The 2015 Lexus RC F and the 2015 BMW M4 may seem like natural competitors on paper, but are they really? The leading car magazines all have a frustrating tendency to compare not the most closely matched competitors to BMW by price, but rather whatever they feel is the most closely matched car based on layout and drivetrain similarities. The result of this is that the BMWs often are 10% or 20% more expensive than the Lexus and other cars that are matched up with the BMW. Only recently have the other brands started to win those comparisons, price be damned.
The coming 2015 Lexus RC F will be a coupe almost exactly the same dimensions as the new BMW 435i and M4. It will have a powerful normally aspirated 8 cylinder engine. BMW will stop using V8s this year, and it will instead use a turbocharged six cylinder engine. Albert Biermann, vice president of engineering for BMW, had an interesting perspective for this. In a Motor Trend interview published this month he said of Lexus using a V8 and BMW not using one in its M4 “I can only imagine that, for their customers, [5.0-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic] is the right way to go. That would definitely not be the right way to go for our customers.” We find this fascinating because the 2013 M3 coupe used a V8, non-turbo engine and had an optional 7 speed automatic (DSG) transmission. Does this mean that all of the shoppers for that style of BMW up until this instant are now no longer interested in BMW V8s? Could BMW fans have decided overnight that BMW was wrong for the past few years, and they are super excited that the company is dropping 2 cylinders and the fastest shifting option from its top performance car? The car only switched away from this configuration three months ago.
Frankly, we think Mr. Biermann is right. He and also Lexus Yukihiko Yaguchi, deputy chief engineer, Lexus F, were both interviewed and asked about their cars by Motor Trend. In his answers, Mr. Biermann spoke of the M4 as a “race-car” or of it being used as a race-car 7 times in answering only 5 questions. None of the questions were “Is this a race car?” Mr. Yaguchi never mentions the Lexus RC F as a racing car. Instead, the Lexus guy spoke repeatedly about the RC F being enjoyable and drivable by anyone. That means proficient drivers and also regular folks. The divide between the cars is going to be enormous. One is designed as a powerful, luxury street car and envisioned by its designers as such. The other is a race-car that one can place a registration on and drive on the street. Yet, the mainstream automotive publications will inevitably compare the two head to head, on both roads and on the track and then (the reviewers all being proficient if not professional drivers) will anoint the more expensive BMW the winner.
This is good marketing by BMW. It may also be good marketing by Lexus. Why pretend that Lexus owners plan to track their car? Although a stick shift option would be nice, Lexus knows that less than 5% of its buyers will take the stick. Every time I have ever been on a racetrack (not many) I have seen BMW M cars there being driven by owners and instructors. They honestly are track-able cars. Is there room in the marketplace for the Lexus RC F and the BMW M4 to both meet their customers’ and manufacturers’ expectations? There is. Sorry to spoil the upcoming comparison tests for you.