Why Jeremy Clarkson Was Wrong About The Lexus RCF
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
In the old Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson tests out a Lexus RCF during series 22 episode 6. Here is a short refresher for you: He starts off by saying he was excited to hear that Lexus was going to make a car that could take on a BMW M4. He then races an RCF against an M4, it obviously loses, then he calls the RCF fat and ugly, and says its over complicated. Next, he grabs a Lexus LFA and describes why it is an amazing car, and why the RCF is not. His conclusion is that Lexus should have been able to trap the essence of the LFA within the RCF.
If you have never heard of the RCF you are not alone. The sales of the RC models were low to begin with, and the RCF are even lower. It is a car that has greatly been misunderstood and for good reason. Its entire life it has been poorly categorized. The RCF never should have been compared to the BMW M4 or any other luxury sports saloon. The RCF is a mixture of American muscle and Japanese luxury. As strange as that combination might be, it goes back to Lexus' American roots.
To understand the RCF we need to go back to the beginning of Lexus. If you don't know the story: Toyota needed a luxury car brand to enter the United States so they could sell their cars for more money because the Japanese were under tariffs which limited how many vehicles they could bring over to sell in America. Toyota fiercely studied the American car market and saw what people who were buying luxury cars wanted. A team of Toyota engineers actually lived in California for a year and watched what cars rich old men drove and what they liked about them. In short, Toyota found that rich American's liked V8s, long spacious interiors, exclusive features, and the bigger the car the better. That is exactly what Toyota made when the launched the Lexus LS400. Now fast forward to the RCF and that is the exact equation we have in the RCF, except Lexus made it a coupe instead of having the big interior that comes with a four door sedan.
The Toyota Supra was made to be a GT car. What makes a GT car is a two-door, driver focused, rear wheel drive, and a moderate amount of power. What pulls a car from that category is a substantial amount of power. That is what happened to the Toyota Supra Mk4. In stock form the Supra was a GT car, but it was discovered how much power the engine could handle and it pushed it into another category. The Supra has become such a cult classic because of this, that it has built expectations into every sporty car Toyota has and will ever make. Especially when that magic was replicated with the Lexus LFA (in a different form of course). This is why the Lexus RCF has been poorly compared from the beginning.
I know if you were to go purchase a RCF right now, there are many lighter and faster cars out there, even the Lexus LC500 takes away some buyers from the RCFs market, but the RCF will be a hidden gem in the used car market. When the price drops to the point it should be at, which in my opinion is $60,000, this car will be on everyones list of dream cars.
Now back to Jeremy Clarkson's review. Like Jeremy said the Lexus LFA is an amazing car, and Lexus and Toyota made that car to show the world what they can do, but it was too expensive because they had to redesign it. The RCF suffers from the same problem, it really is too expensive for what it is. Does the RCF succeed as a GT car though? I believe it does, and some day the price and the market will meet and this car will be a success. Just not while it is new though.