The gated communities of Marbella are used to hearing the growl of attention-seeking supercars. But for all the Ferraris and Lamborghinis with their oversized exhausts, it was the bark of Lexus’s new V8-engined RC F sports coup that had people jumping out of their skin when I visited.
Pedestrians, too, found it hard to ignore as they locked eyes with its sharp angles and rakish profile, which gives the sporty two-door plenty of attitude.
But when I headed into the hills to the private Ascari racetrack away from the coast, I realised it’s a slow burner in terms of performance.
Initially, the new 5.0-litre engine – Lexus’s most powerful V8 ever – felt sluggish. You need to push the accelerator hard beyond 4,000 revs until the RC F comes alive with a guttural growl.
And it’s the sound that defines the experience. Although a dedicated speaker within the car enhances it by several decibels, for the most part it’s an authentic racecar soundtrack. This builds to a heady crescendo as you approach the 7,300rpm rev limit. It’s an addictive experience that’ll leave you craving your next growly fix.
That performance is matched by a fun chassis that reveals its depth on the circuit, with precise steering and plenty of grip. In this environment the engine’s sluggishness at low speeds isn’t much of a problem, as you’re always in the right gear to blast out of the turns. But on the road the RC F’s eight-speed automatic gearbox can prove frustrating.
Inside the Lexus RC F
In the Normal mode, with the transmission in regular Drive, it works well enough, shuffling gears smoothly and with little fuss. Yet when you opt for Manual mode in one of the many different Sport settings, gear changes simply aren’t fast enough.
Try to drop down a few gears to overtake a slower car, and the hesitation between each down change means the gap will have disappeared before you can say RC F.
Then there are a multitude of permutations to deal with. You can choose between four settings for the engine and gearbox, three for the clever differential and four for the stability control. Oh, and there’s a Snow button, too.
Having all this choice may seem desirable for a high performance car in theory, but in practice it’s overcomplicated and the changes are too subtle to be worth the indecision.
A straightforward toggle between Normal and Sport would do, giving you the option to carve up a mountain road or serenely waft around the M25 on a dreary British winter day.
That said, the Lexus can take on the mantle of a refined GT car perfectly. Even on big 19-inch wheels and rubber band tyres, it rides with a plush edge and is superbly refined inside.
The interior is impeccably assembled, there’s a big boot, two small back seats and loads of kit on offer as standard – as you’d expect with prices starting from £59,995.
Its nearest competitor for price comes in the form of the high performance BMW M4, It’s faster, more efficient, has a more usable engine and it’s cheaper, costing just £56,650.
But the BMW is, dare I say it, fairly commonplace these days. The Lexus RC F is not just an alternative – it’s a car with character that excels on its own merit, making it seriously worth your consideration.
Sean Carson works for motoringresearch.com.
THE FACTS: LEXUS RC F
0-62MPH: 4.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 168mph
CO2 G/KM: 252g/km
MPG COMBINED: 26.2mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★☆☆☆