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2015 Lexus RC & RC F NZ Launch – Queenstown & Highlands Park

2015 Lexus RC & RC F NZ Launch – Queenstown & Highlands Park

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Only a complete fool would not be as excited about this press launch as I was. I was totally pumped and had been since I got the invite several weeks before. And rightly so too, as Lexus wanted to launch the new RC and RC F models with a bang, and what they had planned ticked all of my boxes, as it was a two-day launch in the South Island. The launch brief was as follows; Day 1 fly to Dunedin, jump behind the wheel of the RCs and RC F, taking them on the road up and over the range to Queenstown for an overnight stay at Millbrook. Day 2 we drive to Cromwell, and spend the day at the Highlands Park, pushing the new RCs to their limits. If Lexus had told me that I had to swim down from Wellington to get to the start of this event, there would have been very little objection. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-04

First Impressions

As we walked out of Dunedin Airport there they were – a complete range of the available RC  models. Two Lexus RC Limiteds, two RC F-Sports and 2 RC Fs. The RC range has evolved from a lot of the design concepts in the latest NX and LFA – it’s a very modern, very sleek sports coupe, with quite an aggressive front end – even more so on the RC F due to the big V8. The difference between the RC Limited and RC F-Sport is subtle, with one leaning to the left, towards sophistication and the other leaning to the right towards sportiness. The RC F’s bonnet bump, big wheels and quad exhaust pipes makes it very obvious that it is all about adrenaline-fueled, edge of your seat, pants-wetting excitement. They all looked great, and I couldn’t wait to get in and take these beauties up and over the mountain roads to Queenstown. If I was to pick one feature that really stood out above all else, it would be the paint. Not as noticeable on the white cars, but on the blue and red it was hypnotically deep, and shiny. But the time to stare was over, it was now time to drive. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-07

Day 1 – The Drive

I went with the RC F to start with, which I later found out I should have left to last. Firing up the RC F’s V8 would bring a stupid grin to any enthusiast’s face, one big rev mixed with a lot of deep rumbles. A very smooth and easy car to drive in its regular mode, however the want to hear and feel more from that engine called out to my lead foot, which was very hard to resist. We headed out on route 8 with Queenstown in our sights. The RC F is a hard car not to like; easy to cruise along in, very comfy, and it sounds just amazing. And so it should with a naturally-aspirated 5.0L V8 that pumps out 352 Kw and 530 Nm of torque. It was intoxicating stuff, and the only downside was that the public roads where not where this car wanted to be. The speed limit was a burden, something the F badge wanted to shake off. And this would be done on Day 2 when we get to Highland Park. We stopped at a cafe for lunch and a car change; next up for the F-Sport. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-08

The F-Sport was one of those models that does exactly what is says on the tin, it was a sports orientated coupe that just wanted to have a bit of fun. Nothing about this car was too hardcore or turned up to eleven like the RC F. It was a good allrounder, and surprisingly the cheapest of the bunch at $122,500. Packing a 3.5L V6 with 233kw and 378 Nm of torque, the F-Sport has an all over sportier suspension and drivetrain setup with quicker, instant power delivery then the Limited. We stopped at Alexandra for a bit of an adrenaline-filled surprise – a jetboat ride up the Clutha River. This was a good break away from driving, some time to reflect on what we had tested so far. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-17

The last stage of the trip is why I found out that driving the RC F first was a bad idea. We were on our way to Queenstown and we were going the scenic route, via the Crown Range Road. I had the RC Limited for this stretch of the trip, and made the most of it. The RC limited in my eyes is very much the luxury cruiser of the group. It is not meant for the speed junkie customer, but for the more discerning, enjoying the journey owner. Very smooth and comfy, and it had a pretty amazing stereo too. However, for this driver on this stretch of road the Limited was the most ideal car, but I made the most of it and even though it had a bit more roll than the F-Sport, the Limited did not let me down. The day wound down as we rolled into Arrowtown, to the Millbrook Golf Course, where we would be slumming it for the night. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-22

