The halo model, every car company needs one. It is the car that sits front and center in the dealer's showroom, its aura of advanced technology, styling and performance lending a glow all the way down the product range. It is the one that draws shoppers in, even if they end up buying a minivan. For Lexus, that car is the new RC F coupe that was unveiled at NAIAS last month.
Lexus is a brand that doesn't need much burnishing, but might need a little help in defining its F performance brand. What M is to BMW, S is to Audi and AMG is to Mercedes, the F brand is to Lexus. Even though the RC F is only the third Lexus to get the F badge – after the IS F and the LFA supercar – it's there to let you know that the up-market Toyota brand means business.
As with its German counterparts, the RC F is first and foremost about power and the application of that power to the tarmac as directly and efficiently as possible. For the RC F, this is accomplished with a stonking 5 liter V8 plant situated up front under a low-slung hood. The V8 engine cranks out 351 kW (470 hp) of power and 530 Nm of torque, sending all that power to the road via an eight-speed transmission and a torque vectoring differential. Naturally, the chassis is stiff, the suspension was developed and refined at the track and the brakes could stop a train.
First things first, let's take a closer look at that engine. Lexus calls it the 2UR-GSE and it features all-new cylinder heads, a new D-4S dual-injection system for the go juice, lighter moving parts, new cam profiles, and new intake and exhaust manifolds. Bottom line: power is up by 13 per cent from the previous mill. The internals bear goodies of their own, like forged con-rods and titanium valves allowing the red line to be set at a pretty-durn-high 7,300 rpm, which is not at all bad for an engine with a 12.3:1 compression ratio and pistons the size of your fist.
All that translates into 351 kW of power at 7,100 rpm and 530 Nm of torque from 4,800 to 5,600 rpm. This means the lucky drivers of the RC F have around 2,500 rpm of nice, fat powerband to play with to their hearts content. And in case you're getting your tutu in a twist, Lexus was also able to up the fuel economy and get the RC F to meet the uber-strict Euro 6 emission requirements.
All that power can't stay in the crankcase, and it's south of the bellhousing where there's some really neat tech happening.
For starters there's a whole lot of cogs in the gearbox. Eight of them to be exact, with the first gear being a granny ratio to get you off the line, then six more that are closely spaced, ratio-wise, and then that final eighth gear that's Yao Ming tall so the mpg figures are really impressive when you're cruising down the highway for long trips.
Gear selection is accomplished either with the gear lever or paddle shifters on the steering wheel. In "M Mode", up-shifts are made in 0.3 of a second and going down happens in just 0.2 of a second, with the transmission's throttle blipping control matching the engine speed to the gear. Which, let's face it, has got to be fun.
Now, about that torque vectoring differential. Essentially, torque vectoring differentials work like this: rather than use a differential in the traditional way of varying speed of the inside to outside wheel through a turn, torque vectoring brings in a bunch of computers on the diff, working in concert with sensors strewn throughout the car and drivetrain to tweak the side-to-side torque split.
For example, say you're slowing down and making a left-had turn. A torque vectoring differential will dramatically slow the inside rear wheel (i.e. the left) and send more power to the outside rear wheel (that would be the right). This makes the car pivot harder and quicker on turn in, and from apex on out, allowing progressively more and more of the power the engine produces to be put to the ground.
Naturally, since the RC F is an all new car, the suspension and brakes are all new as well.
The front suspension is a double-wishbone design with a substantial front suspension cross member/sub-frame, while out back there's a multi-link suspension with two upper control arms, two suspension arms and a toe-control arm (rear tie-rod assembly). The rear suspension also has its own sub-frame made from tubular-steel and pressed-metal for optimum rigidity.
Brakes? Oh yeah, the RC F has stupendous breaks. Ventilated and slotted rotors supplied by Brembo with aluminum monoblock calipers all round. The new Lexus sports coupe has whopping 380 mm by 34 mm two-piece front rotors with six-piston calipers, and in the back there's 345 mm by 28 mm rotors with four-piston calipers. For those of you that don't understand the metric system, these brakes are about the size of a pizza; in other words, very, very large.
All this go-fast technology is wrapped in a not-unattractive skin and a computer controlled and articulated rear wing. Also, the RC F isn't fat, considering all the computers, bits, bobs, pieces, luxury features and the like. It tips the scales at only 1,860 kg (4,100 lb). No, it's not a Lotus 7, but with what passes for "light weight" from a lot of manufacturers these days, the RC F ain't all that bad.
Sean Hanley, Lexus Australia chief executive summed it all of it up rather nicely: "The RC F is now the performance and image flagship of Lexus, and its development at the Fuji and Nürburgring circuits means that it is more than capable at the track, in the hands of both experienced and novice drivers. RC F has a lot of depth to its talents – it's a vehicle that is very comfortable to drive in traffic or interstate, in complete luxury."