Lexus RC F makes performance play

/ Updated: January 14, 2014 1:24 PM PST

DETROIT -- Lexus has been sharpening its performance cred in recent years with the launch of the IS F and the LFA supercar, but the launch of the RC F at the 2014 Detroit auto show suggests the previous moves were more than a passing whim. The RC F features a V-8 engine and a sport coupe design that should garner the appreciation of any driving enthusiast.

The RC F follows the launch late last year of the RC 350 model. Both use the same body, although the RC F gets some aero enhancements, such as a spoiler that automatically adjusts for speed.

Lexus' previous coupe was the SC, but the RC F looks nothing like that model. A long nose and fastback cabin style give it GT-style. Vents at the front fenders and quad pipes at the rear add an aggressive note. The beltline starts out subtly but ends up strong toward the back of the vehicle.

The front features Lexus' signature spindle grille, a massive feature covering most of the front of the car, and accentuated by lower side air ducts.

The headlight enclosures nest nicely into the upper half of the spindle grille, and the lights themselves appear to be LEDs, although Lexus does not mention them in the press release. LED headlights are likely options for the production vehicle.

Where the RC 350 gets a V-6 engine, most likely similar to that found in the IS 350, the RC F goes with a new 5-liter V-8 producing more than, according to Lexus, 450 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. Exact output figures were not apparently available at time of the unveiling.

As an odd quirk to improve fuel economy, Lexus notes that the RC F's engine runs on an Atkinson cycle at low speeds, and a more traditional Otto cycle at higher speed. These cycles represent two different strategies of valve operation for intake and exhaust from the cylinders. Engineers frequently use the Atkinson cycle for engines in hybrid cars, as it has lower fuel consumption but also lower torque.

Lexus apparently feels the Atkinson cycle will be good enough for driving the RC F under normal conditions.

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Undercutting the performance cred a little is the lack of a manual transmission option. The RC F will be available only with Lexus' eight-speed automatic. However, automatic transmissions have improved greatly, and Lexus seems assured that its transmission will shift quickly enough to satisfy sport drivers.

Aiding handling is a three-mode rear differential capable of vectoring torque across the rear wheels. Lexus describes the three modes as Normal, Slalom, and Track, each mixing nimble cornering with stability in different ratios.

The design and performance gear of the RC F should make it the choice of Lexus buyers interested in sport and track driving.

In the cabin, we get our first look at Lexus' new infotainment interface, which will incorporate a touch pad for the first time. This move follows similar implementations by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. The touch pad would replace Lexus' current mouse-like Remote Touch interface.

Cabin electronics are likely to remain the same as current Lexus models, and include Enform app integration. The instrument cluster was inspired by that of the LFA, so should feature an LCD.

The Lexus RC F should become available late this year.

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2015 Lexus RC F

Part Number: CNET2015 Lexus RC F
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