Day 2 – The Track

Even though it had been a bit of a late night the evening before, there was no trouble in getting out of bed. The feeling was like waking up for a big car meet, but 100 times more exciting, cos we were taking the RC range to Highland Park, New Zealand’s newest private racetrack for want of a better word, a good hooning. The only problem now was that it’s currently 5:30am and I am wide awake. So I went for a bit of a walk to check out Millbrook as the sun rose. From a photographers point of view, Millbrook is a ridiculously picturesque place, so perfect it’s almost scary, very Stepford Wives. But the fact of the matter was that place like this just make it easy to take a good photo, but I did think the two hot air balloons that past overhead and landing in the next field was a bit much. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-31

After some photos and a pretty sweet breakfast buffet, the rest of the crew were up and ready to hit the road. The drive from Millbrook to Cromwell is just shy of 50km, but it might as well have been 500km due to the anticipation. Finally we had arrived at Highland Park and it did not disappoint, a very impressive complex I must say. We parked up outside the pit lanes complex and went in for our track briefing from none other than professional race driver Neal Bates. Once we got our marching orders, it was now time to hit the track. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-47

Unlike Day one I started off the day in the RC limited, with an unexpected passenger, Toyota/Lexus New Zealand CEO, Alistair Davis. For the first few laps my only thoughts gravitated around one glaringly obvious point. Do not to endanger this man’s life, as you will never be invited back to another press launch ever again. After a few laps he moved on to another car, with a sigh of relief, I felt a bit more relaxed and could focus now on pushing the car to its limits. The $125,500 Limited, was as expected, not terrible on the track, but you definitely got the feeling that this models future did not have regular track day events in mind. The suspension was still quite soft even in sports mode and have a fair bit of lean to it in the corners. For a more civilised car it had a pretty decent engine note too. But the overall impression mixed with quite a plain dash the Limited did not feel like a sporty car, much more the luxury GT cruiser. Regardless, it handled itself quite well, which was a very good sign, as the next two models are orientated more towards the hoon in us all. And if the base model can handle itself well on the track, the next two should be very enjoyable Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-38

The F-sport  was up next, and considering the Limited and F-Sport share the same engines, the 3.5L V6 with 233kw and 378 Nm of Torque. They also both had more or less the same running gear, and both could do 0-100km in 6.3 seconds. The F-Sport is a little cheaper and starts at  $122,500. There was however a very noticeable difference to the overall setup between the Limited and F-Sport model. The steering felt a bit sharper and the suspension was quite a bit harder in sports mode. These two features alone let you push the F-Sport a bit more on the track. The F-Sport LFA’s dash really help push that overall feel, and in my opinion it was the best dash of the three, even cooler than the RC F’s dash. Around the track the F-Sport was smooth and easy to drive, good power delivery and little or no real brake fade from either model over the majority of the day. I was pretty sure they would need some new pads at the day we had with them. This was pretty impressive considering how much they were getting pushed. Ok let’s face it  – thrashed, as the RC‘s are not a light cars, it’s fully outfitted with the normal Lexus comforts, thick carpets and amazing seats, all of which gave the RC’s a curb weight of around 1800 kg. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-58

The main course was over, it was now time for dessert: the blue and white RC Fs – both cars packing the mighty 5.0L V8 with 352 Kw and 530 Nm of torque. The only difference between the white and blue car was that the white car had the optional electronic torque vectoring differential, which was also the only option available. The RC F has a lot of the visual tick boxes checked right from the get go. Sleek and Slick body work, Big Rims, Bonnet Bump, Quad Exhaust, Speed deployable spoiler and an aggressive front and rear diffuser. From the sound to the feel the RC F was a completely different beast to the F-Sport and Limited models. As we were on the track the there was no point wasting any time with its regular mode, slalom and track was the setting for the day. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-53

