Ask Bark Brief: Crazy For Considering A Great Car?
I’m in the final year of my lease on a 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T and the itch to start shopping for my next car has kicked in. Ownership has not been perfect. CUE annoys me on a regular basis, the 2.0T noticeably shakes the car at idle when the engine is cold, it’s been recalled four times for its sunroof, and its automatic transmission is way too eager to up shift. While my wife loves how quiet and smooth the car is, I am a bit ambivalent. The handling is great, but the car itself lacks character when you cane it.
I’ve owned an E46 BMW M3, both eighth and ninth generations of the Honda Civic Si, and a Toyota MR2 targa top in the past. Recently, I put a refundable deposit on a 2017 Subaru BRZ with a manual transmission in hopes of getting back into something that’s a bit more raw, but it seems Canadian customers are not receiving some ’17 updates and my wife hates being a passenger in it.
I was eyeing the new Chevrolet Camaro SS, BMW M2 and used Porsche Caymans when, on a whim, I test drove a 2015 Lexus RC F.
The test drive was shockingly entertaining. At low engine speeds, the Lexus is quiet, refined and superbly comfortable — perfectly for a daily commute or leisurely drive; however, when you find a nice stretch of road, the V8 noise becomes intoxicating and the car feels taut. I know the aesthetics are not everyone’s cup of tea, but my wife and I both think it looks far better in person than in photos.
Am I crazy for considering the RC F? I know it loses all the comparison tests to the Germans and the ATS-V, but there is something charming about it. Lexus reliability is also a plus as I’m hoping to hold on to my next car for the next 7 to 10 years.
Thanks for your thoughts,
In a word? No. But before I dig in, let’s talk about comparison tests.
Most comparison tests are garbage and determined in advance by the biases that exist in the media at large. Once a narrative gets out in the media, it’s very difficult to change that narrative. The best example that I can think of on that is the Acura NSX. The first reviews — conducted by people who have no business being in the same zip code as a race track — were that the car was slow, heavy, understeer-prone, and plodding. Acura went back to the drawing board and completely reengineered several aspects of the car, including the transmission and suspension. The result is a car that is as fast as anything else in its class — and sometimes even faster.
But several of the buff books insist that the car is still awful. It’s because they don’t want to be the first ones to come out and say, “Holy shit, this thing is actually kinda brilliant.” It’s partly because they don’t want to go against the grain, and partly because they’re all frauds — and they know it. It’s why everybody in the real world knows that the BMW 3 Series is getting worse with each successive generation, but somehow the 3 Series still has a permanent place atop any comparison test; to say that any BMW — any BMW at all — is a bad car is to be roundly mocked at the next press launch event, assuming that you get invited. Not to mention that BMW has a tendency to fly writers to Dubai and Tenerife, and nobody wants to miss out on those trips, amirite?
The RC F is a brilliant car in this writer’s opinion. What the Germans and the ATS-V are missing, the Lexus possesses in spades. It’s comfortable on the inside and brash on the outside. Every panel is tightly fitted and spaced. The interior is familiar enough that your wife won’t feel out-of-place taking it to work, but the driving dynamics are good enough that it won’t feel out-of-place on the track. I’m not in love with the standard torque-converter automatic transmission, which tends to hang in the top gears during highway driving, even under acceleration. But other than that, I have no qualms with the RC F whatsoever and would be thrilled to have one in my driveway.
My only request: when you get one, you get it in that brilliant Molten Pearl orange color. There’s no point in owning an awesome rocket ship and having your neighbors mistake it for an ES 350.
Bark M. likes cars. You probably do too. You’ll both have a lot to talk about! Send him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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I guess Bark's not talking about the car rags I read: Car & Driver and Road & Track. I can't recall anybody being unimpressed with the NSX, nor can I recall any BMW being praised much in recent memory. The last 3-series in a C&D comparison was a 2013 335i M Sport that finished behind the Lexus IS350 F-Sport, primarily because of its "noisy and busy suspension" and "lifeless electrically assisted steering". "Even with the optional suspension, body control falters. Bumps that the Lexus absorbs and the Cadillac shrugs off with a single succinct compression and rebound make the BMW pitch and roll and fight to stay on-line. Compared with the other two cars here, the BMW feels immense and slow-witted. Its steering also seems comparatively lazy, too light and vague on-center; and what little feel there is to begin with disappears entirely in fast transitions." Anyway, as always, a prospective buyer should drive everything that interests him and buy what he likes.
Drive the M2 (if you can find one) - you won't look back.