2017 Lexus RC-F: Big V8 Coupe Makes All the Right Noises

2017 Lexus RC-F: Big V8 Coupe Makes All the Right Noises

There is a trend in the automotive industry toward smaller displacement, turbocharged power plants. The push for efficiency and sustainable-energy usage is driving this change, as it should. But there are still a few holdouts that give us the raw experience of a normally-aspirated engine. By my estimation even as the push for efficiency continues, it would be great if you could always find a throwback powertrain like this – but I think its days are numbered. When even the likes of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin are all going turbocharged, cars like these are definitely a dying breed.

Knowing that changed how we looked at the RC-F. While it’s a relatively new platform, starting production in 2014, it already somehow feels dated. Then there’s the weight, at almost 4000lb it makes you wonder where all that weight comes from. The coupe hides it well, and the weight only becomes apparent when you really try to push the car to its limits. And that’s a problem in a car that promises such performance with its looks. Other than the characteristically obnoxious front grille, this is a great-looking machine.

Any of those concerns, however, wash away at the first press of the start button. You suddenly forget the big-nosed front end and start to think about what the engine will sound like at full song as the normally aspirated 5.0-Liter V8 roars to life. Some key changes the engineers made to the engine to push the output to 467hp are titanium valves and a lightweight crankshaft. This means a 7300rpm redline and a sonorous V8 wail all the way up there. There’s no audio-system trickery needed in this F-version; it’s all induction and exhaust note. Pleasing to the ear would be an understatement, this thing sounds downright sexy.

On the inside, the Lexus feels a little bit overdone, just like the grille out front. The wild patterns on the seats lack the timeless feel of the powertrain. There are great materials throughout, but in some places the dreaded thin plastic is still there. You have to step up to Lexus’s flagship LC coupe to completely lose any vestige of this bargain material. The steering wheel is excellent, and the seats are supportive despite their awkward appearance. The carbon and aluminum accents all over the dash and door panels look great, too.

The control systems continue to disappoint, as the track-pad based controls for the infotainment system confound us. This is fine for a computer at your desk, and it’s fine while you’re standing still – but if you’re trying to change a setting while in motion, it becomes challenging. There’s plenty of apps and functionality, despite the clunky controls and busy interface.

The display systems are a bit much too, with warning lights on the dash for every system you turn on or off. There’s a marginally-useful performance meter as well. Again, it just lacks a bit of refinement in the control systems. But crack the throttle on the silky smooth V8, and all that seems like a distant memory.

The handling is superb, even with the heft this coupe carries. Partially down to the excellent Michelin tires, the grip levels are high. It’s not until you start to get to the limit that you feel the weight. The tail is very lively especially in the sport-plus setting which alters the differential force to change the balance. You really can feel the difference, and it makes us wish there were 500 less pounds to carry around.

With a starting price in the mid $60k range, this fits in with a whole host of other sport coupes and sedans. Our test car pushed well into the $70k range, which definitely opens up a host of alternatives. But if you’re looking for a big V8 in a precise Japanese package, this Lexus is for you. It makes us wonder – how long must you wait until you can get a normally-aspirated V8 like this one? Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that for now. We can just roll down the window and listen to the song of this great engine.