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LISTEN 08:12

The crisp, cold air caught me off guard when I stepped from the hotel into the staging area where Lexus had filed a handful of its newest creations into two lines, prepped for a drive through the lush countryside that envelopes New York’s Hudson Valley. The brisk air might not have been what this Floridian was used to in mid-September, but once behind the wheel of the 2015 Lexus RC F, things became familiar.

Though I’d not sat in Lexus’ two-door, rear-drive sports coupe a day in my life, the interior was an immediately recognizable place, harking back to my time in the 2014 IS 350 F-Sport. The controls fell in the same position, the infotainment screen showed the same Enform system, even the overall design looked like I’d accidentally sat in the wrong Lexus.

And that’s not a bad thing.

While there’s plenty of IS flavor in the new RC, there’s even more that’s unfamiliar. The beautifully stitched sports seats, the reworked gauge cluster, and the center console arrangement are all new, not to mention the 2+2 seating configuration.

Slipping the eight-speed automatic into gear, the faintly audible rumble of the RC F’s 5.0-liter V-8 mumbled at a lower tone. Our entourage of journalists was off to conquer a two-hour drive before arriving at our destination, Monticello Motor Club.

  • 2015 Lexus RC - First Drive
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    eight-speed auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • MPG(Cty):
  • MPG(Hwy):
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    5.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4.4 sec.
  • Quarter Mile time:
    12.5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    170 mph
  • Layout:
    Front-engine, Rear-Drive
  • Price:
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:
2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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The drive towards Monticello included some incredible two-lane roads offering plenty of opportunities to delve into the capabilities of the RC. With good outward visibility, the road and its stationary bystanders seemed to disappear past the windows. As the trees whizzed past, it became clear the RC F makes a great GT car. Fast, quiet, and comfortable are all adequate words to describe the RC F, yet it’s much more than that.

A four-position drive-mode dial allows for tuning of the car’s characteristics. Relaxed highway jaunts are best done in Normal or even Eco modes, as the transmission shifts smoothly, and the steering allows for more play. Sport mode acts like a socket wrench on a well-oiled bolt. The steering is noticeably firmer while the throttle becomes keener on taking inputs more seriously. Sport Plus is best left for the track.

Even in the most aggressive mode, the RC F doesn’t pummel its occupants over rough roads; it merely beats them. I could feel the slightest ripple in the pavement, and the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires pick up nearly every piece of loose gravel, throwing it against the wheel housing. But that’s how it should be. The RC F acted like a proper sports car should on the open road, but was never punishing. The ride is supple enough not to discourage a long-distance trip.

RC 350 F Sport

2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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Our drive route included swapping cars along the way, allowing for seat time in both the RC F, as well as its tamer sibling, the RC 350. My co-driver and I lucked into swapping for an RC 350 F Sport. Still powered by the same 3.5-liter as the standard RC 350, the F Sport trim adds the right touches of sport. Larger brakes, stickier tires, firmer suspension, more aggressive bodywork, and a multitude of F badges dotted around the coupe separate the F Sport as the modestly priced wild child.

The V-6 has a decidedly sporty noise to it, almost sounding supercharged. Lexus has spent a lot of time perfecting the 3.5-liter’s intake noise, making its 306 horsepower sound like much more. Its 277 pound-feet of torque keeps it humming down low in its rev range, making it pull more like a V-8 when driving at four tenths.

Twisting the drive mode knob into Sport mode produces the same effects as it does in the RC F. The steering becomes much tighter, the throttle is edgier, and the car takes on a more impatient personality. Devouring blacktop at Autobahn speeds is what it does best.

Outwardly, the RC 350 F-Sport isn’t as aggressive as the RC F, though that’s debatable when considering the F Sport’s rear fascia. The F Sport does enjoy some rather Porsche-like vents behind its rear wheels, though sadly they’re just for show. Otherwise, the RC 350 lacks the massive (and functional) scoops flanking its front bumper and the single heat extractor sitting atop the RC F’s bulbous hood.

Track Time with the RC F

2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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As the Enform GPS neared the end of its mileage countdown to Monticello, the roads turned from twisty highways to straight side roads that were littered with gravel. That changed again once we turned into the Monticello Motor Club facilities. Perfectly paved roads lead to the main garage and beyond it lie the smooth 4.1 miles of track, ready to receive its first hot lap of the day.

After a safety briefing and dawning a helmet, it was time. As I sat on pit road, the 5.0-liter V-8 quietly burbled in anticipation. I turned the Drive Mode selector to the right twice, opting for Sport Plus. Out of the gate, the first turn came quickly as the 467 horsepower launched the RC F faster than anticipated. When braking hard, the RC F’s nose dips just slightly. Turn-in happens quickly too, and with almost no understeer. Body roll is present, but just slightly, letting you know you’re turning at a high rate of speed. Accelerating off the corner’s apex brings a thunderous racket from behind as the V-8’s exhaust opens up.

In Sport Plus where the traction control is more forgiving of shenanigans, the RC F holds corners very well. The same is true even with modest throttle — it just sticks to your line. Of course, a heavy foot will rotate the rear end sideways upon request.

Monticello’s back straight tracks down a slope and turns slightly to the right. Even with Lexus’ blockade of a makeshift chicane midway through the stretch, speeds of 120 mph are easily achieved before having to murder the brakes before the next, rather wicked set of corners. A steep uphill climb is followed by a quick snap left, immediately followed by a quicker snap right. The RC F handles the tossing just fine. Even when entering with too much speed, the Michelins just stick.

By the end of my time on the track, the Brembo brakes smell like they’ve been set on fire, though they don’t exhibit fade. The coolant temperature meter sits in its normal location. Both owe thanks to the RC F’s large Spindle grille that feeds air into the necessary areas. The two side grilles feed air into a transmission oil cooler and an engine oil cooler, with each on its respective side.

TopSpeed Garage


2015 Lexus RC - First Drive High Resolution Exterior
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Lexus’ latest stab at building a sports coupe seems to have made a solid contender for the current rivals, the BMW M4, Audi RS 5, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe. While a head-to-head comparison will be needed to shake down the truth, the RC F feels like a worthy contender in this category.

While the RC F helps boost Lexus’ street cred, it also helps increase its image in the racing scene. The engineers on site say the RC F marks the company’s return to racing, something we’ve all be looking forward to.

It’s hard to imagine the RC not selling well, especially the RC 350. With its available AWD and F Sport packages, it offers a level of luxury and performance the average buyer would be more than happy owning. The RC F makes a compelling argument for itself to the weekend track warrior, especially when considering its sticker price is a touch lower than its competitors.

As for me, I look forward to spending more time in the RC, testing its everyday usability and drivability on familiar streets. If the rule about first impressions usually being accurate holds true, then the RC 350 and RC F will make excellent choices against their German rivals.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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