Skip to main content

2015 Lexus RC F destroys the 2014 IS F on track

We had the chance to lay down dozens of fast laps in the 2014 Lexus IS F sedan and 2015 Lexus RC F coupe. What is clear is that Lexus built upon the IS F, and that the RC F is now miles ahead.

My apologies for the dramatic headline, but it is not untrue. Torque News recently had two opportunities to track the fastest of Lexus’ production cars, the 2014 IS F and the 2015 RC F. Both were run at the Monticello Motor Club, arguably the best racetrack in the Northeast. I’m a fan of the Lexus line, and owner of an IS 350C and prior owner of a Supra. What I learned over about 32 total laps in these two amazing cars is that the IS F will always be a legend, and that the RC F improves upon the IS F in almost every objective and subjective way.

Read More: Comparing the 2015 Lexus RC F, RC 350, and IS 350 on-track

IS F is a Balanced Car
Let’s start at the end. The IS F’s best feature in my opinion is its balance. It is a car with enough engine, enough brakes, and amazing handling on a road course. A semi-skilled driver, like myself, can enjoy the IS F on track for hours. With each lap, the driver can learn more and push the car just a little farther.

RC F Has More and Better Drive Modes
By comparison to the RCF the IS F has only one track setting, called “Sport.” The RC F has Sport, Sport Plus, and a setting called “Expert” that is not shown on the options in the car, but can be accessed by owners and Lexus pro drivers. These settings are what really set the RC F apart from the IS F.

In Sport Plus, the RC F’s AI (artificial Intelligence) transmission is amazing. I wrote a whole story on just this part of the car. In brief, the AI sport direct shift 8-speed in the RC F has the car in the power band all the time on track. The IS F by contrast, does not. When exiting corners the IS F can be often caught in a dead spot at the bottom of the rev band and requires a shift or two that the RC F does not. Yes, you can paddle shift both cars, but for me the RC F in Sport Plus and in the “Drive” setting was much more satisfying. It makes you much faster.

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

No, the IS F Does Not Have the Same Engine As RC F
With regard to engines, both share a block and not much else. However they both behave the same way. At low RPMs they have one sound, then as the revs climb and the cars “come on cam” and switch their variable valve timing to the aggressive settings, they bellow, and the thrust comes on strong. The feeling is almost like a forced induction car (supercharged or turbocharged), but more gradual and later in the rev band. The RC F is also just more powerful. Its 467 hp provide noticeably more thrust than the 416 hp the IS F has.

Seats Matter - RC F is Much Better
This may sound silly, but another area the RC F beats the IS F is with regard to the seat. The RC F holds the driver. The side bolsters in the bottom of the seat keep the driver firmly and comfortably in place. The IS F’s seat does not. I found myself sliding into the door and down when braking. So to offset this, I had to brace myself with my left leg and the dead pedal. After 8 laps, my back was stiff and sore. After 20 laps in the RC F plus another 4 in the RC 350, I was still in good shape physically. The RC F seats also worked great on-road. I drove it for 3 hours that same day on city and highway routes. Finally, the RC F seats are all ready for racing harnesses. A big plus for track cars, though I don’t expect many of the 2,000 RC F’s Lexus plans to build per year to end up track-only cars.

Both Are Great Compared to Competitors
In terms of enjoyment on-track, the two cars are both great, and they are very similar to one another as opposed to say the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which I also drove. That car is a big, overweight, tippy thing that does not like corners. On track it behaves like the mascot at a football game, and the Lexus cars are athletes on the field.

Compared to the M3 I drove (one lap only) it is clear that M3 is much more of a track star than either the IS F or RC F. It is totally obvious and not a debatable point. However, I am faster in the RC F and prefer it. The M3 is more “industrial.” It is too serious.

I hope that Lexus will bring back the IS F using the new third-generation IS platform and the drivetrain form the new RC F. In fact, I am getting the vibe that they will, but not until after the GS F is done (next year). Given that the IS F (now out of production but still might be found for sale new) and the RC F are almost exactly the same price, what Lexus is offering in the new 2015 RC F is much better overall value than the 2014 IS F. If you are one of the handful of people considering one or the other I hope I made it clear which I would prefer and why.


John Goreham    September 22, 2014 - 8:35PM

In reply to by Jeff (not verified)

No offense taken. This is a point that I thought of too. Not only are my skills not up to that kind of a test, the track was not configured identically during my two track days. The straights are slowed by chicanes to save the lives of the journalists - seriously - There have been crashes. Maybe my feelings of being faster in the RC F are wrong. Could be. In 1 year we will know. Car and Driver will most likely turn the "Lightning Lap" in an RC F next year. The IS F is on record doing that standard lap at 3:05:4. Which by the way was exactly the same time the prior Generation BMW M3 turned that same lap. Page 59 of this month's CD if interested.

