2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 Naturally Aspirated Review – Useable, Practical… and 471 bhp

This article is dedicated to Matthew, for all his superb photography and post-photography processing work over the years. This article features Matthew’s penultimate work as he leaves CarProductsTested.com. A good car to finish on. 

Lexus RC F?

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0672

‘The Lexus RC F is one of the most powerful, versatile and responsive cars the company has created’, so states the press literature. With 471 horsepower, comfortable and proper-sized 2+2 seating, a decently big boot, and a 168 mph limited top speed, their statement sounds about right. Let’s have a look and see what’s beyond figures and stats…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The Lexus RC F appears to have been sliced by a Japanese Samurai master swordsman during the design stage, and I don’t care if you think that’s cliché – it’s true. It’s unapologetically aggressive, but not in a brash way like some of the squared-off muscular German marques. Instead, those slashes and deep cuts are more graceful. A bit like a big double-edged medieval knight’s sword versus and sleek Samurai blade – both look good, just in different ways.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0707

Take the front end of the RC F. The brawny bonnet has three levels running the length of it; a central section with integrated vent sits highest which then flows down via two thin cuts to the sections each side of it, and in turn those then drop off dramatically to the sections that sit over the light clusters.

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2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0682

Those outer ones flow over to the nose of the Lexus RC F, sitting either side of the superbly styled chrome-edged ‘spindle’ design grille – a work of art in itself. Exploding out from that beautiful grille are the ‘Nike-tick’-like LED daytime running lights, and below those two huge recessed air intakes – even these are graceful features, with slight flicked-up edges taking them from simply allowing air into the car, to appearing as an integral part of the frontal design.

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The RC F exterior takes a lot from the LFA supercar, except I believe the RC F is better looking. Yep, that’s likely controversial, and I can hear you disagreeing already, but take this into account: the LFA looks like it’s been entirely designed in a wind tunnel with absolute downforce and aerodynamics in mind, whereas the RC F is more elegant and flowing – an accessible supercar.

Cast your eye down the side of the Lexus RC F, and it continues to be as sinewy and athletic as the front, with long, deep sections cut into the front wings, venting turbulent air away from around the wheels. The roof sits low and sleek, satin-finished metal trim running around the side glass to make it cleverly appear as one window.

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2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0705

The rear arches flare at the shoulder line, holding the rear lights in place, which are as stunning as the fronts. The rear bumper have been pinched outwards almost on the corners of the car, giving it a much more interesting appearance than a simple, rounded-off traditionally-shaped bumper.

A lot of the features aren’t there simply of looks though, and they’re specifically designed for air flow and downforce. The edges and spats of the front and rear bumpers allow air to smoothly flow down the sides of the RC F, and also reduce airflow pushing onto the tyres

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Amazingly, those tiny little fins on the black trim in front of the mirrors and the sides of the rear lights apparently ‘promote straight-line stability, and suppress vehicle wobble when turning.’ The vents situated in the bonnet and front wings aren’t for show either, but actually ventilate hot air away from the engine and brakes.

Pop up spoiler on the 2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre

Roof line 2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8

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Integrated into the boot lid is a pop-up spoiler, which is well hidden normally and comes up either at a certain speeds, or by deploys manually using a button on the dash. Quad exhaust ports finish the rear off nicely, and give the drivers in cars behind it the idea that it’s probably best not to challenge the Lexus to a drag race from the lights, unless they’re in something super-quick too, that is.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0228

With a mental sock in the eye from the exterior, you’re going to expect the RC F to be something a bit special… but prepare to be a little underwhelmed. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because as soon as you sit inside you realise the centre console and dash look like and are laid out much the same like any any other one of Lexus’s models in their range. It’s just not as special as I’d anticipated, and I’m not alone in thinking that either.

