Step right up, step right up. That's the sales pitch from Lexus to lovers of top-end, homegrown muscle cars. While its luxury rivals trade on exclusivity, Lexus says its new RC F coupe will tempt buyers of mainstream performance cars who aspire to "step up" to a luxury brand.
With Holden Special Vehicles pushing the boundaries of what people will pay for a local performance sedan - and HSV's donor Commodore sedan marked for extinction - Lexus boss Sean Hanley sees an opportunity to woo Australia's V8 heartland.
The strategy explains why the company chose Mount Panorama as the venue for this week's media launch. It also explains why Hanley believes the brand is a "50-50" chance of going V8Supercar racing.
While previous bosses would have drawn comparisons between the RC F and the BMW M4 - and avoided mainstream comparisons like the plague - Hanley says the idea of a V8 performance coupe "resonates culturally very well in Australia".
"Australians still love the rumble of a naturally aspirated V8," he says. He dismisses any suggestion the Lexus brand could be tarnished by an association with "cashed up bogans". "I come from a working class background ... and I think that people who work hard have a right to aspire. Lexus is a brand for everyone and I don't feel comfortable categorising customers," he says.
But while Lexus may be a brand for everyone, the RC F most certainly isn't a car for the masses. A starting price of $133,500 will stop many buyers in their tracks, especially when its V6 sibling, the RC350, starts at $66,000, less than half the price. A Carbon model adds lightweight, space age bits and lifts the price to $147,500.
But while it may seem expensive to mainstream buyers, the Lexus coupe is a bargain in luxury land, where it boasts more standard equipment than the $178,430 BMW and $156,400 Audi RS5.
Visually, the RC F distinguishes itself from the RC350 with slightly wider haunches, a lower ride height, a small bonnet scoop and big blue Brembo brakes peeking through its 19-inch, ten-spoke rims.
Inside, there are carbon fibre highlights, heavily bolstered, leather accented sports seats with embossing and alcantara highlights on some cabin surfaces. It's a classy, well appointed cabin that is a million miles away from the than the rival M4.sie muscle car ? and feels more special.
The instrument panel combines a small, analog speedometer with a digital tacho that changes colour depending on which of four driving modes is chosen - blue for the ECO setting and angry red for Sports+.
For boy racers, it also has a lap-timer and readouts that show torque distribution and G-Forces. Elsewhere the RC F styling is a little fussy, and the touchpad system for the audio and entertainment controls is fiddly. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system makes amends, though.
A generous safety equipment list includes driver aids such as lane departure alert, rear safety camera, automatic high beam, a blind spot monitor and a rear cross traffic alert. Accommodation is less generous, especially in the back, where anyone approaching six-foot is going to find it cramped.
Read more on Carsguide