RC F Coupe, a Lexus antidote to the letter M

The renewed vigour with which Toyota president and chief executive (and erstwhile Nürburgring 24hr race driver) Akio Toyoda has approached Lexus, his company’s luxury subsidiary, manifested in the RC F Coupe revealed on 14 January in Detroit.

This car has the potential for class-leading mayhem – looking at you, BMW M4 – courtesy of a normally aspirated 5-litre V8 engine conservatively generating "at least 450 horsepower" and 383 pound-feet of torque, but whose specification will be revised upwards before the official number is set, according to chief engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi.

Lexus had previewed the RC F on the web on 8 January.

Because the engine's tuning is ongoing, performance figures for the RC F have not been disclosed, but the car will be quicker than the IS F, the already bonkers sedan that uses a 416hp version of the RC F’s V8. The new coupe’s top speed will be electronically limited to 168mph.

In proper sports coupe fashion, the RC F is rear-wheel drive, though enthusiasts may rue the exclusive transmission choice, the eight-speed direct-shift automatic from the IS F, with no stick-shift option. Regardless, Yaguchi promises the RC F will deliver driving fun, with a torque-vectoring rear differential to ensure the responsiveness, particularly in corners, that such drivers seek. 

Aside from using two extra cylinders and no turbocharging, the RC F's power plant differs from that of the M4 in its use of a highly efficient Atkinson cycle combustion process in light load conditions – not unlike a Toyota Prius. When performance is required, the engine management system reverts the cam and ignition timing to summon all the horses and their men. The ability to switch combustion cycles is the equivalent of using an engine that is 800cc smaller, or 4.2 litres, in terms of efficiency, Yaguchi explained.

Though pricing and on-sale dates were not announced, the RC F will surely be positioned to compete on price with the M4.

Coming 25 years after the Lexus brand made its US debut at the 1989 Detroit auto show, the RC F’s debut may well mark just as auspicious a moment – one where Lexus went on the record as a credible sport-luxury brand.