When you sit behind the wheel of the Jaguar F-Type, for example, you do genuinely get a spark of excitement, a miniature shot of adrenaline, and that’s before you’ve even started the thing. This is because things like the attractive Ignis-coloured starter button, drive-mode toggle switch, fighter-jet-joystick-like gear selector and row of helicopter-type controls on the centre console actually serve to stir the emotions.

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build quality interior 2015 Lexus RC F

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8

Unfortunately, the RC F’s cabin just left me a bit cold. There’s nothing there to excite the senses or stimulate your brain into thinking you’re sat in something not far off 500 horsepower, and it’s all rather decidedly clinical in its execution – its lacks in soul, in other words.

Get past that though, and the typical Lexus clinical approach to doing things begins to make sense. Firstly, the seats up front are beautifully designed and crafted, with intricate stitching patterns pulling deep into the supple, expensive-feeling leather.

Run your hand across every panel and piece of trim in the cabin, and you can’t find fault with just how exactly placed or entirely well made they are. If you want true build quality that’ll literally last a lifetime, then look to Lexus, because they never disappoint in that area, and this is certainly true of the RC F.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 front leather seats

Headrest leather seat 2015 Lexus RC F Leather seat back 2015 Lexus RC F

The front seats I mentioned sit low, and while they support you well, they’re also unexpectedly comfortable too as they actually look quite thin from a side profile. Oh, I forgot to mention – they’re also heated and ventilated. Lexus have clearly thought about the seating position for cruising distances as well, as you’ll notice that both the armrests on the front doors and on the centre console match up evenly in height, providing optimum leaning comfort.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 rear leather seats

Yet more surprising practicality includes the rear seats, which unlike most 2+2 configurations in genuine sports coupés, is genuinely usable by adults! Yes, okay the people in the front have to be willing to compromise on leg space a bit more, but the rear seats provide decent enough leg room, but they are also wide and not cramped, plus there’s also a fair amount of elbow and head-height room too.

Cupboard 2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre

As a rear passenger, you even benefit from two proper-sized cup holders which sit in front of a wide armrest, and the panels at the sides are recessed so you can fit your arm onto them comfortably. What I found I really liked though, is that the rear seating area has had the same amount of detail shown to it as the front; soft, perforated leather with perfectly uniform stitching on the seats and side armrests, the blind that slickly slides over the cup holders, and speaker surrounds that are mounted solidly into the trim. All good stuff.

Back to the front area, and as mentioned that centre console is a bit too overly-familar. While all the switchgear feels like it’d survive a bomb blast, I absolutely can’t stand the six slitty buttons between the two stereo controls – they look and feel substandard of the usual Lexus quality. In fact, as I mentioned in my review of the IS 300h F Sport review (which has the same layout), that whole panel just isn’t a nice design, and I don’t like the trim finish on the facia or buttons.

Front passenger seat 2015 Lexus RC F

Below that though, everything around the gear selector is driver-ergonomic, and Lexus have designed it so you can focus on the road ahead and still use the controls with having to glance down. The track pad for controlling the infotainment system takes a little getting used to, and if I’m honest I do prefer a touchscreen still, but it’s a fairly decent system to use once you’ve played about with it a while.

As with every Lexus I’ve tested to date (right up to the current 2015 NX 300h), the satellite navigation is awful, with completely outdated graphics and menus which should be more user-friendly. I can’t understand why they don’t simply use Toyota’s sat nav as it’s much better system, and they already part-share anyway (the cruise control lever is the same one as in the Prius). I’d want better if I was shelling out over £60,000 for a new car.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 satnav gps screen

Onwards though, as a part I do like is RC F’s steering wheel, which is unique to this car. It is chunky, thoroughly grippy and comfortable for those longer trips. The buttons for controlling the cruise, stereo, telephone etc are straightforward to use and it’s easy to remember what each does. Slim paddle shifters are mounted on the wheel too, and physically they feel great to use – perfectly placed and just the right width, depth and height.

