December 2017. We approach the end of a year, a year that's gone by rather quickly.
As always, the finale to end the year is a visit to Goodwood Motor Circuit for PistonHeads' Sunday Service.
With the GT86 now in it's Winter Mode, it's sacrificed looks with practicality for the colder season that's quite evidently here. The GT86 back on its OEM 17" wheels and Winter tyres is somewhat lower than the 18" Summer wheels, which could result in more scraping, especially with the bumpy country roads we experienced last year. Personally it wouldn't be a great look with the vast array of cars turning up to Goodwood. So what would be a more appropriate car to take?
How about a V8?
That's exactly what I did, and not just any old V8 too: Enter the Lexus RC F, and not just any RC F - I have the keys to the Carbon edition, the highest specification RC F available.
Lexus is known for its superior build quality, a high standard of craftsmanship inside and out, luxury and apparently - cars for old people? I think not. Yes, Lexus have been pioneering petrol-electric hybrid systems with its parent company Toyota introducing the first hybrid on to the scene way back in 1997, and stuck to theirs thus far. But that doesn't mean they're old, boring, ready for the retirement home and ready for a daily dose of Countdown and Bargain Hunt. Look at the current generation of hypercars - hybrid, anyone?
But it's not the only focus that a giant like Toyota/Lexus has - no automotive company can be narrow minded, otherwise you'll alienate the people who thrive on the heritage and other corners of the automotive culture. Cue the sports car.
The Lexus RC F Carbon is powered by a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 which produces 471BHP and 391 ft-lb of torque through only the rear wheels. Tasty. It's a 2+2 coupé, and as with the majority of 2+2 you probably won't invite anyone to sit in the back - however luxurious it is - unless they don't want their legs. All the power from the V8 is delivered through an 8 speed automatic, riding on a double wishbone suspension to the front, multi-link rears and sits on 19" forged alloys.
The Carbon edition features - you guessed it - carbon fibre. You can find it on the active rear spoiler, the roof and the long sloping bonnet that hides the V8. The RC F benefits from the carbon moulding technology developed for the LFA resulting in a 9.5KG shave off the standard car. Visually, it's a stunner! The RCF Carbon I have here is in Sonic Red, a colour that I thought looked nice in photos, but didn't really wow me like the Azure Blue, F-Sport White and Sonic Silver does. In person however, is a completely different ballgame. Sonic Red is jaw-droppingly spectacular to look at, theatrical at every angle. showing the RC F's muscular curves.
With the Lexus now on top deck, you can see the glorious carbon weaves and the composite underside of the spoiler (when raised) and the bonnet. The gas struts raises the bonnet to reveal the monstrous V8, which is an absolute sight to behold. Unlike the GT86, the RC F's engine bay is full to the brim.
The interior though. Wow. It's next level, I've never felt anything like it. The seats might just be the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in, and are multi-adjustable via the switches on the side with memory settings. Everything in this car feels premium - and I mean everything. The dash and centre console are very pleasing on the eye and as this is the most kitted our RC you can get, everything is neatly laid out in front of you and within easy reach - without making the interior look clumsy or busy. The interior lights are touch operated and the steering wheel controls cover all you need when you're on the move. The steering wheel itself is not too skinny, not too thick - just right - and it gives you a very good feel when driving around. It's a super comfortable car, laced with luxury and sporty materials. The exquisite stitching that is everywhere in the interior has no imperfections, and there is more beautifully glossy carbon fibre inside too - just check the door inserts! I think I'm having an automotive orgasm.
The rear spoiler can be called upon by the button to the lower right of the dash, or will pop up at 50MPH. If it engages automatically at 50, it'll want to be sensible and disengage when you slow down to 25MPH. But it looks so cool when it's in use, and you get to see the pretty carbon fibre which works really well with the red!
The rear end of the RC F has always been one of my favourite part of the car to look at. The muscular curves of the rear arches are accented in the rear bumper, which has a really nice black offset in the diffuser and reveals the signature F exhaust. Then there are the rear lights with the red section styled with the Lexus L motif, a reflection of the front LED running lights which bear the same shape. It's just really pleasing to see, nothing is too big or too small or too much.
The next morning, 4:00am. Pitch Black. Tired as hell. Must be a Sunday Service then :)
I head towards the empty M25 to make my way, stopping off a couple of times just to stay awake and stretch my legs. The RC F is perfect for this drive; a super luxurious grand tourer, extremely smooth and quiet on the motorway but with power to boot if needed. The Mark Levinson speakers delivered superb clarity with the DAB radio and with music that I listened to from my collection. I tested the speakers and found that by moving the fader to the rear, the music was barely there. So with 17 speakers in this package, most of them must be to the front of the car, and with larger speakers. It's not an issue as you won't have anyone in the rear seats to listen to the music.
What I did notice on the drive down is the sheer brilliant light coming from the triple L-shaped LED headlights, I've never seen so far ahead driving in the dark - and with the automatic high beams, I had even less to worry about - a superb plus point there. The driving sensation in the RC F needs to be experienced, it is simply brilliant - I'm really enjoying this. The driving position is spot on much like the GT86, and the sure footed steering really inspires confidence - but this is where I find its 1700KG+ weight its Achilles heel. Taking a turn hot and powering out you'll really feel the weight shifting from one side to the other, it could do with a bit of weight reduction or a more aggressive geometry setup to work with the kilograms.
However, if in doubt - power out - and from doing so, you'll be rewarded with an amazing V8 growl that screams all the way to 7500RPM. It really feels and sounds like a high revving machine that celebrates the naturally aspirated, a quick acceleration reveals a VTEC-esqe cam change (or 'lift', to be more Toyota/Lexus-like) at around 3250-3500RPM to change from the quiet, considerate, luxury cruiser to an angry roar of the V8, all the way to the red line. It's addictive, pull the paddle and prepare for another gear for you to rip through.
I moved the RC F around to get a couple more shots before proceeding to Goodwood.
The Lexus RC F Carbon. It's a wonderful car to drive, making you experience something new and elegant, and also for you to think twice about Lexus; It's not old and boring, it's pure engineering prowess, the F in 'RC F' stands for Fuji, as the majority of their testing work is carried out on Japan’s legendary Fuji Speedway.
Driver enjoyment is to be earned. And I earned it.