Big Mouth, Big Speed: We Ride in the Track-Bred Lexus RC F GT Concept at Long Beach

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The tires were cold, the brakes were cold, the track was cold, and driver Scott Pruett looked a little chilly himself, having barely turned any time in this particular car. Even so, when the starter waved us out on a sunny California day in May, Pruett hammered it into the concrete corridors of the Long Beach street circuit where the walls close in and one small mistake sends you into the bumpers of a pinball machine. And we weren’t even wearing helmets.

Toyota has a long and deep association with the Grand Prix of Long Beach dating back to its days as a U.S. round for the Formula 1 championship. The inaugural Toyota Pro/Celebrity support race in 1977 had nine starters, of which just two finished (writer/racer Sam Posey and actor/football player Shelly Novack). So it was no surprise that this year’s IndyCar event would be the stage for Lexus to wheel out and give chauffeured media rides in its RC F GT concept, a tuned and heavily carbonized version of Lexus’s big sports coupe.

The RC F GT concept (please, smaller name next time, guys) is an RC F with carbon fiber forming the doors, trunk, hood, and fenders. The side windows are polycarbonate, and the interior has been largely gutted. A box-shaped carbon-fiber tent has been erected over the transmission tunnel to serve as the center console. Flip on the fuel pumps and the uninsulated “scree!” of the pump motors fills the cabin with the sound of victory. The 2UR-GSE 5.0-liter V-8 puts out “467-plus” horsepower, meaning it has something more than the 467 horsepower produced by the stock RC F. However, with a curb weight advertised as 3130 pounds, the GT concept is more than 900 pounds lighter than the stocker, which is a two-ton slab of iron. Forty of these things on a grid would make an amazing manga-ized version of NASCAR.

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Why does a super-sporty one-off like the RC F GT concept matter? Lexus is making a performance play with its F Performance sub-brand, and showing cars like an RC F coupe with 900-plus pounds cut out of it conveys purpose. Lexus wants to be taken seriously, and rumors are circulating that the car is already approved for very limited production and sale in the Japanese market, where rich one-day wonders might be more inclined to buy the local product in which to get their track jollies instead of a Porsche or a BMW. If so, the price is likely to at least match that of the $134,200 BMW M4 GTS or possibly go even higher.

And if the RC F GT comes to the States, it’ll be as a track-only toy. There are simply too many mods requiring too much federal certification work to make this a street-legal vehicle. Meanwhile, although Lexus claims there are as yet no plans to bring the car stateside, pro shoe Scott Pruett—a veteran wheelman who has run everything from NASCAR to CART to Trans-Am, and who will steer the even-less-stock RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starting partway through the season this summer—was tasked with driving journalists around in California.

There’s no question the RC F GT concept goes, stops, and steers with far more verve than the car available at Lexus dealerships. Sucked down over its Yokohama Advan A005s on 18-inch forged-aluminum wheels, the GT concept generates lateral and longitudinal g-forces in healthy numbers while the engine belts out a gruff, big-bore bellow. Pruett seemed as relaxed as the car was stable under braking or when digging for grip out of a corner, the eight-speed automatic responding instantly to the paddle cues.

Whatever it is, car-company fantasy or future track toy, the RC F GT concept seems to pack in plenty of fun for someone who wants to stand apart from the M4 and 911 crowd in the paddock. As Lexus develops and widens its performance operation, and Toyota’s engineers deliver better platforms that are more amenable to hot-rodding than the heavy RC F, we expect the F Performance cars to get even better. With the RC F GT concept, consider yourself warned.

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