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I absolutely love the instrument cluster on the RC F. There’s a 4.2 inch TFT full-colour display in the lower corner, which provides you with just about all the driver info you want or need, including a G-force meter, the rear wing position, which drive mode you’re in, the torque distribution at the rear wheels, a lap timer, plus the usual stuff like tyre pressures and fuel economy – all in beautiful, rich graphics which are a delight to read.

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Next to that is a large full-colour digital dial, which changes in look depending on which driver mode you’re in; eco shows no rpm gauge, but instead blue bars which show how much power you’re using, normal mode is a simple rev counter and digital speed display, Sport S gives a sharper, easier-to-read rev counter, the rev indicator light system illuminates in three stages to give the driver visual shift-timing cues and the gear shift display takes prominence over the speed, and also displayed is what mode the TVD (Torque Vectoring Differential) is in; Standard, Slalom or Track. Finally, Sport S+ mode provides an even clearer rpm gauge, but this time the oil and water temperatures are displayed in the centre of the dial too.

I little strangely, I thought, Lexus have included an analogue speedometer dial in the binnacle. I think perhaps they believe people still want a bit of the old-school sports-car left in, but in all honestly I don’t believe I even glanced at that dial once while driving. Don’t get me wrong, I like the traditional-type dials, but it simply does not fit in with the rest of the tech-loaded Lexus.

It’s clear that Lexus want the RC F to not only be enjoyed by the driver, but by the passengers too. Sound from the 10-speaker Pioneer system is powerful and crisp, and it even includes a DVD player as standard, as well as two USB ports and an aux-input. The dual-zone climate control can be minutely adjusted each side, and the front seats benefit from being both heated and ventilated.

At 366 litres, the boot space is a decent size for a sports coupé. You can easily get a couple of good-sized long-weekend bags chucked in there plus smaller luggage, and there’s even a handy elasticated net to hold down shopping for that blast back home from the supermarket.

Boot space 2015 Lexus RC F

Boot space 2015 Lexus RC F

Lexus have the safety aspect covered, as the RC F comes standard with what they call a ‘ passenger safety cell’, which is made up of 8 airbags, including knee, side and curtain bags which stretch fully across the side windows. You can also spec a pre-crash safety system with adaptive cruise control for £1,295. Well worth it.

So, while the RC F’s cabin design ain’t exactly sparking my adrenaline, it’s also incredibly well made and thought out, as well as being rather more practical than you’d expect.

Engine & gearbox

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 engine

Lexus call the RC F’s petrol-powered 5.0 litre V8 32-valve naturally-aspirated engine ‘new’, but it’s actually derived from the mad IS F. However, count it as new, as most of its part have been replaced anyway and it’s 12% more powerful than the motor it is based on too.

The engine has DOHC with dual VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence), and it uses both the Atkinson and Otto cycles to give economy with performance. The V8 switches to the more fuel-efficient Atkinson cycle when operating at cruising speeds, reverting to the Otto cycle when required to deliver higher performance. If you’re interested in how those cycles work, click this link for an interesting description from Lexus on the subject, and see the video below.

Driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed Sports Direct Shift (SPDS) transmission, the RC F’s V8 puts out 477 bhp at 6,400 rpm and 391 lb ft (530Nm) of torque between 4,800 – 5,600 rpm. This equates to an electronically limited top speed of 168 miles per hour, a 0 – 62 mph time of just 4.5 seconds, and 50 to 75 mph is covered in 3.7 seconds.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 Engine

Official fuel economy (UK mpg) stats are quoted as: urban: 17.6, extra urban: 36.2, combined: 26.2, with 252 g/km CO2. Those are incredibly good returns for a car with that sort of power and speed, but how does the RC F do under real-life conditions? Well, I managed a 27.5 mpg average on a motorway run, but on shorter runs of around five to ten miles at 40 mph in light traffic I got as high as a 34 mpg average. Quite astounding.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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The RC F’s 5.0 litre V8 flares into life with the sort of bark you’d expect of a tuned V8, before it settles down into a quiet low, strong thrum at idle. Give the throttle a couple of quick blips, and your ears are rewarded with a good amount of noise from the back of the car.

