Hot Lexus burns lips
Accused of firing too many brickbats at the Japanese car industry and specifically Toyota, for its lack of design enterprise, Iain P W Robertson has a field day with the RC F, Lexus’ most soul-stirring road car yet.
Unveiled at mid-January’s Detroit Motor Show, the quite-new RC F is a shoehorn job, a practice with which the Oriental carmaker has become more than just familiar. However, shoehorning has more than one meaning for Lexus, Toyota’s mostly pleasant luxury division. For a start, two metres of me has always struggled to slip ’twixt seat and steering column on the clearly ‘designed for abbreviated stature peoples’ Lexus.
Partly due to the fact that I am almost (but not quite) as wide as the grimacing ‘spindle’ grille being applied to the latest crop of Lexi (although not as bustierre shapely, obviously) does not help my case. There is a ‘pegs’ issue that insists a Northern European 35.5-inches of inside (not age) leg measurement is around 20% too great for Lexus to handle. Perhaps the company’s flexible rule does not unwind that far?
Quite how the fat bankers, over-endowed accountants, cigar-chomping CEOs and even the sporty and celebrity types that Lexus will surely provide with ‘free’ and ‘loan’ examples in coming weeks and months will be accommodated with any ease is simply beyond my comprehension. Yet, I cannot accuse Lexus of not trying.
The other element of shoehorning relates to dropping a big-banger motor beneath the bonnet of a fairly ‘ordinary’ motorcar. Of course, Lexus is not alone in this tradition. The sometime Australian division of General Motors, Holden (a car firm ostensibly now removed from its home market, by its US parent, after many years), was well-versed in slipping big horsepower V8s into its most rudimentary saloons, coupes and ‘utes’. Other major brands have done likewise.
It is an easy route to supercar urgency. However, Lexus has a hefty price premium to justify, so it travels a more complex pathway towards achieving those ends. The revised 32v, 5.0-litre, all-alloy V8 now produces a most impressive 450bhp, which pummels tarmac after passing through an eight-speed auto-box, en-route to a rear-driven back axle.
Naturally, in these days of fearsome governmental safety intervention, such a derring-do attitude might lead to an automotive ban for the Japanese carmaker…except it will not, because Lexus employs the very latest nannying electronic chassis management package, complete with ‘Torque Vectoring’, to ensure that (as long as the ‘traction-OFF’ button is not depressed) the RC F’s on-road behaviour will be exemplary. In fact, your nanny will probably never experience the rigours of oversteer en-route to knicker-buying at her local Marks & Sparks…presuming you allowed her to drive your prized Lexus and that you and her were less than 5 feet 11 inches tall (not combined).
Select the appropriate drive setting – Standard (default), Slalom (if you really feel hard enough and not to be confused with a Jewish ‘Hello’), Track (look out Brussels!) – and the RC F is said to do your bidding. The car’s fully independent suspension, 19-inch diameter alloy wheels (complete with fat tyres) and ball-jointed anti-roll bars are all aids to keen driver enjoyment.
Of course, the company’s former LFA supercar (which did hold the performance crown until production ended in December 2012) has contributed several ideas for the RC F, notably with an active rear spoiler and other aerodynamic addenda. Many of these parts, as well as the roof and bonnet, are produced from carbon-fibre, in an attempt to minimise weight and help with its distribution, to aid its dynamic intentions. It still tips the scales at around 1,800kgs and, yes, the rear wheels and tyres are wider than the fronts, presumably to accommodate both bulk and traction expectations.
Sadly, the overall performance does not stack up as well as the RC F’s tailpipes, delivering an electronically limited (damn those politicians!) top speed of 168mph, while it is expected to crack the 0-60mph benchmark in around 5.0 seconds. Its intended rivals are the BMW M3/M4 (whatever the Bavarians decide to call their latest sporting model) and even entry-level Porsches, with its expected invoice price to start at around £70,000. Better start saving then.
Conclusion: Keep your lips away from the stacked exhausts of the hot new Lexus, if you wish to avoid blisters, and keep clear of its spindle ‘gob’ too, for fear of cutting sharp edges. Toyota’s luxury/sporting arm cannot be caned too hard for trying to break a few preconceptions, even if the invoice will be crippling anyway.