As the “father” of Lexus’s F brand, Yukihiko Yaguchi is one of the few leading Japan’s performance car resurgence and no doubt giving some Germans a headache.
Having worked for Toyota and Lexus since the 1980s, the brands are in his veins, and so is performance, given he worked on the last Toyota Supra and, more recently, as chief engineer for cars like the IS F and RC F.
MOTOR sat down with Yaguchi at the recent RC F launch at Bathurst, where he couldn’t hide his glee, snapping photos of famous Australian racecars in the National Motor Racing Museum, and of the famous Mount Panorama itself.
Despite broken English, in this interpreter-assisted interview Yaguchi alludes to the forthcoming RC F CCS-R, a lightweight, track-focused monster more than 400kg lighter than the admittedly porky 1860kg RC F. As MOTOR went to press, this stuff was still top secret.
Yaguchi says the RC F CCS-R would be like an M4 CSL or C63 Black rival, but not necessarily more powerful, just more fun to drive, and with less weight. If you make the car too fast, its limits start to go beyond the reach of mere mortals, says Yaguchi.
Despite the usual regulatory pressures to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, Yaguchi plans to keep RC F naturally aspirated for as long as he can get away with. More power can be eked from the RC F engine without resorting to forced induction, he says. The key is more revs and changing components to handle the extra revs, he explains.
Fortunately for fans of Japanese performance cars, the sharply-dressed, friendly and jovial Yaguchi is an avid driver and a believer in naturally-aspirated engines to the point where, as we found out, turbos aren’t on his Christmas card list.
So for the Lexus brand you are Mr F, who started it all?
When did you finish RC F and what are you working on now?
“Last year. This time we are working on the development of the GS F and the RC F GT3.”
The V8 in the RC F, will you develop it more?
“Just fine tuning.”
Do you think it’ll have a big refresh or overhaul?
“No, maybe we’ll modify it a bit to improve its fuel consumption.”
What’s your opinion on turbocharging? Do you like turbocharging?
“No. Turbocharging torque curve is like this, flat. But NA engines are linear. NA engines, the torque shape is very fun. I dislike turbo engine curve. Turbo engine is faster and better, but not fun.”
Many manufacturers are turning to turbo. Do you think there is another way to save fuel?
“I studied some removal of weight, and not the downsizing, upsizing! We have the racing version, not a GT3, RC F CCS-R, exclusive version, like an IS F CCS-R. That car is 400kg lighter! [laughs] IS F CCS-R is that kind of car, 300kg less than IS.”
Do you think maybe one day a turbo engine can sound as good as NA?
“Yes, maybe, one day.”
What about throttle response?
“Yes, it’s possible to have the same throttle response from a turbo engine.”
So you can have all the benefits of an NA engine with a turbo engine?
“It depends on how the turbo performs. If one day the turbo engine can perform the same as an NA engine, then the turbo engine might be the candidate, the way to go for us.
“The principle is what kind of engine is perfect for the car we’re making, not just for fuel efficiency but also for power and torque, and acceleration. Taking those things into consideration, if the turbo is the best way to go, I will never hesitate to go in that direction.”
Will there be another LFA?
“It’s possible. But you know, we took 40 years from 2000GT to LFA, so how many years will it take from LFA to another hypercar? Nobody knows. But maybe one day, of course.”