While there’s a pronounced meaty exhaust note, Lexus have fitted the RC F with an Active Sound Control system (only activated when the RC F is in Sport S+ mode) which delivers enhanced exhaust, intake and mechanical sounds into the cabin. It uses an ECU to monitor engine speed, throttle position and vehicle speed, then calculates the optimum sound for any given set of driving conditions and creates auxiliary sound to match through a speaker located beneath the instrument panel. I’m glad it only activates in Sport S+ mode, as to me it’s a cardinal sin to have beautiful sounds that it should make anyway, pumped electronically through a speaker. Yuk.

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Back on track though, and as you slip behind the wheel of the RC F and shut the door, you immediately feel cocooned, like you’re in the cockpit of a properly sorted race-car-for-the-road. It’s a good feeling, and although the interior is too familiar to the other Lexus’ in the range, once you crank that V8 into life and the RC F’s cool instrument binnacle flashes its superb graphics up, you forget the rest of the cabin anyway, and focus ahead.

The RC F always starts with the drive mode in Normal, which aims to give smooth acceleration, and it does this beautifully well. Driving at a steady pace, you get the the feeling that you’re luxury car, in fact it’s similar to the GS 300h in that way, partly because the throttle response is precise, yet glossy, and also because the RC F roll down the road solidly, in the manner of a luxury car. On that, it’s not exactly lightweight with a minimum kerb weight of 1,765 kilograms (3,891 lbs) – which is slightly more than the GS, in fact – so that’ll be why it feels that way.

In full auto mode, gear changes from the 8-speed Sports Direct Shift transmission are virtually unnoticeable, and with electric power-assisted steering, the RC F is actually a really easy car to drive on the sort of roads and traffic congestion you’d meet on a normal commute into a city.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0822

Okay, the steering does obviously feel more weighted and stiff than a luxury car at slower speeds, but it stands to impress that you’re nit simply driving a luxury car about, but something sporty. It’s the same story with the suspension too, and while while it’s not the trick type of Adaptive Damping Suspension you get on the F-Type, the RC F’s has been well set up for both low and high frequency bumps and actually it doesn’t ride anywhere near as harshly as you may think for a  car with such performance. In fact, it’s unexpectedly supple.

The RC F behaves as well as any other Lexus in urban conditions, and you can sit in heavy traffic as much as you want with a nicely cooled cabin, soothing tunes playing through the excellent speakers, and temperature readings of the engine not really rising, thanks to the genius of Lexus’ engineers.

Drive about in built-up areas for long though, and you’ll start going stir crazy, for the RC F is a car that deserves to stretch its long legs regularly. Spying the national speed limit signs in the distance makes my eyes brighten, and I twist the drive mode selector to Sport S, the revs rising instantly as the RC F drops down a gear or two automatically. As the nose of the Lexus passes the black and white limit signs, I shove the pedal hard, and all my expectations of this car are fulfilled, as the digital mph figures spins up quickly, the view goes blurry out the side windows and the naturally aspirated 5.o litre V8 fire a howl out the stacked tailpipes.

 

Flip, this thing is fast, and almost effortlessly so too. That big V8 doesn’t appear to be working massively hard to get you heading towards the horizon at ridiculous speeds, and just when I think it’s giving its all, I realise there’s still a distance to go on the accelerator pedal, and another 1,000 rpm until it reaches its peak of 471 horsepower.

People often quote the zero to sixty time of car, but that’s all just hot air – the rolling acceleration is where it’s at, and it’s way more satisfying (and addictive) to give the RC F the beans from say, 40 miles per hour, and watch the speed rise crazily quickly. Want to get away from that tailgating Audi diesel being driven by a moronic idiot who’s late for his next sales meeting? Simply select Sport S+, pull the paddle shifter back a few times, and feel fulfilled as you watch his angry countenance and company A5 disappear to a dot in your rear mirror within a few seconds.

