LEXUS COMES ALIVE

Toy­ota’s Aging Luxury Brand Fi­nally Re­leases A Pulse - Raiser.

Mandate - - Contents - By Basem Wasef

To show­case its en­gi­neer­ing in a 1989 ad, Lexus stacked a pyra­mid of cham­pagne glasses on the hood of its first car, the LS 400 sedan. As the ve­hi­cle ac­cel­er­ated to 140 miles per hour on sta­tion­ary rollers, the cham­pagne went un­spilled, launch­ing Toy­ota’s luxury brand as em­i­nently smooth and serene—the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a Sade box set. But even Sade gets stale af­ter a while: Fast-for­ward a quar­ter- cen­tury, when brands like Kia can turn out rea­son­able fac­sim­i­les of the un­flap­pable luxury sedan and the me­dian age of Lexus buy­ers creeps to­ward 60, and the com­pany finds it­self on a quest for young blood. A vel­vety ride and pre­cise de­sign are no longer enough.

So Lexus hopes to lure them with mus­cle. The RC F is a $62,400 sports coupe with all the brand’s hall­marks: liq­uid- smooth shifts, a whis­per- quiet cabin, a sus­pen­sion that won’t spray your Star­bucks all over its per­fo­rated leather trim. But this Lexus can make you sweat, as I found out at the Mon­ti­cello Mo­tor Club’s 22-turn race­track in up­state New York. Though there’s no dis­guis­ing its heft (3,968 pounds), its high-revving, 467-horse­power V-8 en­gine helps the RC F find 130 on high­ways with rel­a­tive ease. As you ap­proach a cor­ner in ‘track’ mode and feel the bite of its 14-inch brakes, the car doesn’t go over­board try­ing to cor­rect you: In­stead, the dy­namic con­trol sys­tems al­low a slight bit of thrilling drift, just enough to give you a feel for the tar­mac un­der­neath, but not so much that you worry about wrap­ping it around a fence.

Dur­ing laid-back city driv­ing, the RC F re­verts to smooth cruis­ing with­out the herks and jerks of per­for­mance cars that don’t adapt well to daily driv­ing. Get out to the twisty roads, and the RC F knows you want to let it rip: Dur­ing spir­ited driv­ing, its eight- speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion works with a G-force sen­sor to recog­nise when you’re brak­ing for a turn and down­shifts au­to­mat­i­cally, hold­ing a low gear at high revs so you can high­tail out of it. The V-8 re­sponds with a roar­ing me­chan­i­cal howl, am­pli­fied through the cabin by an ac­tu­a­tor un­der the dash. It’s the sound of Lexus spin­ning the ra­dio dial. We’ll pop a cork for that.

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