2015 Lexus RC F: Density
February 20, 2015
Our long-term 2015 Lexus RC F is positioned as a contender to the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63. In my estimation, the RC F plays it too safe to be a viable alternative.
Which is not to say it isn't fast or capable. It is surely both of those things. And its styling definitely doesn't play it safe, but this is an area of such subjectivity that I'll leave it at that.
The root of the RC F's conundrum is weight. It's exceedingly heavy. At more than 4,000 pounds, it's packing a solid 500 pounds over the last M4 we tested. And while the performance numbers the RC F puts up are sure to place it in the hunt with the Bavarian, the Lexus gives up too much tactility in the process.
The RC F has heaps of power but feels blunted by its mass. Oh, its body motions are reigned in well, and on a fast drive it is alert and sure-footed. In fact, I'd say Lexus have done an admirable job of making this fat man dance. But it's still fat. All the praise I have for its dynamics is mentally asterisked by the refrain "for its weight." It's never sloppy, it's just dense.
It's easy to make a modern car fast. Speed is no longer a hurdle. We're spoiled by truly towering horsepower numbers across a variety of vehicle segments, and the systems to corral and dole the ponies in a way that maximizes their effect on the pavement are getting better all the time.
The real issue now, and one exemplified by the RC F, is engagement. There's simply no way to synthesize what lightness does to the driving experience, irrespective of how much power you throw at a heavy car.
Lexus raided the corporate parts bin in creating the RC F. It has chassis sections from the GS and the IS Convertible and the IS sedan, an engine based on the IS F's and a corporate gearbox. I'd argue they pilfered from the wrong bin. I mean, imagine if they'd started with the much smaller and lighter Scion FR-S platform instead. Here's a stiff RWD coupe that weighs roughly 2,700 pounds and has a comically wide engine bay to accommodate its flat-four power plant. Ford and GM V8s already fit into this chassis with ease.
Swapping in the 2UR-GSE 5.0-liter V8 and beefing up requisite areas to the FR-S' chassis and driveline would add a total of, what, 400 pounds? If that? With this 3,100-pound car they could match the power to weight ratio of today's RC F with a significantly detuned version of the 5.0-liter V8.
Or leave it at full 463-hp strength and have a competition-annihilating worldbeater on their hands that nobody would ever, ever describe as "playing it safe." Too extreme for a Lexus? Call it a Supra, then. Or, you know, Fred. Whatever. With that kind of spec sheet, it wouldn't matter what it's named.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor