Like Ron Burgundy, high-performance cars are kind of a big deal around here. Anytime something new comes out, it causes quite a stir. So you can imagine the excitement built up over the new offerings from BMW and Lexus . Both companies have been hard at work building track-ready beasts like the M3 /M4 duo and RC F ready to take on the clock, the instrumented testing, and each other as they duke it out for a spot on your dream driveway.
While neither the M4 Coupe nor the RC F has been driven by anyone outside their respective manufactures, the comparisons have already begun. And that’s what we’re doing here. A detailed look into their numbers, estimated performance stats, and brand history to see which car is likely to find itself on top once the real-world comparison tests happen.
Until time narrows towards the cars’ launches this summer, guessing is all we can do. However, we can make educated guesses based on the criteria above. We will also take a close look at each car’s interior and exterior design, usability, and pricing. Follow along as we dive deep into the numbers to dissect which car will emerge as king.
Click past the jump for the comparison
Both cars have their own, very unique styling that tightly identifies them with their respective brands. The M4 , while being all new, still has all the right stuff to make it a true BMW. Its four round headlights flank the center kidney bean grille up front while the rear deck lid, taillights, and quad exhaust scream the Bavarian anthem, Bayernhymne
The M4 is more the traditionalist of the duo, having a look that’s more current than futuristic. Its current face, however, is still historic, as the look dates back into the early days of BMW. It’s not retro, but rather the look of a great grandson bearing resemblance to his family lineage. The RC F , on the other hand, is quite the opposite.
Since Lexus isn’t all that old, having come to the U.S. in 1989, the Japanese automaker takes a more forward approach to its design. The RC F sports cues from other cars in the Lexus lineup with its polarizing Spindle grille, but still looks like nothing else the automaker has ever rolled off its assembly lines. Only the LFA surpasses its forward design approach.
Yes, the Spindle grille is polarizing; You either love it or hate it. Admittedly, it does look like the Predator, and while it’s likely an unintentional design similarity, we find it appropriate. After all, this is a predatory track machine, right?
Within that snarling grille lies a subtle and repeated F pattern in the screens covering the air intakes. Above the grille, the bulging hood forewarns of what lurks underneath, while the massive side gills and rear air diffuser further the idea. Stacked quad exhausts pipes recall past F cars as they bellow out howls from Lexus’ most powerful V-8 in production.
Both cars come with sticky performance rubber wrapping lightweight alloy wheels with spokes the size of toothpicks. Performance brakes show through all eight wheels as the massive calipers and rotors are needed to slow the roll of these two speed demons. Outward visibility should be good in both cars, with the favor tipping in BMW ’s favor due to the thick C-Pillars on the Lexus. The side windows seems to be larger on the Bimmer as well, helping the driver keep an eye on what’s going on outside.
|BMW M4 Coupe||Lexus RC F|
|Length||183.89 inches||185.2 inches|
|Width||73.89 inches||72.8 inches|
|Height||56.06 inches||54.7 inches|
|Wheelbase||110.70 inches||107.5 inches|
The cockpit of both the M4 and RC F look like places of business. They carry an appearance of skilled precision and are laid out in a manor that aids the driver carry out the mission of driving well. Both interiors have their strong and weak points, but either one will likely perform their intended function without any hiccup. Both companies have been at this long enough to have ergonomic issues sorted out – not to mention these interiors are just variations of interiors already in production.
The Lexus’ interior is soaked in technology. From the updated track pad on the center console to the beautiful digital instrument cluster and infotainment display, the RC F is the techno-geek’s choice. We’re quite fond of how the dashboard is laid out and its integration with the center console rising up to meet it. The radio and HVAC control panel does seem oddly mismatched to the otherwise 3D-sytle interior. The seats help separate the otherwise identical cabin from its four-door IS cousins by incorporating some intricate stitching that really dress things up.
The BMW’s interior, although new for the M4, is very familiar. Carbon fiber and leather drip off almost every surface while bits of chrome work brighten the environment. It’s a classy cabin, and one we like a lot. We’re particularly fond of the new steering wheel with its smaller design that visually cuts weight from the car. Its accents match that of the instrument cluster and center console while the redundant controls help keep the driver’s hands on the wheel while performing in-cabin adjustments. Unlike the gauge cluster of the RC F, the M4 sports a more traditional analog gauge set.
Here’s where things get fun. The hearts of these two beasts couldn’t be more different, yet still achieve similar output levels. Both automakers arrived at the same destination, while taking two paths to get there. Neither is a bad thing, but perhaps one is better able to generate more race-winning power than the other. Let’s have a look.
BMW decided to dump its old 4.0-liter V-8 in lieu of something from its past: a straight six design. Displacing three liters, this updated mill gets two mono-scroll turbochargers, direct injection, variable valve timing and variable camshaft timing, resulting in 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. Forged internal components have reduced the rotational weight for quick throttle responses all the way to its 7,600-rpm redline. Smart ly, the engine reaches and maintains its max torque from 1,850 rpm to 5,500 rpm, where then the horsepower reaches its maximum effectiveness between 5,500 rpm through 7,300 rpm – just 300 short of its terminal rotational velocity.
The BMW has two transmission offerings: a traditional six-speed manual and BMW’s quick-shifting M-DCT, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Both send power to the rear wheels though a carbon fiber reinforced plastic driveshaft that cuts weight yet adds significant strength.
The six-speed manual features its own rev-matching system that automatically places the engine at the proper rpm for perfect downshifts every time. The M-DCT, while it doesn’t allow you to row your own gears, does lay down faster times. Zero to 60 comes in only 3.9 seconds whereas the manual takes 4.1 seconds to do the same. Helping put that power to the ground is BMW’s Active M Differential. It uses an electronically controlled multi-plate limited-slip system to precisely deliver traction by communicating with the onboard Dynamic Stability Control system which monitors the car’s accelerator pedal position, yaw rate, and rotational speed of the wheels, among other parameters, to accurately control which wheel is getting what percentage of power.
The whole package is an amazing feat of technological engineering that deserves some sort of Nobel Peace Prize. The BMW has been famous, or infamous in some cases, for its ability to build some of the best track cars ever put into production. Whether or not the new M4 lives up to the reputation has yet to be seen, but the Germans seem to have all the right ingredients assembled for yet another Blitzkrieg track star.
Then we have the Lexus RC F. The Japanese have chosen to generate power the old fashioned way – with naturally aspirated displacement. Five liters of V-8 goodness rumble under the RC F’s bulging hood, cranking out what Lexus says will be “more than 450 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque.”
Engineers didn’t neglect to add plenty of whiz-bang gadgetry though, as this V-8 sports electric phasing on all four cams, giving the computer the utmost control over timing on this double combustion style engine. That’s right, this mill will run as both a conventional Otto-cycle, four-stroke and the more efficient Atkinson cycle borrowed from the Prius. Don’t let the mention of a Prius disrupt your thinking though; no, this engine will loaf along in Atkinson mode barely sipping fuel, essentially only using 4.2 of its liters by leaving its intake valves open for a portion of the compression stroke, until you goose the throttle and the Otto-cycle takes over. All five liters seamlessly kick in, making horsepower nearly all the way to its 7,800-rpm redline.
Like the BMW, Lexus uses a sophisticated differential to lay the power down. In this case, it’s a torque vectoring unit that comes with three modes for matching general driving needs: Standard, Slalom, and Track. Obviously standard mode allows the differential to operate most freely without too much intervention in every day driving. Slalom mode is set up more for the curvy mountain pass or road course where nimbleness is essential. Track mode is geared toward consistent stability during full-throttle hard cornering and such.
Unlike the BMW though, the Lexus only gets one transmission option: an eight-speed automatic with sport-plus and manual shift modes. In manual mode, the driver has full control over the shift points by operating either the gear selector or the shift paddles. Throttle response is also driver-selectable with a center console-mounted rotary knob marked Eco, Normal, and Sport. The transmission shift schedule and steering feel also change within the different modes for optimizing the car to the selected situation.
While Lexus has yet to release the official numbers, it plans on doing better than the current IS F’s 0 to 60 mph times of 4.6 seconds. With the added power and technology over the IS F, its hard to imagine the RC F not getting closer to the 4.0-second mark.
|BMW M4 Coupe||Lexus RC F|
|Engine Type||3.0-Liter I-6 Turbocharged||5.0 liter V-8 engine|
|Output (HP @ RPM)||425 @ 5500–7300||More than 450 HP|
|Torque (LB-FT @ RPM)||406 @ 1,850–5,500||More than 383 lb.-ft|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual gearbox (optional: Seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission)||Eight-speed Sports Direct Shift (SPDS)|
|Acceleration (0-60 MPH)||4.1 Sec (W/ Manual) / 3.9 Sec. (W/ M-DCT)||TBA|
|Top Speed||155 mph||168 mph|
Now it comes down to how these two performance coupes stack up on race day. Which one will hit 60 mph first…or the quarter mile? Which one will has more lateral grip through the slaloms? And which one has the shortest stopping distances? Let’s get down to speculating!
0 to 60
With both cars in their respective sport modes – and the BMW outfitted with the M-DCT transmission – the 0 to 60 mph test should be an exciting match, though not a close one. Even with its massive V-8 making at least 25 more horsepower and swanky new torque-vectoring differential, the Lexus will likely fall to the BMW’s twin-turbo inline six. Remember, we know the M4 hits 60 in a blazing 3.9 seconds while Lexus tells us they’re shooting to get 0 to 60 times under the IS F ’s 4.6 second mark. How far under is unknown, but weighing in at a hefty 3,968 pounds, the RC F is considerably heavier than the 3,300-pound BMW. We suspect the RC F will hit 60 in the 4.1 to 4.4 second range.
Again, it’s a hard fight to call this early in the game without the RC F’s specific numbers and powerband information. The BMW does an amazing job on paper of sliding from peak torque (406 pound-feet from 1,850 rpm through 5,500 rpm) up to its peak horsepower (425 from 5,500 through 7,300 rpm). But once in the upper powerband, will the 425 horses be enough to stay ahead of the more powerful RC F?
A lot will depend on gearing, too, and when each transmission will need to shift. Surely the engineers have programmed the dual clutches to keep the engines churning in their peak powerbands, and hopefully allowing 60 mph to come before a needed shift point. We expect the M4 to have the advantage getting off the line, but once moving, the RC F might have a chance at running the Bimmer. Recalling quarter mile times of the outgoing M3 being in the low 12-second range, it’s very likely the new M4 will at least make the high 11-second mark. The RC F will undoubtedly give a competitive run, but will it match or even our run the current king?
Both cars will probably hold their own very well in the twisty stuff. BMW has that proven record, and with less weight to lug around than even the outgoing M3, the M4 will probably hold over 1 g of lateral grip - its Active M Differential and the stability control working to keep the car pointed in the right direction.
The RC F’s steering could be nearly LFA good, keeping the feel light and reactions precise. The RC F also benefits from heavy use of aluminum suspension parts that help keep unsprung weight to a minimum. Its torque vectoring differential will help in the same ways as the Active M unit in the M4, along with Lexus’ selectable drive modes. We expect the RC F to handle closely with the M4, but fall short when operating at 10/10th. BMW M3s have always done well up to, and even past limit handling.
Both cars are fitted with respectable high-performance brake packages. The M4 enjoys BMW’s M compound brakes, though carbon ceramic units with gold calipers can be had at a slight additional cost. Those units are shared with its M5/M6 big brothers and will certainly slow the car at a rapid rate and resist fading even with the most extreme track use. Expectations for the M4’s 60 to 0 times are between 100 to 105 feet with the standard compound brakes and closer to 97 feet with with the carbon ceramics.
The RC F, on the other hand, makes no use of carbon ceramics at all – solely relying on conventional materials in its rotors. They have been beefed up over the IS F’s Brembo units though, as the slotted rotors grow from 14.2 to 15 inches. They’re thicker as well, adding another 0.15-inch overall. The rear brakes are also upgraded with four-piston calipers. By our estimation, the RC F will stop from 60 to 0 in roughly 110 feet.
This is where things start to get hairy. Neither company has announced any official pricing as of this writing. However, like this entire head to head, we’ll put ourselves out on the precarious limb of educated guessing.
The outgoing BMW M3 had an MSRP of roughly $60,000. That’s a fair chunk of change for a two-door coupe, but its performance tech is where the expensive bits lie. Sin ce BMW has revamped its 3-Series/4-Series nameplates, its likely the M4 will be slotted above the M3, even considering the M3 will have more useable interior space with two extra doors giving access to the rear seats. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the M4 start between $65,000 and $70,000.
The RC F finds itself in the same uncharted pricing territory as the new 3-/4-Series does. Considering the RC F goes beyond the performance and exclusivity levels of the IS F, it’s apparent the price will exceed that of the IS F as well. The current 2014 IS F starts at $63,600, so if Lexus coincidentally asked anything from say $65,000 to $70,000 for the RC F, it wouldn’t be unreasonable.
|BMW M4 Coupe||$64,200|
|Lexus RC F||TBA|
Both the M4 and RC F are guaranteed to be strong performers on the street and track, but it’s hard to imagine the M4 not pulling out a win here. With its years of history and engineering excellence bred into every nook of carbon fiber and crease of aluminum, the M4 will likely emerge victorious – that is, until the trip home from the track.
The RC F with its more posh, luxurious roots will probably be just as happy lazily cruising down a canyon road as tearing up the Nürburgring – something the super-tightly wound M4 might have issues with. With its engine management set to Eco mode and its snarling 5.0-liter V-8 tamed back into its Atkinson cycle, the RC F will definitely be the grand tourer of the two.
Now arriving at that conclusion, the question begs to be asked: which car takes home the win? Is it the BMW for its crowning achievements on the track or the Lexus for its all-around potential – its everyday usability and weekend racetrack hero abilities? Perhaps it comes down to a tie. Perhaps it’s all about what you plan to do with your car. In our eyes, and while it pains us to be so politically correct, it seems everyone is a winner here for having such fine examples of automotive engineering rolling off production lines. Let us know what you think in the comments below.