HEY THERE, SEXY: Lexus new RC F 350 Sport has just arrived in SA. It's beautiful and pricing is competitive. Image: Lexus SA
FRANSCHHOEK, Western Cape - The real coupe has arrived and Lexus South Africa has claimed the title with cheeky confidence. Meet the Lexus RC F Sport with killer looks and a beast under the bonnet that will make everyone do a double take.
Lexus, to me, has always been a premium and sophisticated brand. Yes the cars are always refined, the facia is neat and tidy and the drive is smooth. And, yes, I’ve been a fan of the IS350, but that car lacked the grunt usually associated with sportier cars.
Looks like the Japanese automaker has ticked that box.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Lexus RC F Sport
The 3.5-litre V6 RC Coupe and its 233kW/380Nm have been fiercely anticipated and its arrival in South Africa has been welcomed with a pre-order of 60 units.
Wheels24 has been reporting on this 4 Series rival since its concept debut at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January and it took some time for me to get a liking for this car because I didn’t quite fancy its front-end looks on screen but when I arrived at Cape Town International Airport on Monday (July 27 2015), and there were three new cars waiting to be driven, I was already mesmerised just by its dashing looks.
The last time I was this moved by a car was when the Toyota 86 arrived, albeit disappointed by its power figures. Ánd honestly, it should have been launched as this beefier version.
The car is a piece of work in the metal even though I wasn’t completely won over by that front-end styling with the funny-shaped grille. When I saw that striking silhouette the car scored points in my books and the initial feelings of dislike were quickly forgotten. It’s seldom one falls in love with the side view of a car but alas that’s the story.
And then I climbed inside and pushed the start/stop button. The engine roar echoed in the underground parking of the airport, I knew then that this was unlike any other Lexus I'd driven.
Lexus SA says this car is a “true GT - grand tourer” as it can cover long distances in extreme comfort rather rapidly. The automaker also claims that the brand is about the added sense of self-indulgence.
It goes up against the likes of Mercedes’ C-Class coupe, Audi’s A5 and BMW’s 4 Series. However, one motoring scribe pointed out that it could very much rival Jaguar’s XF - and at half the price, too.
BEST OF EVERYTHING
Lexus says: The RC F Sport chassis architecture takes inspiration from the stiff and responsive front end from the GS, the centre from the IS C for underbody strength and the traction-aiding rear from the IS sports sedan.”
Glenn Crompton, Lexus' marketing vice-president, added: “As with other recent offerings from the marque, the RC takes Lexus in a new direction with its show-stopping styling and drive experience, and is designed to engage with a younger audience.
“This new model brings a portion of LFA's excitement to a more attainable market segment and it will boost the brand's appeal even further. I’m confident it will resonate with a select set of discerning South African customers.”
SAD NEWS THOUGH…
Internationally the Lexus RC line-up includes the RC 200t and the fire-breathing RC F 5.0-litre V8. The local range kicks off with the RC 350 F-Sport and will be supplemented by the RC 200t in EX trim in a few months. For those who had their hopes high, the hallowed RC F is not on the cards for South Africa, says Lexus.
ABOUT THAT FRONT END
The automaker says the L-mesh spindle grille - which I am still warming up to - creates a look that symbolises Lexus' forward thinking design strategy in a unique two-door body shape. The wheelbase measures 2.73m, length 4.69m and roof height is 1.39m. Its wide and low grille is flanked by bulky bumper corners and front flares.
As mentioned, this car has some serious sexy lines. There are multi-diode headlights, tail lights and fog lights, as well as diode daytime running lights everywhere else imaginable. A nifty treat is the automatic high beam system which auto dips for an oncoming car.
Larger air ducts each end of the front bumper control airflow to the sides of the body, says Lexus. A front air deflector and groove-shaped front fender liner minimise airflow reaching the front wheels, contributing to aerodynamic efficiency on the side of the vehicle.
Then there are the cool vertical fins which smooth airflow, says the automaker, on the rear bumpers which makes me think of Audi’s R8 supercar.
And what’s a hot car without some serious rims? The RC Sport has multi-spoke 19” alloys.
BUT HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Like a freakin' dream. All I wanted to do was put foot to the throttle and because the car has an intake sound generator which makes the RC F Sport have an even more assertive engine tone. The V6 2GR-FSE has dual variable valve timing, electronic throttle and Lexus’ D-4S system of direct and port fuel-injection.
The steering is light but firm and because the front chassis is 15% stiffer than that of the GS you really feel confident behind the wheel and it made me eagerly want to chuck it into the corners of the glorious Franschhoek Pass. It kicks out a yummy 233kW from 6400rpm and 378Nm from 4800rpm. It sprints to 100km/h in 6.3sec and can reach 230km/h.
Fuel consumption is rated at 9.4 litres/100km, CO2 emissions at 217g/km and the car is Euro-5 compliant. Gear-shifting is incredibly smooth and you can barely hear or feel the changes thanks to the close ratios. This is probably because the engine is mated to an eight-speed gearbox with M Mode, allowing full torque-converter lock-up from second to eighth gears.
Lexus claims the torque converter has a long-travel damper to boost fuel economy and reduce NVH during lock-up. The transmission can be used in D (automatic) or M mode, which has full torque-converter lock-up from second to eighth gears for clutchless manual shifts using steering-column paddle shifts if preferred.
I also love that although it hardly looks like one the car is a four-seater. Boot space is a big, even though it’s a coupe. Luggage space is always appreciated: this Lexus can take six luggage bags for two women, or two huge golf bags.
The cabin has typically Lexus lavish styling. The instrument cluster has a horizontal design and the equipment is all very easily accessible while soft ambient lighting adds the finishing touch. There is a delicious dark rose leather trim option - or you can go for black.
There are also six new colours in the range including a new shade of red and blue. There are way too many things to write about so here’s a quick list of all the standard goodies, including driving assistant systems:
• Drive mode choice (eco, normal, sport, sport plus)
• Adaptive variable suspension
• Variable gear-ratio steering
• Dynamic rear steering
• Lane departure alert
• Auto high beam
• LED head and fog lights
• Smooth leather-accented interior
• Eight-way power-steering column adjustment
• Power front seats with memories, heatable ventilated seats
• Smart entry and start
• Satellite navigation
• 18cm multimedia display
• Reversing camera
• Third-generation Lexus touch navigation pad
•10-speaker audio system with Advanced Bluetooth and USB input
• Parking sonar front and rear
• Eight crash bags
• 19” twin 10-spoke F Sport alloy rims
• Electrochromatic mirrors (internal and external)
• Electrostatic aircon (touch sensitive)
• 60:40 folding rear seats
• Power moonroof
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
The navigation system is a tad horrid. It’s finicky and if I have to fight with a computer to figure out where to go, I’d rather just get lost or follow my own sense of direction. Lexus, please simplify, and fast.
As usual with a Lexus vehicle, there are few options as everything comes standard. And there’s only one model for now so expect to pay R730 900.
The RC 350 F Sport comes with a four-year or 100 000km full maintenance plan and a four-year or 100 000km warranty.