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Once up to your required cruising speed, the RC F sits very well, with that big engine sitting relaxed in eighth gear, and if you’ve optioned the Adaptive Cruise Control – a £,1295 option which also includes Pre-Crash Safety System – which you absolutely should, long distances are made even easier.

It’s not as quiet as other models of Lexus, and road noise is fairly pronounced from the low profile tyres, and so while the 10-speaker Pioneer system seems good at lower speeds, unless you blast it super loud, you lose a lot of the richness and it’s doesn’t appear to drown out the tyre noise very well. On that basis, I recommend optioning 17-speaker Mark Levinson system (£1,000).

With the motorway cruise out of the way, it’s time to blast down some country roads and see how the handling is. Slide the gear shifter over into manual mode, twist the drive mode selector to Sport S and push the TVD (Torque Vectoring Differential) button into Slalom, and the RC F tightens up ready for action.

Although there’s plenty of power to play with, and if you’re stupid with it you could get yourself into trouble, the RC F is so stable and controlled through high speed corners that you feel entirely confident. For a while, I was trying to fathom what the rear-wheel-drive RC F’s handling felt like, and eventually I realised; it sticks so amazingly well to the tarmac that it feels like it has all-wheel-drive.

Driving the 2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8

Yes, the combination of an extremely clever stability and traction control system, plus the benefit of the Torque Vectoring Differential (a £3,500 option, unless you buy the RC F Carbon), the Lexus RC F guarantees you’ll want corners-a-plenty on every drive. The grip level is immensely good – astonishingly so, in fact –  that you can take bends at speeds you just wouldn’t think possible, and still come out the other side facing frontwards, I might add.

That TVD also benefits you in a straight-line under hard acceleration, and especially if the ground is well or bumpy, where the wheels can lift just enough to lose grip and therefore normally off-balance the car. With the TVD, electronic control and precision actuator motors, adjusted in units of one-thousandth of a second, ensure the appropriate amount of torque is distributed to each rear wheel, keeping you heading perfectly straight even under the above-mentioned conditions.

The TVD has three switchable operating modes, independent of the transmission’s Drive Mode Select: Standard (default) for an ideal balance of agility and stability, Slalom, for an emphasis on nimble steering response and the agility of a smaller vehicle, and Track, for an emphasis on stability during high-speed circuit driving.

Now, the TVD is a complex bit of kit, and if I’m honest I’m not the man to particularly explain the engineering behind it very well. Rather, it’s easier to watch this YouTube video, featuring an excellent explanation of how it works;

Everything matches up well on the drive side of things too. The Brembo brakes (six-piston up front, four-piston at the rear) are incredibly powerful, but they aren’t grabby or too sensitive either, rather they are progressive with a positive and precise feel. The steering is electronic, and while sports car purists will shout about it not being ‘proper’ or giving good feedback, the RC F’s is very responsive to even slight inputs, and suits the car entirely.

Let’s face it, on the average public road there’s really not much chance of fully exploring just how good the Lexus RC F’s handling and control is by taking it to its limit, and I’m not going to pretend I did. You’d need a track for that. Instead, what I can tell is that the RC F allows you to feel like a driving hero, while keeping you in firmly pointing in the right direction. It’s a confidence-giver, this car, and while I did get the impression that the electronics were doing the bulk of the work, I don’t believe it takes away from the experience of a brilliantly engaging drive.

Price

Currently, there are two specs available: the RC F at £59,995, and the RC F Carbon at £67,995. So, is the eight grand difference worth it, and what do you get for paying the extra with the Carbon? Well, there’s a carbon-fibre roof, spoiler and bonnet, plus Torque Vectoring Differential (a £3.5k option on the RC F), and the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system (£1,000 option on the other model). However, you do miss out on the ventilated front seats of the ‘standard’ RC F.

