One glance at this new Lexus’ slinky profile, fat tires, and bulging rear haunches suggests it’s a pretty loving homage to BMW’s M4 coupe. Move around front, however, and the similarity ends with a visage that is the polar opposite of a jovial Bavarian. Chief engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi confirms that while his baby will compete on price and performance with the M4, Mercedes C63 AMG, and outgoing Cadillac CTS-V (or forthcoming ATS-V) coupes, in terms of personality and soul it will feel as removed from those cars as a Wagnerian opera is from Kabuki theater.
And the distinctive personality he’s referring to is far more than skin deep, deriving largely from the still naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 engine that’s now a segment exclusive. This engine shares only its basic cylinder block with that of the outgoing IS F sedan. The cylinder heads and all moving parts are completely new. Friction reductions allow the engine to rev 500 rpm faster than the IS F’s, to 7300 rpm. A switch to electric phasing on all four cams brings greater variability and precision, and lets the engine borrow the Prius’ more efficient Atkinson cycle operation during low-demand cruising conditions. So, while BMW downsized its M3/M4 engine from a 4.0-liter V-8 to a 3.0-liter I-6 and added twin turbochargers to compensate, Lexus virtually downsizes its 5.0-liter V-8 to roughly a 4.2-liter just by leaving the intake valves open for part of the compression stroke during Atkinson operation.
The ideal Atkinson cycle captures and compresses an amount of air that, when combusted and expanded throughout the entire power cycle, results in a cylinder pressure that’s near atmospheric at the bottom of the piston’s stroke, meaning the engine has wrung every bit of energy out of the fuel. Drop the hammer, and those valves shut in time to give you the full 12.3:1 compression (up from 11.8:1) and 5.0 liters of furious power — at least 450 horses’ worth (up substantially from the IS F’s 416). A newly modified version of the current D4S direct-injection with secondary port injection helps make all this work. Torque ratings and further specifications are pending.
Power and twist route aft through a similar eight-speed automatic, upgraded with different control logic for D-mode operation, and a track-optimized Sport-plus shift schedule. Naturally, a manual mode relinquishes full control to the driver’s shift-paddling or stick-rowing pleasure. At the rear axle is a torque-vectoring differential that can be programmed via the TVD switch on the console for standard, slalom, or track vectoring. That middle position optimizes for very quick side-to-side transitions found in magazine slalom tests and autocross courses. The rotary knob marked Eco, Normal, Sport controls throttle response, shift-schedule in Drive, and the electric power steering feel. The suspension is not adjustable.
Speaking of suspenders, 70 percent of the hardware is altered from that of the IS F sedan, with new geometry and more use of aluminum. It rides 0.2 inch lower than the RC 350 coupe. Relative to the IS F’s Brembo brake system, the RC F’s is upgraded in front by increasing size from 14.2 to 15.0 inches in diameter and adding 0.15 inch in thickness, and in back by doubling the caliper piston count from two to four. Cross-drilling is ditched in favor of grooves all around; no carbon-ceramic option will be offered. Three designs of forged 19-inch wheels are available — one of which is hand-polished — and they’re wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sports sized 255/35 in front, 275/35 in back.
Yasuo Kajino designed the striking RC coupe and oversaw its F transformation, which alters everything forward of the A-pillar from the functionally vented hood and front fenders to the more aggressive front fascia incorporating oil cooler inlets for the engine (left) and transmission (right), and a more aggressive spindle grille, the mesh of which is composed of little Fs from the bumper level down. Moving rearward we find a BMW homage carbon-fiber roof panel (saving 13 pounds), bolder rocker panels, a decklid incorporating a wing that rises at 50 mph to reduce lift and create downforce at high speeds, and a rear fascia incorporating two pair of stacked exhaust outlets.
Inside, carbon-fiber trim adorns the door panels and passenger dash and Alcantara accents the doors and heavily bolstered sport bucket seats. A special steering wheel gets an oval-section rim, and a unique thin-film transistor gauge cluster places a fixed tachometer ring in its center, a smaller speedometer ring to the right, and offers a choice of four display themes for conveying various sport and touring information such as g circle, track lap timing, tire pressures, etc. Making its debut on the RC is a new infotainment controller that swaps the old haptic mouse for a haptic touchpad. You can’t write letters on it with your fingers like in an Audi, but as you swipe across it, the pad provides vibrations and feedback to ease menu selections.
Bigger wheels, brakes, and bodywork mean the RC F will weigh more than the IS F, but Yaguchi-san assures us the coupe will handily outperform its sedan predecessor on the dragstrip and the Nürburgring, and that the way its naturally aspirated V-8 delivers torque, combined with its aggressive and distinctive appearance, will draw its own unique audience. We look forward to joining said audience for a preview performance and sharing our review with you forthwith.