Both cars felt really good on the track, the extra weight of the V8 seems to give a greater centre of balance then the V6 cars. I was able to hit the entry and exit points of the corners with ease, and then get straight on the power. And this power came in waves, so many endless waves. Opening the car up on the straight, you can feel it stretch its rear legs and claw at the ground, pulling itself along like some savage animal hunting down its prey. The RC F was a very easy car to have fun in, and a very easy car to drive as a whole. And this was made even easier and some what more exciting when I switched to the white car with the TVD. The easiest way to explain how the TVD changed the overall feel of the car is to drive the white car as hard as I drove the blue without the TVD, the difference is that it was not as difficult to push to the limit. It allows you to get on the power earlier, and it correctly delivers the power to which ever rear wheels needs it when changing direction. This results in a massive boost of confidence, making the RC F an amazingly fun car to drive on the track, fully justifying its F badge. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-57

What it’s up against

I must tip my hat to Lexus, as this is one of the toughest and revered market section in the market, and you have to have a good set of brass ones if you are planning on going up against the mighty Germans and the very best they have to offer. And what they have offered up is something the Germans should be a bit concerned about as its a very serious contender. One of the biggest factors being the 5.0L NA V8 they are running, which sounds amazing, and when you compare this to BMW M4’s V6 turbo engine, you might think twice about going with the Germans. Although with that being said, AMG have never dropped the ball in terms of sounds, and still pack eye watering V8 engines in their C63 AMG Coupe. Lexus have stepped up, which is awesome to see, however with the price difference of only six to ten grand, the RC F might find it hard to sway legacy enthusiasts away from what the tried and tested Germans have to offer. Lexus-RC-F-NZ-Launch-Queenstown-Highlands-Park-42

Performance 2+2 Coupes

Brand / ModelEnginePowerFuel L/100km0-100 km/hPrice Highest to Lowest
Porsche 911 Carrera3.8 L Flat 6257 Kw / 440 Nm8.2 L / 100km4.6 sec$205,500
Jagaur XKR5.0 L V8375 Kw / 625 Nm12.3 L / 100km4.8 sec$195,000
BMW M43.0 L Twin Turbo V6317 Kw / 550 Nm8.3 L / 100km4.1 sec$169,900
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe6.2 L AMG V8336 Kw / 600 Nm12.1 L / 100km4.1 sec$168,900
Audi RS54.2 L FSI V8 quattro331 Kw / 430 Nm10.5 L / 100km4.5 sec$165,900
Lexus RC F5.0 L V8351 Kw / 530 Nm10.9 L / 100km4.5 sec$159,900

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ProsCons
  • It’s pretty easy on the eyes and it’s got some great details.
  • It’s fast and handles well, and very fun to drive.
  • Can’t beat the sound of that 5.0L V8 engine, even better in Sports mode.
  • Drinks like a fish, but you won’t care.
  • Great driving position/interior cabin.
  • Very smooth and quiet when you drive it like a sensible person.
  • Speed-developed spoiler, hard to say that’s not cool.
  • If you track it, the Torque diff is a must have, and worth the cost.
  • Cheaper than the competition, but may not be enough to sway serious legacy customers.
  • Drinks like a fish, but you probably won’t care.
  • Back seats are useless if the driver is over 6 ft tall.
  • RC F-Sport has a much better and cooler LFA style dash then the RC F.
  • Should have had more in line with the LFA, to give the RC F more WOW factor.

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What do we think ?

Lexus has themselves a solid performer here, it looks the part, it goes like a bat out of hell, and sounds like the thunder of the Gods. It’s great fun to drive and would be an easy car to live with day to day. And when you want to track it, you can have a ball. If you put this up beside the big Germans, I think you might find a lot of people will give the Lexus a proper second look, as it has the right ingredients that makes you say, Yup that’s the one for me. We loved the RC F, and think a lot of enthusiasts will too.

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Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5 2015 Lexus RC F

Vehicle TypeFront Engine, RWD Sports Coupe
Starting Price$ 159,900 NZD
Tested Price$ 159,900 NZD
Engine5.0L V8, 2UR-GSE, 32-valve Quad Cam with Dual VVT-i
Transmission8 Speed SPDS (Sport Direct Shift) Automatic
0 – 100 kph4.5 seconds
Kerb Weight1795 kg
Length x Width x Height4750 x 1845 x 1390 mm
Cargo Capacity366 Litres
Fuel Tank66 litres
Fuel Efficiency Combined – 10.9 L/100km
ANCAP Safety RatingsYet to be tested

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