Rami Yaseen (not verified)    September 23, 2014 - 6:07PM

I have a question to you John Goreham, I really like your reviews,
you know nowadays the most common question is, which one is faster the RC-F or the M4, even though I am not looking for which one is faster, for me which one is BETTER or which one is more fun to drive ? can you give us a clear answer ? because I believe in your words I want to know the truth :)

John Goreham    September 24, 2014 - 8:48AM

In reply to by Rami Yaseen (not verified)

Having had some exposure to the BMW and Lexus ownership experience - which goes just beyond the cars themselves, I lean towards Lexus. These two cars are both excellent (three cars really, M4, M3 and RC F). In my opinion, if one is planning to drive 99% on-road I would pick the Lexus. However, the M cars are perhaps better for those who are going to track the cars semi-regularly and definitely the choice for those that will actually race.. I'm sorry there is no right and wrong answer :)

Chimba (not verified)    September 26, 2014 - 11:12AM

Hi John,

1st time poster. First of all, great write up. I saw a vid where there is supposed to be a secret mode for the RCF? Not the 'expert" setting, its something else. Are you privy to this at all?

John Goreham    September 26, 2014 - 7:46PM

In reply to by Chimba (not verified)

Chimba, welcome and thanks! I heard from a knowledgeable source that there is a setting beyond Expert. However, I was only told it was basically "all-off" for traction and stability control. My understanding is that it is for Lexus testing and for possible race applications. I was not told how to access it.

Peter Payne (not verified)    December 19, 2014 - 5:04AM

Hello John. Whilst I get where you are coming from, it does beg the question why compare the IS-F and RC-F in the first place? They are very different cars that do different things. As a proud owner of an older 2008 IS-F, I really enjoy the Q car styling, 5 door practicality (like most people I have children to think about) and fast road pace of my car. The RC-F is something very different. My biggest criticism so far has to be the excess weight it carries. Whilst all the latest tech helps to overcome this in many respects, it does eat into any extra HP the engine provides, and puts the 0-60mph, and quarter-mile times in the same ball park as the IS-F (some figures show the times are identical in fact). Both are great cars, but I personally won't be rushing out to buy an RC-F any time soon.

John Goreham    December 19, 2014 - 10:02AM

In reply to by Peter Payne (not verified)

Well said. I love both. I own an IS 350C, so I have an IS that is also a coupe. Having the rare chance to track both cars for a good part of a day I thought he comparison was worth putting out there. The IS F is discontinued and at the time of the article the RC F was Lexus fastest production car, replacing the IS F. We all hope it comes back on the new platform. The IS F is a joy on the track, but the RC F is at a new level. As to the weight, I understand that most of the reviewers talk a lot about that, but the difference in weight between the IS F and the RC F is about 119 pounds. It is the same weight as the other V8 cars like the Audi RS 5 that it competes with. The RC F weighs less than Camaro ZL 1. It weights about 100 pounds more than a Mustang GT.

Peter Payne (not verified)    December 19, 2014 - 10:39AM

Thanks John. I still think the excess weight is a concern though. The RS5 is AWD, and therefore carries the Quattro system which weight a lot! Acceptable for such a capable system, but the RC-F doesn't have AWD? The M3 is a closer comparison to the RC-F in terms of layout, but that weighs 400 pounds less! Depending on what numbers you choose to believe, the RC-F weighs in at 4,048 pounds. That's over 200 pounds more that the IS-F. All my figures are from Car and Driver (December 2014 issue). I think the point is with a few modifications installed, the IS-F would have a very strong chance of beating the RC-F around most tracks. Whilst it's not strictly fare to compare a stock and a modified car, an older IS-F with proper coilovers, mechanical LSD, uprated 2-piece rotors, PPE headers and a proper exhaust will still cost well under the price of a base model RC-F. I think the general consensus for a lot of IS-F owners is the RC-F is a nice looking car, has much nicer trim and seats, but isn't enough of a leap from the IS-F in terms of outright pace. Especially when it's less practical and weighs more. If I was in the market for a 2-door track orientated car, the GTR would be my choice every day of the week.

Dan Vu (not verified)    August 12, 2015 - 8:28PM

In reply to by Peter Payne (not verified)

Correction, the RCF is not 4048lbs. That's the weight equipped with the performance package. The ISF is 3780 lbs vs RCF 3958 lbs. That's a 178 lbs difference, not over 200. To trade an ISF for a much sexier looking/more high tech/better interior/more rigid/more powerful car, to me is no brainer. Unless, you just want to race your car and dont care about the above, or your ISF is a recent buy, you should keep your ISF