Three things might strike you the first time you drive Mount Panorama in real, tyre-squealing anger (it’s on your Bucket List, we can safely assume).
First, it’s incredibly blind. Most corners, the apex and exit are obscured by a wall, trees, or a crest. For tipping in it’s no wonder drivers depend so much on markers, like a grate or even the shade of a tree, because most of the time it’s not until after you’ve turned in that you first see the apex. It’s completely unlike most Aussie racetracks where even before you’ve arrived at the corner, the apex and exit are plain to see.
Second, Mount Panorama is brutal in the way it rewards track knowledge and punishes the cocky. Seen through a windscreen its few gravel traps look barely big enough for a cat to crap in, let alone arrest 1.5 tonnes travelling sideways at 250km/h. Despite its permanency, this track is a street circuit as much as Adelaide or the Gold Coast.
Three, the blast "over the top" is swift. One second, you’re tipping in at Griffins Bend, the next, you’re blasting onto Conrod thinking, really? Over already? We weren’t even driving a V8 Supercar.
However our steed did have a 5.0-litre, naturally-aspirated V8 sending horsies to the rear axle, a combination which makes us clap gleefully. Meet the new RC F, in which Lexus bravely let journalists loose at The Mount.
It’s effectively Lexus’s new halo model given IS F is dead and LFA sold out. The RC F is a frankensteinmash-up of a GS front-end, IS convertible middle, and IS sedan rear. Lexus has microwaved the IS F’s 2UR-GSE V8 to make 351kW and 530Nm, up from 311kW and 505Nm, thanks to a compression increase from 11.8 to 12.3:1, and other minor tweaks elevating redline from 6800 to 7300rpm.
It has an eight-speed torque converter auto and an electronically-locking diff, able to vector torque across the rear axle using clutches rather than brakes.
At 1860kg the RC F could audition for The Biggest Loser, but the price is indeed right. At $133,500 the RC F is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than its German rivals, of which Lexus is going for the throat, namely M4, RS5 and C63.
With M4 obviously turbo, C63 and RS5 also headed that way, give it a few years and the brand-new RC F might be the only NA rival left. It’ll be getting blasted from the lights, too, we’re afraid.
MOTOR is getting a little too used to the new turbo generation’s 600Nm-at-1800rpm kind of antics. Throttle in the carpet up Mountain Straight and the RC F felt slow to light the afterburners.
Its acceleration is strong and linear rather than explosive, with no turbos unleashing Freightliner torque in the lower revs, so to get the most out of the RC F you need to rev it right out in every gear. All 530 newtons don’t arrive until 4800rpm and you’ll be seeing 7100rpm when the full 351kW arrive. Lexus claims 4.5 seconds to 100km/h. We wonder if there might’ve been a light tailwind that day.
That said, like RS5 and C63 – and, well, E92 M3 – the RC F sounds utterly cracking; a high-pitched V8 roar that climbs in intensity and anger and, nearing 7300rpm, makes you glad peak power and torque are hidden so far clockwise on that TFT digital tacho.
By virtue of inhaling unpressurised atmosphere, the RC F also has a beautifully alert and responsive throttle with not a single bit of delay.
Under brakes the RC F feels strong and stable thanks to some serious hardware: Brembo-supplied 380mm front composite discs with six-pot calipers and, up back, 345mm discs and four-pot calipers. Necessary for a car that weighs as much as an American nine-year-old.
Those 1860 kilos work the Michelin Pilot Supersports hard, even 255-section fronts and 275-section rears, where the default handling setting is understeer.
We weren’t allowed to turn the ESP off on The Mountain, which is probably the reason we’re not writing this from a hospital bed, but our spidey senses suspect the RC F will cheerfully wriggle sideways with a generous boot of mid-corner throttle. We’ll confirm this theory another time, don’t worry.
The enthusiastic electric steering should make such shenanigans easy. It’s light, alert and fast in rack, but Lexus hasn’t quite nailed the way it loads up; it’s like the level of steering load coming through your hands is fixed at the one rate, rather than increasing linearly as you wind more lock on a loaded front tyre.
A short drive around Bathurst backroads revealed the RC F to be a quiet, comfortable cruiser. Around 100km/h the ride is best described as tolerable but closer to 50km/h, it’s occasionally uncomfortable.
The RC F is not like a Cayman in that it’ll take dozens of laps to unravel layers of dynamic talent. You’ll ‘get’ the RC F quickly and while we’re not sure it’ll make the lists of performance car greats in years to come, it’s fun, looks cool, sounds sweet and is extremely likeable, not just because it’s a different flavour to hot dog or bratwurst.
We’re unbelievably glad it exists because, just like Mount Panoramas, the world needs more NA, V8, rear-drive coupes.