MONTREAL- It’s not every day a performance carmaker takes you to a racetrack and, after a short description of the cars, says “have at it” and lets the cars do the talking.
But that’s just what Lexus Canada did recently to demonstrate the prowess of its F Sport lineup.
F Sport is to Lexus what M Sport is to BMW and S-line is to Audi. In short, it is the brand’s performance division that takes all its expertise and leading edge technology and puts it into a package for the discerning owner.
F Sport derives its name from the Fuji track in Japan where Lexus does a lot of its testing. The shape of the badge is a stylized version of the track layout itself.
Lexus brought 10 cars to the ICAR track in Montreal that is located on the former Mirabel airport.
Lexus spokesman, Romaric Lartilleux, said F Sport provides levels of performance that drivers appreciate, as well as the levels of luxury and precision assembly Lexus buyers expect.
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But by far the biggest attraction of F Sport, he said, is the knowledge of Toyota/Lexus long-term reliability.
With starting prices, there were two rear-drive RC 350 F Sports ($57,650), two all-wheel-drive RC F 350 F Sports ($54,600), one GS 350 AWD F-Sport Series 2 ($57,850), two IS 350 AWD F Sport Series 3 and no less that three RC F Performance Package models ($81,650).
Lartilleux said Lexus now offers an F Sport version on all its vehicles, including SUVs, with the exception of the ES 350, the only front-drive model.
All the “350” models share a 3.5-litre DOHC V6. On the IS and GS, there is 306 hp and 277 lb/ft of torque. On the RC models there is a slightly different 307 hp and 276 lb/ft, while the mighty RC F has a 5.0-litre DOHC V8 with 467 hp and 389 lb/ft.
All these cars are packed with driver aids, many undreamed of a decade ago, starting with standard S+ Mode that alters throttle and steering response with the twist of a rotary knob on the centre console.
Each is equipped with AVS (Adaptive Variable Suspension) on all but the RC F. The S+ Mode also stiffens the suspension in concert with the throttle and steering.
Also F Sport standard is VDIM (Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management), which is a highly complex from of stability control that keeps it planted regardless of what it is being asked to do.
For example, if you brake suddenly on pavement where the grip is different on the left and right sides of the car, the steering will sense this and maintain stability so you don’t slew left or right.
If you notice the AWD RC 350 AWD costs less than the RWD RC 350, that’s because only it and the RC F come with an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
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The RC F gets an exclusive torque vectoring differential (TVD) that samples grip at the rear wheels and transfers torque to the inner or outer wheel as needed.
Perhaps the most serious of the F Sports is the RC 350 RWD that adds to the eight-speed trans, S+ Mode and VDIM with three extra features starting with Variable Gear Ration Steering (VGRS) that adjusts the steering gear feel in relation to speed. At low speeds the gearing is low for easier parking, but than tightens for faster driving and cornering inputs.
Next is Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) that works with the electric power steering to measure and apply steering torque added to the agility.
Added to that is Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) that uses computers for the optimum steering angles for all four wheels, that makes for more precise steering inputs working the DRS and VGRS for the best ride and response you can get in a Lexus.
As noted, the event took place at ICAR, which is a concrete barrier lined track on the old airport Mirabel runways.
In the rain, the concrete was very slippery and the painted lines even more so. Coupled with that was the fact wet concrete pavement and barriers are basically the same colour, making some of the corners look the similar.
And while the corners looked the same, what awaited on the other side could be a hairpin or entrance to a straight, so throttle, transmission and suspension response were crucial to making the corner or making a hash of it.
Most of the drivers there were much faster than me, so I tried to keep out of their way; but I have to say the RC 350 RWD was a joy to drive in the rain.
I did have a few “moments” with it as I was going in too fast and had to back off. But, with all the driver aids, I didn’t spin, which would have happened otherwise.
As for the big RC F, well this is a car that transcended the rest on acceleration alone and with the most marvelous V8 exhaust note.
After two hours, the event came to an end, but I came away with a new understanding and appreciation of what Lexus F Sport is trying to accomplish.
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