2017 Lexus RCF: Heavyweight champion?
Price: $80,519 as tested. ($64,165 for the base model. $5,500 for performance vectoring, carbon fiber, and rear wing; $500 for pre-collision system; $1,500 for 18-inch wheels, and more listed later.)
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “Swaddling seats, makes all the right noises, easy to go fast” but not the “curb appeal, lacks an edge in a razor-sharp segment.”
Marketer’s pitch: “All power. No mercy.”
Reality: No mercy for other drivers? Or the owner?
UnLexuslike: When I climb into a Lexus, I am prepared to sit down with an “Ooh!” and an “Ahh!” The leather, the supple underpinnings of the seat, and smooth cabin materials make the experience a pleasant one.
The RCF is going a different route. It takes the F-Sport designation to its logical extreme, with sporty racing-coupe styling. Its seating position puts driver and passengers waaaaay down on the floor, and the racing dynamics mean it’s just not the Lexus feel I’d been hoping for.
Up to speed: But that’s just a trade-off. To get the most out of the 5.0-liter V-8’s 487 horses, the RCF aims for aerodynamics over passenger comfort. And it works well. The 0-to-60 time is 4.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Shifty: The RCF comes with a shiftable 8-speed automatic, and it has both a shifter and steering wheel paddles. Both are comfortable and offer great driver feedback.
In addition, the RCF has eco-normal-sport setting adjustments to get even more out of the power.
On the road: But beyond that, the torque vectoring differential switch allows drivers to change from normal to slalom to track. Switch into track mode, and have some fun on the corners with the rear-wheel-drive vehicle.
Driver’s Seat: The seat, though not the usual Lexus caress, is leather, to the tune of $800.
The small coupe also comes with visibility problems standard.
Most of the controls are conveniently located and easy to use. Heater controls, though, are a pain. Buttons operate the fan, and too-clever slider buttons change temperature. Tushies are heated and ventilated for $3,240, and a nice carbon fiber trim is added, as well as some safety features.
Friends and stuff: A rear seat exists, I think mainly to taunt people. It’s really not that difficult to enter or exit, and the seat itself matches the front seats nicely.
But while sitting behind myself — a scary prospect, two of me — my legs were slowly trapped by the Driver’s Seat returning itself to ready position. I could wiggle my toes, but that was all the movement there was to be had. If the release lever on the back of the seat didn’t automatically move the seat back out of my way, I’d still be stuck there instead of writing this.
Weighing in at over 4,300 pounds, the RCF is quite hefty for its class.
Play some tunes: Speaking of taunting, Lexus is having some fun with the touchpad operation of the stereo system. I think one of the engineers lost a bar bet here because this is about the worst idea yet.
Try to operate the touchpad of your laptop without looking at the screen for the choices; it’s pretty much impossible. Hence, your eyes will be off the road for far too long. A pair of dials does help with some of the controls, though.
Actually, I exaggerate. The touchpad operation has gotten much better since I last screamed at — er, I mean, enjoyed it in the NX200. What Lexus needs is a touchpad married to a screen that switches to PERHAPS SIX REALLY BIG, BOLD WORDS (see what I did there?) so selections can be made at a glance.
Lexus is also taunting buyers with its Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system. It ought to be great, especially for $2,550, but like Toyota stereos, there’s far too much treble for a great sound experience. Other companies have moved far beyond this.
Night shift: Sports cars seem to be a place where headlights often are too clever for their own good (and for ours), but the RCF illuminated the road (and the cockpit) perfectly. (Illuminated door sills added $449.)
Fuel economy: I averaged 21 mpg in a baby-waking, neighbor-annoying round of driving. Feed the RCF only the good stuff, please.
Where it’s built: Aichi, Japan
How it’s built: Consumer Reports puts its reliability at 5 out of 5.
In the end: The RCF is as fun as it looks and as solid as a Toyota. Many sedans — including some from Lexus — offer all that fun in a more versatile package. It’s a plaything with a stereo that suggests you better enjoy the sound of exhaust, and the options can really get the price out of control.