/105,000km warranty, incidentally.
This is a super-niche vehicle even by Lexus standards, and it expects to sell about one or two RC F units a month.
BMW M4 Competition, 331kW and 550Nm — R1,462,161
Ford Mustang 5.0 GT, 331kW and 529Nm — R915,800
Mercedes-AMG A43 Coupe 4Matic, 287kW and 520Nm — R1,044,571
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