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Driven: Video Review: With the RC F, Lexus Abandons Its Beige Image

Video Lexus has made its name as a luxury brand, but it also makes some performance cars, like the RC F. The coupe is powered by a sonorous V8 that propels it to 60 miles an hour from a standstill in 4.4 seconds.

When talk turns to high performance in cars, Lexus seldom springs to mind. Yes, it has built the passionate IS F sedan. Who wouldn’t want an LFA supercar? Still, Lexus hasn’t attracted the kind of attention that BMW M, Cadillac V and Mercedes AMG cars have.

Fortunately for everyone’s inner Speed Racer, Toyota President Akio Toyoda is demanding more passion from his luxury division. And lo, the engineers have delivered the RC F. With plenty of oomph from its 5-liter V8 engine, rear-wheel drive, all wrapped in a two-door coupe, the RC F ventures into territory defined by the Camaro SS and Mustang GT. To find 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque throbbing under the aluminum hood of a Lexus is heartening.

There is a certain truth in advertising to the car: RC stands for radical coupe. Lines dodge and slice over the unique fascias and aluminum fenders. It will not be mistaken for your aunt’s ES 350.

Cars often share an architecture; RC is hewn from three of them. The front structure springs from the GS, the midfloor pan is courtesy of the IS convertible, and the rear is from the IS sedan. The F model adds chassis bracing, welds and adhesives for structural stoutness.

Lexus claims a 4.4-second sprint from 0 to 60. In Sport Plus drive mode, a resonator and speaker usher in more mechanical symphonics. Even in Eco mode, there is more road noise and less isolation from the pavement than expected from Lexus. Road warriors will appreciate the F’s communicative electric power steering but may lament the lack of a manual gearbox. An 8-speed automatic is impressive — and mandatory.

RC F’s performance is daydream fodder. Reality’s cold water reminds drivers that it’s tough to employ the full heroic power and handling of cars in this class on public roads (safely, anyway). On a track, the RC F has a disadvantage. Weighing 258 pounds more than the Cadillac ATS-V and 373 pounds more than the BMW M4, the Lexus is a sumo in Spanx. No, the V8 does not make up for the heft; the turbo sixes in the Cadillac and BMW best the RC F’s torque. And subjectively, those competitors have more of that hard-to-quantify driving magic in their bones.

The cockpit is intimate, though some will call it snug. It was also inky black in the tested car, even trimmed with contrasting stitching and carbon fiber. Deeply bolstered seats embrace a wide range of drivers. The upholstery is placed into a mold and then filled with foam for a perfect finish.

Lexus has replaced its odd user interface controller with a trackpad, but I’m still not a fan. On the plus side, modern technology includes blind spot warning and an auto-braking system.

Two 5-foot-9 humans will find the back-seat space a custom fit. Cross-country treks are ill advised. The back seat is outfitted as if Lexus expected to people to ride there regularly, with sculpted chairs that support as securely as those in front. The trunk is a good size, too. There are no folding seat backs or spare tire, but there’s a ski pass-though.

The letter F may remind some of us of our high school grades, but here it stands for Fuji Speedway, where Toyota does much of its high performance testing. RC is meant to lift Lexus from its safe beige reputation. In both power and design, RC F is anything but dull.

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