2015 Lexus RC F: Learnings From an Arizona Road Trip
March 25, 2015
The 2015 Lexus RC F should be a prime candidate for road trips. Obviously not with kids or bulky leisure equipment in tow, but for the type of two-person, plus-maybe-a-pet-or-two vacations I take, a luxury coupe is just about the perfect choice. You know, like this luxury coupe. But does the RC F deliver as expected? To find out, I set out with my dog Maggie to visit my folks in Arizona.
The RC F has been rightly criticized for not delivering the sort of visceral thrills and razor-sharp reactions one expects from a car supposedly intended to challenge the BMW M4. A big part of that is its size. It's just too big and heavy. Those elements can actually be a benefit for a grand touring luxury coupe, which in so many ways is exactly what the RC F feels like. Adding to that perception is abundant V8 power, a smooth transmission and steering that is precise without requiring constant, tiresome attention when driven for long interstate stretches.
There's just one, major problem with the RC F serving as a grand touring coupe: the ride. It's far too rough. You feel every nuance of every bump, every seam and every hole through your hands, back side and brain. It gets tiresome, and although it's certainly worse at lower speeds around town, it makes the RC F substantially less appealing for a road trip. I don't need it to loaf and float about like a Lexus of yore, but it needs better dampening of bumps.
Really, the RC F offers the worst of both worlds: It offers the ride of a sports car with the handling of a grand touring coupe.
Lexus Remote Touch is terrible. The previous little joystick was bad enough, but the mouse-style touchpad is even worse. I don't like using the touchpad on my laptop, let alone using one in a moving car. It draws too much attention away from the road and even if you were sitting still, it would still be frustrating.
Here is just one example. I want to zoom in on the navigation map. I swipe my finger to the lower left corner to press the + icon. I miss and hit the map instead. Now, the navigation system thinks I want to scan around the map, which I do not. Normally in other cars, when you select map scanning, you can hit a "navigation" or "map" button to re-center and lock you on the map. Those don't exist in the RC F. When you press the "return" icon or the "return" button on the center console, it does not take you back to the center map. It takes you to the main menu screen where you have to swipe the cursor back up to the navigation icon. This happened to me several times.
There were two other issues. First, the real-time traffic information sourced from the HD radio signal was inaccurate. It repeatedly showed nothing but wide-open, green highway ahead whereas my Google Maps app correctly identified that there was in fact heavy traffic. When I took the photo below, I was stopped, yet the map would indicate I should've been cruising along at 65 mph. In other words, it doesn't work. (It was not at fault for me running into the stopped freeway pictured above caused by a 10-minute construction project. There was no warning or way around that).
Finally, I experienced a glitch when trying to play my iPhone through the USB port. After a while playing a song track, Remote Touch will announce there is an iPod error and shut off the stereo. Unplugging my iPhone and plugging it back in reset the system, but it didn't take long for it to happen again. This is something I experienced in a Lexus NX 200t and NX 300h. To be fair, those cars and our RC F are pre-production cars, which could indicate some teething problems with the new Remote Touch system. Then again, it could be a production problem as well. Something to keep an eye out for.
Putting the ride aside, I found the RC F to be quite comfortable. Some might lament the lack of adjustable thigh support or that the power lumbar is only two-way, but I was able to get comfortable quickly and then never adjust the seat again. Believe me, this is quite rare. What's also rare is a Lexus well-suited to a guy that's 6-foot-3. In so many past models, the driver seat wouldn't go back far enough, wouldn't drop down in the back enough and the roof would seem awfully close to my noggin. I basically sat in the back seat of the previous-generation Lexus IS. The RC F, on the other hand, is wonderfully tall-guy friendly.
I'm not sure how those of broader beam will find the side bolsters (also not adjustable), but I found they provided a nice, gentle, non-constricting hug. They were a little less friendly for Maggie's travel booster seat (basically a big block of foam), but it still managed to fit up front — barely.
The Fuel Economy
The RC F returned 24 mpg from Los Angeles to Goodyear, Ariz., and back. Pleasantly, that's what the trip computer says I was getting. The EPA says it should get 25 on the highway, which should be possible on flatter terrain and fewer morons creating traffic by clogging the left lane.
Frankly, that's pretty good fuel economy from a 467-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8. The problem is more about the range, or rather, the range the car says you have. With most cars, I can easily make the 362-mile-ish journey to Goodyear on one tank of gas. However, the RC F's distance to empty (DTE) gauge said I would need to stop along the way. I did, which is annoying, but it beats being stranded in the desert and besides, Maggie needed a pit stop anyway.
Trouble is, the math doesn't add up. According to the specs, the RC F has a 17.4-gallon tank. Averaging my 24 mpg, I should've been able to go 417 miles before running dry. That would've got me to Goodyear with 55 miles to spare, yet the trip computer said I wouldn't have come close. It was almost 100 miles off. After the fact, this makes sense since the amount of fuel indicated by the fuel gauge didn't seem to be lining up with the DTE readout. It was like the DTE thinks the car has a 13-gallon tank. What's the point of even having the DTE gauge if it goes about its job like Chicken Little?
There are a lot of negatives here to be sure, but ultimately, this is a powerful, impeccably built and reasonably spacious car that people really seem to get out of the way for when it comes up behind them on the highway. It could be a brilliant road trip car, but it needs a few key upgrades and/or changes.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,302 miles