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The secret RC F drive settings Lexus is keeping quiet

All modern premium GT cars have selectable drive modes. Some have more than you might realize.

The 2015 Lexus RC F is a V8 powered track beast that can also coddle you on a commute. Part of the way that the car is able to achieve these multiple personalities is with what are termed “selectable drive modes.” At the Lexus RC F media event I learned a delicious little secret about some off-the hook drive selections not shown on the RC F options in the car. I want you to keep this just between us. OK?

DON'T MISS: 2015 Lexus RC F is the best V8-powered premium GT in the world at $70,160

Lexus RC F Drive Mode Selection
The drive modes in the Lexus RC F are accessed by a simple rotating selector switch. The default setting is “normal.” This setting has full AC, normal throttle response and the transmission will find a place for the engine to be that is relatively responsive, yet will avoid the gas guzzler tax. To the left is the “ECO” setting. Turn the knob one click left and the car will reduce the AC usage, put a little push back under the gas pedal, and do some other things with the transmission to make your ride less pleasurable. You will save a thimble of gas.

The Two Lexus RC F Differentials Torsen vs. TVD
There are actually two RC Fs in case you were not aware of that. One has a Torsen limited slip differential (LSD), and the other a Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD). I will first explain the basic drive selection modes with the standard, Torsen LSD.

Lexus RC F Sport Mode
The fun starts when you turn the knob to the right. In “S” mode, the throttle is no longer linear. Push a little, get a little power. Push a little more, get MUCH MORE POWER. Make sense? The transmission will also hold its gear a bit longer, and it will downshift the car when you slow, so there is more power when you get back on the gas. Finally, the power steering changes a bit and the steering is a little more direct. This mode would work well on some back-roads driving at mostly legal speeds.

2015 Lexus RC F’s most amazing feature is the transmission

Lexus RC F Sport+ Mode
Turn the knob to “Sport+” and the RC F comes alive. All that prior stuff is still in effect, but the transmission now assumes you want aggressive down shifts (BLAM!, BLAM!) that rev-match and take place in under 0.2 seconds. It also assumes that you want to hold gears well into the 4,000 or higher RPM ranges so that you use the maximum power of the engine. Suddenly, you are in a race car. Lexus says that at this setting the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) systems comes into play. This is the system that regulates the car’s traction control (TRAC) and stability control (VSC). The VDIM holds the key to changing the personality of the RC F from Hugh Jackman to full Wolverine.

Are you still with me? Amazing, but good. If you have the TVD differential, there is another set of settings to play with. You toggle the differential settings through “Normal,” “Slalom,” and “Track.” The TVD actually powers the outside rear wheel in a turn to help you rotate the car in corners. The settings apply the appropriate amount of added torque for your course. It works. I couldn’t make much use of it, but the car did seem to rotate differently when I drove both back to back.

OK, Here Is the Secret Stuff
What Lexus has not labeled anyplace, and may not even include in the manual is the mode called “Expert.” This is a setting that the instructors warned us NOT TO USE. We being journalists, not professional drivers with constant on-track experience. In this mode, the traction control is OFF. Not reduced, OFF. A lamp illuminates saying so. Another lamp comes on and warns that the car is now in “Expert” mode. VSC is reduced to allow all liberal sideways action. The car can now become a drift monster if the driver has the skills and tire money. The ABS is also adjusted so that if the car is jumped (not kidding here) the ABS won’t freak out and retard the spark and thus cause a loss of power when the car lands and needs to accelerate. Conversely, the ABS won’t start pulsing and reduce the braking effectiveness of the car when it lands if it needs to then brake quickly.

To access this mode you…I’m not telling. I asked a Lexus contact off the record, and he (or maybe she) told me a bit about how to access them. I was given a hint at how it is done, but my lips are sealed. My contact told me that owners of the RC F will have the setting, and how to access it, explained to them at purchase.

The Final RC F Setting
Shortly after my contact mentioned (sort of hinted actually) that there may (might, could possibly) be one more setting that Lexus can access to let the RC F completely off the leash. He/She hinted (alluded to, maybe whispered) that it won’t make the car faster, even for professionals but that some professional Lexus R&D drivers actually want to disable all the safeguards and fly without a net. That setting and its access is not going to be explained to owners.


RBH58 (not verified)    August 10, 2015 - 6:42PM

This hidden ESP off mode apparently works on the entire Toyota/Lexus range. I've personally done it on an 86 and a Yaris. It's referred to in 86 blogs as "the pedal dance" and requires a particular sequence to be followed using the e-brake and brake pedal. It disables ESP without disabling the ABS although I believe it may also turn off the EBD.

Bob (not verified)    August 15, 2015 - 12:50AM

The traction control button is your key to all the cars glory. Tap it once while in sport plus to access expert mode. Hold traction control button for 5 seconds to go beyond expert mode into ludicrous speed. There always seems to be a lag in second gear when digging into this thing. With all safety features disengaged I'd say this car can cut .5 seconds off its listed 0-60. That lag I assume is to prevent skidding out which this car is very capable of doing while shifting into 2nd.

Danny (not verified)    June 16, 2018 - 8:04AM

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