2015 Lexus RC F First Drive

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At some point in the early 2000s, Lexus approached peak grandma. Cars like the SC convertible and the ES sedan were arguably its best efforts, just when Cadillac was brewing up a revival and BMW putting out some of its best machinery before electronic controls became a generation's voodoo curse.

A massive course correction came with the LFA. Sure, it took ten years and two body compositions to get it out the door, but even at triple its intended price, the LFA was evidence that Lexus had something more interesting in it than champagne glasses and ball bearings. The LFA influenced the rowdy IS F, then the smartly done GS F Sport followed.

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Now Lexus is collating all that learning into the 2015 Lexus RC F Coupe. It's the V-8-laden, all-hands-on-deck version of its new two-door RC lineup. (RC probably winks and nods to radio-controlled cars, not intentionally to perennial fourth-placer soda brand RC Cola.)

The RC F is Lexus gone wild, with aero kicks and eight-cylinder barks and electronically controlled everything, as well as a cockpit basically decorated by dropping a box of high-end audio between two seats. It's all in the effort to draw comparison with the mighty BMW M3.

So is the Lexus RC F finally legit, or are its Bimmerphile come-ons just a fantasy? The legit answer is a qualified yes. The RC F is a lovely road car with a vast track performance envelope, but it still has its mass and its badge to contend with.

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2015 Lexus RC F

2015 Lexus RC F

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Strands in the hourglass

The RC has lots of Fs to give, and they show up first in the grille. Look close: it's an Escher-like weave of hundreds of little F-shapes. The strands mesh to lighten up the bulbous nose a little, no mean feat, since it wears the most outrageous Lexus hourglass yet--like it flew into a little black dress at highway speeds.

From other angles too, the RC F is the most compelling Lexus design since the LFA, even better than the first SC coupes from which it's descended. Coupe forms are naturally more attractive than their sedan counterparts. and the RC's roofline and the uptick at its rear fenders is all the proof needed. Curving, complex surfaces wrap around to the sculpted fenders and sides. The thick helmet it wears has some Cylon in it, like the Scion tC. The headlights have sharp little LED underlining for relief. It's just more interesting to study than an M4.

At the rear, the RC F shows off some of the aero benefit of its shape. The rear fins and vents break up the pretty, the stacked exhaust outlets add a touch of mean. There's a speed-activated wing that lifts at 50 mph (or in track mode, at 80 mph).

The cockpit adapts the IS sedan's conflicting horizontal and curved shapes into a well-fitted workspace. The steering wheel is slightly elliptical, the high-backed seats are stitched elaborately. In the RC F, a digital gauge cluster adapts to the driving modes selected, toggling and varying the size of indicators for gears, engine speed, tripometer, and stopwatch functions. The dash is embellished with an analog clock that took me at least 15 minutes to find--because it's analog, not because it's right in the middle of the dash.

Those conflicting themes don't coordinate as well as they could in the RC F. For all its resemblance to high-end audio, the center stack rides over the curved console frame--like a bookshelf fell and the components are hanging precariously. There's no trim line to continue the horizon line of vents across the passenger space. At least the controls--the hard controls, not the touch surfaces--are straightforward and operate with obvious intent.

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