The total weight save of the Carbon will surely be impressive with all those big bits replaced, right? Wrong. You save just 10 kilograms (22 lbs). Yes, you read that right. That’s about the equivalent of what I normally carry in the boot of any test car: the rucksack which holds my laptop and other gear, a spare pair of boots, my camera and tripod, plus a bottle or two of water. Worth it? I’d say not, unless you want bragging rights.

What are the RC F’s rivals though? It’s got to be 2+2 seating (that’s actually useable, like the RC F’s is), so we’re looking at the Jaguar XK, which has unfortunately been discontinued now, BMW M4 Coupé: £57,000 – £59,550, Audi RS 5 Coupé: £59,920, Porsche Panamera: from £64,000, Maserati GranTurismo: from £82,890 and perhaps at a push the Mercedes-Benz S 500 Coupé, but which is priced from a stonking £96,000.

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8 Naturally Aspirated verdict & score

2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8-0670

With the RC F, Lexus have managed to created something that has immense speed and handling, yet is functional, comfortable for four and actually economical for a five litre V8. The RC F is a showcase of Lexus’ unwavering attention to detail, with an interior that admittedly is a little too familiar to the rest of the range, but which is comfortable both front and rear, and has all the amenities and luxuries you’d normally expect in larger GT car, rather than a smaller 2+2.

For the price, you’re actually getting a sports car with a very high spec – as is the Lexus way – and the engineering you can’t physically see has just as much detail shown to it as the interior. That Torque Vectoring Differential is an amazing thing, and you absolutely should spec it should you buy the RC F.

If you want a track-attack car, is the RC F good enough to keep up with rivals like the M4? Hard to say when I haven’t tested it on one, but it’s a lot heavier car than the Beemer. However, for the road, the RC F goes way beyond what you realistically need power-wise, and it’s incredibly well suited to day-to-day driving, and that power is easy to handle too, no matter what you’re using it for.

All said, while I’d like to have seen an interior more unique to the RC F, aside from that there’s very little to really fault this Lexus on.

Do you own a 2015 Lexus RC F, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below! Read more of our Lexus reviews here.

Exterior  8.5
Interior  8.5
Engine  9
Gearbox  8.5
Price  8
Handling  9
Drive & Ride  8.5
Overall Score  8.5 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested) 2015 Lexus RC F 5.0 litre V8
Spec includes   19″ forged alloys wheels, cruise control, 2+2 seating, heated & ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, smart entry & exit, Lexus navigation system, 10-speaker Pioneer sound system with, DAB, Bluetooth, Aux-in & USB ports and DVD player, high-res 7″ multimedia screen, remote touch pad controller, active rear spoiler, front & rear LED lights. Safety spec: ABS, Brake Assist, EBD, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (4-mode), hill start assist, lane keep assist, rear cross-taffic alert, 8 airbags.  See website for more detail
Options you should spec  Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD): £3,500, 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system: £1,000, Pre-Crash Safety & Adaptive Cruise Control: £1,295
The Competition  Jaguar XK, BMW M4 CoupéAudi RS 5 CoupéPorsche PanameraMaserati GranTurismoMercedes-Benz S 500 Coupé
Price  (Nov. ’15) £60,995 – £67,995. As tested: £66,415
Engine  Petrol, naturally-aspirated 5.0 litre V8 32-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i
Power, Torque  Power: 471 bhp @ 7,100 rpm | Torque: 391 lb ft (530Nm) between 4,800 – 5,600 rpm
Drive, Transmission (as tested)  Rear wheel drive | 8-speed Sports Direct Shift automatic
Boot capacity  366 litres
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 168 mph (electronically limited) | 0 – 62 mph: 4.5 seconds | 50 – 75 mph: 3.7 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not as yet tested
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 17.6, Extra urban: 36.2, Combined: 26.2 | CO2: 252 g/km
Weight (Min. kerb) 1,765 kilograms (3,891 lbs)
Websites  Lexus UK, Lexus USA, Lexus worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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