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Lexus shows off its F-Sport lineup

Mirabel, QC – The Lexus brand is synonymous with luxury, status and safety. Those are many of the key reasons why consumers flock to Toyota's luxury option. Lexus still stands for all that, but over the past half-decade they've wanted to showcase more of its performance-portfolio, and with that they unleashed the F-Sport lineup.

The F Sports name gained plenty of steam when the production LFA super car was introduced at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. The plan was to show it as a technological showpiece along with its sporty styling and carbon fibre materials that could trickle down throughout the roster. The excitement from the LFA delighted the entire auto industry leading to the more stylish LF-LC Concept that struck to the core of the car enthusiast. Lexus clearly had something here to make this F-Sport lineup fly, and they quickly acted to offer more of these F Sport variants for purchase.

What is F Sport?

I'm still not sure what the “F” stands for, but when an invite was received to test four of the F Sport models at the iCar race track in Mirabel, Quebec – it sure sounded like something “fun” to do.

To gain more information about what F Sport means to Lexus, I chatted with Romaric Lartilleux, Public Relations Consultant at Lexus Canada.

Romaric explained that: “the F Sport division shows that Lexus isn't just about good cars for the road, but also for the race track. The goal is to attract younger customers, who wouldn't necessarily have picked Lexus in the past. When you see how Lexus is now – you surely can't say we're boring.”

These statements peaked my interest and I was ready to test these puppies on the track. It was a nice buffet of models on-hand that included the all-wheel drive versions of the IS 350 and GS 350 sedans, the RC 350 in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive, as well as the RC F sports coupe. We weren't provided many restrictions. The only thing they asked was for us to be cautious (it was raining), but have at it within our limits. To me that just resembles the “F” spirit of the event.

Lexus RC F

The star attraction to the event was the two-door RC F coupe that's fitted with a 5.0-litre V8, ready to show off its 467 horses and 389 lb.-ft. of torque. The RC F is based off of both the IS and GS, but takes on a shorter, sleeker and more sporty profile. Between the smooth coupe silhouette with the two-tone roof and the large hourglass spindle grille with Nike swoosh LEDs – this was built for today's event.

One look at the RC F and you know it's out for trouble. It probably wasn't the wisest move making it for my first choice, considering I wasn't familiar with the track, nor the wet conditions, but I knew there would plenty of time to play around with it.

I slid into the sports-tuned leather bucket seats, fired up the monster and let it roar. Out of the four drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport-plus), there were only two to choose from for this mission. I started out in Sport to feel things through, and quickly I learned that the RC F might just be too much car for this wet track. The second you push down on the throttle, the RC F instantaneously bolts out with aggression. This track had many twists and turns along the way, moving the eight-speed automatic transmission constantly between second and fourth gear, only to reach the top gears on the few longer straights.

The RC F is just pure fun. The track is the environment it feels most comfortable in, allowing it to let loose. To make it more interesting, the RC F has a special button, exclusive to it called TVD (Torque Vectoring Differential), that comes with the RC F performance package for an additional $8K. TVD allows you to choose between three additional driving set-ups that can be tuned for either standard, track, or slalom. These functions work independently of the Drive Mode Select, which does mean that you can distort and confuse the RC F's drive by choosing both Eco and Track mode.

As you would figure, slalom mode focuses on quick steering responses and agility; while track mode places an emphasis on stabilizing the vehicle during high-speed turns, as well as assisting that quick acceleration after hard braking. It's all about transferring torque between the left and right tires depending on your situation on track. All of these actions help to improve grip and assist you where your steering inputs imply.

Unfortunately, on this day, letting fully loose in Sport-plus, would have been a tragedy into the guard rail. The combination of the puddles and the tires being slightly worn out by the media wave ahead of us, led to a slight loss in traction, turning the coupe close to sideways in a few instances. Correction was quick and provided a lesson of how quick you should go on iCar's wet track.

The RC F showed a lot of potential, however it can be costly, especially with the performance package that tops it out at $88K. Regardless, it should still be in the conversation with the likes of the BMW M4, Audi RS5, Jaguar F-Type R and the Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe.

The rest of the F Sport division on-hand

I could go on about the RC F for a while, but for now let's go through the rest of the F Sport roster on display. All of the other vehicles I tested were of the all-wheel drive variety, starting with the RC 350, and followed by the GS 350 and IS 350.

The other three will be grouped together, because even though they're different in terms of dimensions, the F Sport packages provides similar elevated driving characteristics from its regular offerings. The performance package set-ups in all of them away from aesthetics included suspension tuning, performance braking and a tuned exhaust that achieved overall better handling, balance and grunt.

The IS 350 and RC 350 provided great traction throughout at speeds topping out at 135 km/h, with a bit more body roll coming from the IS. But it was the mid-size sedan GS350 that I found to be best suited for the iCar track. I'm only assuming that the added weight helped it stay grounded and provided that added confidence for me to take those turns at higher speeds. There was a nice flow and crispness to the sweeping lefts and rights without any need for acceleration release.

I never thought the GS would be my favourite on the day, but that's a true testament to the excitement and flair that the F Sport package brings. All of the vehicles on the day showcased their sporty talents on a rainy day in Quebec without any incidents.

The question that still remains is whether consumers will spend an extra $5-8K for the F Sport package? Many will not get the opportunity to ever fully test it on track, so is it worth it to the buyer? The answer is all about what that extra power and suspension will do for you. Some definitely will take it on track; others might just want to have that sports potential.

All I can say is Lexus has taken the time to develop this sports-performance division – and it shows. The F Sport line is for real, and it definitely stands for “fun”. If you're in the market for something that provides a performance punch, you need to at least take a look at this F Sport lineup before making any decision.

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