Toyota's luxe brand goes sporty with the RC350 and RC F two-doors, which are effortless and rewarding to drive
Racy coupes from Lexus Between the RC F (above) and the RC350, the RC F is the more accomplished racer, powered by a 5-litre normally aspirated dual-injection V8 that is beefy, creamy and soulful. -- PHOTO: LEXUS

If you are hoping to see a replica of the German sports coupe here, forget it. Even if Lexus' RC350 and RC F have credentials that match the latest Teutonic performance machines, they are not quite the cars they so obviously target.

In some ways, they are better.

The most obvious trait that sets the new Lexus cars apart is ease of use. You may be a driver who has never handled anything more than 120bhp, but once you are behind the wheel of the RC, going fast becomes almost second nature.

Both cars are immensely effortless and thoroughly rewarding for drivers with varying abilities and appetite for excitement.

The RC F is clearly the more accomplished racer, powered by a 5-litre normally aspirated dualinjection V8 that is beefy, creamy and soulful. It is a grand tourer on open highways, a fantastic tool for carving up B roads and a car for the race track all rolled into one.

Its rich, textured V8 baritone stays in the background at engine speeds of up to 3,000rpm, which you would seldom exceed anyway.

But if the occasion calls for it, the purr gives way to a bark that will frighten little children.

Likewise, its eight-speed autobox, adapted from the Lexus LS transmission, has this split personality. It is super refined and completely unnoticeable when cruising, but once you squeeze the throttle or brake hard, it becomes a different animal.

Its paddle shifters are often redundant, as the gearbox shifts down in double quick time when you slow down to take a corner, setting you up for a speedy exit each time.

On the track or along a winding stretch of country road, this ability sets the RC F apart from other cars.

The car is decently quick in Normal mode. But switching to Sport or Sport-Plus just dials up the fun quotient. Everything becomes keener, stiffer and angrier. Great for chasing down a competitor.

If equipped with torque vectoring, the car becomes markedly easier to control on the track. Unlike rivals with this stability feature, the one in the RC F offers three kinds of intervention to suit the occasion. It is almost impossible to overcook a corner with this option.

A Torsen rear limited slip differential is also available, but there is little point in having this when torque vectoring is done so well.

Those who are used to the heftier feel of European sports cars may find the new Lexus a tad "soft". But that is merely a perception. Yes, the electric steering is feathery. Likewise, the brake pedal is also sprung lightly. But they work just as well.

Steering is exquisitely precise, with the car tackling corners in a most neutral manner. And you do not have to stomp on the brakes to shave speed, even if you wait till the last possible moment to do so before taking a sharp turn.

It takes some getting used to, but once you are accustomed to these two characteristics, you will find that both the RC350 and RC F are far less tiring to drive hard. Whether you are going cross country or doing hot laps in a race circuit, this counts for something.

If you are not really into track work, the RC350 is the better choice. It has a cushier set-up, so it is more suited to long hauls and day-to-day motoring. Its power deficit is stark on paper, but on public roads, it is not always apparent.

First of all, the RC350 is 100kg lighter than the RC F. And its V6 feels snappier and edgier, with a keener throttle response to boot. While the F's V8 has a laid-back low-end, the 3.5-litre V6 displays a breezier and more linear mannerism across a wide rev range.

As a boulevard cruiser, it is more than adequate. Surprisingly, it also keeps up with its more accomplished twin on B roads. It concedes only on open highways and on a race track (assuming drivers of similar abilities are behind the wheel).

There is also an RC350 F Sport. Unlike the previous F Sport cars, it is supposed to offer a more pronounced sportiness. But there is not enough time to sample this variant here.

Both the RC and RC F look pretty sharp. They wear the most aggressive spindle grille, with fluid aerodynamic lines carved into their bodywork. The RC350 has diffuser-like fins both on either end of its rear bumper (like the Audi R8), but these are largely cosmetic.

The RC F dispenses with these, as its rear bumper is sculptured to have cleaner airflow at high speeds. An active rear spoiler deploys once the car reaches 80kmh, but Lexus does not want to say how much additional downforce this device actually creates.

In front, the RC F has large air intakes on both sides of the bumper, as well as a vent on its raised bonnet. It truly looks the part of a track warrior. Unlike the Lexus IS F, which seemed like an afterthought, the RC F was conceived as a different car from the start.

It is slightly longer, wider and lower than the RC350, but shares a common wheelbase.

The wheelbase incidentally, is shorter than the IS'. This makes quick and sharp turns tidier. Of course, cabin space is compromised, but the RC is a two-door 2+2 after all.

Its rear seats are not suitable for long journeys, although there is slightly more space than many European coupes. Boot space, however, is smaller than usual.

The new model is built on a new platform that is a hybrid of those used in the Lexus GS, IS convertible and IS sedan. So, dimensions-wise, it is somewhere between the GS and IS. But in the metal, it appears more compact, perhaps because it is not as tall as either car.

Lexus would not reveal the drag-coefficient value of the new car, merely saying it is comparable to figures of the BMW 4-series and M4. But it is clear the RC sits closest to the tarmac among all Lexus models besides the rarefied LFA.

It is also a lot more accessible than the million- dollar LFA supercar - both in terms of pricing and driveability.

Although Singapore prices are not available yet, the price tag of the RC350 is expected to be in the ballpark of that of the BMW 435i (around $300,000), while the RC F should cost 15 per cent or so more. There is a lighter RC F with a carbon-fibre bonnet, roof and rear spoiler, but that will cost even more.

The weight savings amount to around 10kg, which is really not obvious to drivers who enjoy the occasional racing Sunday.

You will notice that both the RC350 and RC F are not as quick as their respective Bavarian rivals on paper. But in real-world situations, a driver in the Lexus has the advantage of a car that is less demanding and more forgiving.

This may not sound like much, but it actually makes a world of difference.