2015 Lexus RC F’s most amazing feature is the transmission
If you are a driver that has had some experience on track, but not professional level experience, the 2015 Lexus RC F may be the car you would be the fastest in on any racetrack. It will certainly make you feel like you are.
This week I had the chance to wring out the 2015 Lexus RC F on the track at the Monticello Motor Club. This club has one of the best road-course tracks in the Northeast. Due to scheduling issues with other attendees, I was able to have three RC vehicles and the track almost to myself for about two hours, after having driven the car for two hours already in turn.
Lexus RC F Engine and Transmission
The V8 engine in the RC F makes 467 horsepower, but I have driven cars with more power and equally good handling on this track in the past. The new Corvette Stingray and Mercedes SLS AMG come to mind. What the Lexus can do better than any track-worthy car I have ever driven is make sure that the driver gets the horsepower exactly when needed. The transmission gets all the credit.
The system that Lexus uses is an 8- speed sport direct shift transmission with a torque converter that fully locks in gears 2 through 8 when driven in manual mode. Interestingly, the real fun is not in manual mode, but in automatic mode. In this mode, Lexus’s transmission uses AI-SHIFT control. This is an artificial intelligence shifting mode. The transmission is fed information from the G sensor in the vehicle. It knows that when you brake you will want to have the transmission downshift. It also can tell from how firmly you are braking how quickly that downshift should take place and how many gears to drop down.
Lexus RC F Downshifts
When I first experienced this in the car on the track wearing a helmet the sound was so loud and so aggressive, I was actually startled. The shift takes about 0.2 seconds, and the car matches the revs on the downshift. Still, it is abrupt and could almost be called violent. Keep braking, and more downshifts come. “Bram! Bram! Bram!
Lexus RC F Power Out of Corners
When you finish trail-braking the car and then jump on the accelerator you are in the best RPM range for power. Like all sporting cars these days, the car has a variety of drive modes. In Sport+ mode, the Torsen differential and the car’s stability control allow for rear wheel spin. Yes, the car oversteers. The whole day I never felt the RC understeer. On many tight corners, I was able to get the car’s tail out and drift it about half the track’s width. On one downhill sweeping left turn I could let the car drift all the way across the track using the gas pedal to control the car’s attitude. Nothing feels better in a GT car like this one.
Floor the gas once you exit the corner (or should I say modulate the throttle), and the car screams and goes to redline (past redline if I am not mistaken) and the upshifts are instantaneous and perfect. The car snaps off upshifts quickly as you gain speed. On one section of the track, the faster drivers were hitting 130 MPH. I was not that fast (126 according to the car), but the upshifts on that straight and then the downshifts as I used full braking power to turn 90 degrees right were absolutely amazing. I have never felt a transmission this good in any track-worthy car and that includes the manuals in the CTS-V, Camaro ZL-1, Camaro LT1, and Corvette Stingray I drove this year. The Chrysler Challenger and Mustang GT were not even close. This transmission makes a track day much more enjoyable for a person who is not a professional driver.
RC F Was Designed For You
Interestingly, that was the whole point of the RC F. The designers did not make this car just for professionals, or for those that plan to drive competitively. They made it for you and me as well. You
and I are faster in this car because of that. After about 20 laps I had only started to like it more.
Yes, there are those that will want a manual in any car, but are they Lexus buyers, or buyers of any GT in this price class? Apparently not. Brian Bolain the Lexus Executive that introduced the RC F to journalists, owns a manual Porsche 911. He points out that the PDK makes up almost all that car’s production and that the resale value of 911s with manuals suffers greatly. The PDK is faster, and most buyers want it.
No RC F Stick Shift? Why!
I’ve owned Supras and Miatas with stick shifts, and those cars were defined by their great transmissions. In those cars I feel an automated transmission would have spoiled the car. On the ride back we drove the RC F through a couple hours of New York City suburbia traffic. The car was just as comfortable in that setting as it was on-track due to its automatic transmission.
This new Lexus RC F is perhaps the best GT in the world for its price of about $65,000 and its transmission could not be better-suited to its mission.
Photography by John Goreham