2015 Lexus RC F: 2014 autofieldguide.com Car of the Year
I have had the opportunity, honor and privilege to drive a wide array of cars, trucks and vans during the past 12 months. I’ve been off-road in Jeeps. I’ve been on a racetrack in a 707-hp Challenger. I’ve driven a hydrogen fuel-cell equipped Toyota in southern California. I’ve driven a fully electric Golf on the Autobahn. And I’ve spent more than a fair share of time just driving like people generally drive, whether it is stuck in traffic jams or cruising up I-75 to northern Michigan.
One of the truisms that is cited nowadays is “There are no bad cars anymore.” Which actually is sort of true. More to the point of truth is that essentially any vehicle you can buy right now is not going to be prone to the problems that were once seemingly the price you paid for getting a new car or truck. I am not talking about the problems with ignition switches or airbags that are so much with us. Rather, about the problems of squeaks and rattles at the bottom end of the scale to cars that suddenly stall or frequently don’t start at the top that were a matter of course.
While there may be no “bad” cars, there is certainly a continuum of good, better, best. There is the bell-shaped curve, with a whole suite of cars that are good but not remarkable, and the not-so-but-still good and the really extraordinary at either end of the curve.
And I can say with confidence that I’ve had a chance to be in a more-than representative sample of all of these vehicles.
At this time of year, all sorts of publications give all sorts of “best-of” awards. This is particularly true of automotive publications.
For reasons not entirely clear even to me, this is something that we’ve rarely done at autofieldguide.com. The last time, in fact, was in 2012 when the McLaren MP4-12C was named.
Sometimes, I guess, something is sufficiently striking that it rises to the level of special note.
As a matter of complete coincidence, one of the last cars that I have been in this year startled me in a good way.
It is the Lexus RC F.
The Lexus RC F is, hands-down, the 2014 autofieldguide.com car of the year.
This car puts paid to the notion that Lexus—and by extension its parent, Toyota—make uninspired, uninspiring appliance-like vehicles.
If the Lexus RC F was an appliance, it is something you’d want to have in your family room not hidden away in the laundry room because the shapes and forms of the exterior are simply magical. You simply don’t see sheet metal folded so many ways with such precision and forethought.
Lexus designers have been transforming their design language from the “L-finesse” of the last decade, which was about “Intriguing Elegance, Incisive Simplicity, Seamless Anticipation,” to Something Else Entirely. It is as though they’ve decided that now that Lexus has celebrated its Silver Anniversary it no longer needs to establish its luxury credentials in the context of what the Germans are doing and so they’ve decided that they can take advantage of what few companies in the world can do as well, which is to form and shape metal as though it’s as malleable as Play-Doh.
Yes, the RC F has a giant grille (known in Lexus parlance as a “spindle grille”) that some find to be off-putting. Yes, it is. Good. Because character is something that doesn’t make everybody comfortable. On the RC F the execution is one that seems to say that it is something that is going to suck so much air into the 5.0-liter V8 that there will be no gasping or wheezing, just full-on performance and power. And while that probably has a little something to do with it, know that the RC-F’s performance is completely in keeping with its looks: this is not a car that looks like it is Hot Wheels but moves like a Tonka truck.
Some people I’ve talked with are somewhat off-put by the sharp edges and forms, the same people who laid down the appliance smack. I imagine that had Lexus designers gone half way there there would have been moaning about the inability to follow through or something along those lines.
For me, if you’re going to have a 21st-century performance coupe, then it ought to look like it belongs at least in the present if not the future. There are a few cars from long-ago yesterday that look fresh today. The RC-F will.
By and large, this has been all about how it looks on the outside. On the inside, it is similarly well executed, with cleverly engineered sport seats and the now-obligatory technology features.
And as regards performance: The RC F has an eight-speed transmission, an automatic, but there are paddles on the steering wheel for those so inclined. This is a car that can be driven on a track (big Brembo brakes; a standard Torsen limited slip differential; double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension setups; etc.) but which has the manners to be driven on the road—which is where most people are going to drive it. (Emphasis added because there are some people in my profession that seem to think that the measure of a sports coupe is only related to track performance, as though people who buy a car with a base MSRP of $62,400 are only going to drive it on tracks on the weekend, even though many of these people are buying a car like the RC-F because they also have to drive to work so they can afford it and figure that they ought to eke out whatever enjoyment they can on their commute, too.)
The RC F checks a lot of boxes, but it doesn’t seem as though it was designed and engineered to meet the cells on a spreadsheet.
Different than what is available from its competitors? Uh-huh.
Completely realized in terms of form and function? Yep.
Our car of the year? Absolutely.
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While you are probably familiar with origami, the classic art of paper folding that results in things like birds that flap their wings when you pull the tail, or plot devices in one of the Blade Runner films.