By on October 18, 2016


Ryan writes:

Hey Bark,

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.

[Image: Lexus]

Bark M. likes cars. You probably do too. You’ll both have a lot to talk about! Send him your questions at [email protected] or find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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59 Comments on “Ask Bark Brief: Crazy For Considering A Great Car?...”

  • avatar

    Well, each to their own. Woof, Woof

  • avatar

    the downside is that you’ll have to live with that wretched Enform infotainment day in and day out.

    • 0 avatar

      When my iDrive broke I was irritated. There’s been a hole in the dashboard for three months since I removed it and I only notice sometimes when I’d like to hear news, but otherwise don’t care that much. Sometime driving can be entertaining enough (and nothing could really be a lot worse than a 1st gen iDrive).

  • avatar

    If you like it buy it. When other people start helping you make the payments then worry about their opinions.

    Sounds like you’ve found your next car.

  • avatar

    The ATS-V is $4,000 less than the F, plus they had a $10,000 discount this summer. Hard not to pass up ~100 lb-ft of torque.

    The RC is a homogalation of GS front, IS-C middle, and IS rear end as opposed to the fantastic Alpha chassis.

  • avatar

    Bonus feature: your car won’t leave you stranded at random because of “quality German engineering”.

    **rant mode engaged**

    The BS German car fans deal with is mind boggling. Cracked subframes. Failed crankshaft rod bearings. Self destructing cooling systems. Failures of random electronic components that both kill the car and the owners retirement planning. Sure, a Corvette won’t win any interior design awards; but whoever owns one can hoon it without needing a Swiss bank account and AAA on speed dial.

    Meanwhile the press and fanboys have the nerve to say German cars are “the best”. All the driving dynamics on the planet are worthless if the cars on a flatbed.

    I rented a ’15 Camaro V6 convertible once and wound up at the entrance to a canyon road ,next to a shiny ’14 Porsche Boxter. When the light turned green I put a bus length on the Porsche without breaking the speed limit.

    Because the Porsche made it two inches and made the “blub-blub- vrrrooom-blub ” noise. Sounded like either a bad sensor or fuel system issue. Whatever it was ill wager he’s still raising the money today to get it fixed……

    • 0 avatar

      This is just anecdotal, but I hate to hear the assumptions that German automatically =’s problems. My experiences have been fantastic.

      My current Porsche has been one of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. We just sold my wife’s BMW after 7 years of ownership, without even the slightest issue. I’ve owned 6 German cars in a row without drama, and almost all of them well beyond the warranty period. No towing, no breakdowns, no failure to start, nothing beyond wear and tear. I do admit though that I am thorough on maintenance. Again, anecdotal, but I’ll gladly shop for one again.

      • 0 avatar

        How many of them have made it past 100k miles? And 7 years of BMW ownership without a failed power window, random sensor, or generic electrical gremlin? Color me shocked. With that luck, why not get a Fiat?

        • 0 avatar

          I’m aware of the issues with BMWs (or at least the perception). My point is only anecdotal. I was just making the point that issues should not be assumed. I’ve owned the spectrum from entry BMW models, to SUVs, to M cars.

          The only item I ever “repaired” on the BMW through 7 years of ownership, was a malfunctioning taillight in the first year of ownership. No sensor issues, no failed power windows and no gremlins. Just tires, brakes, and regular maintenance. The car was spectacular. It was so reliable I sold it to a family member. I have far more gremlin issues with our Honda Pilot at 50k miles than I ever had with my 6 years of X5 ownership.

          Haven’t seen anything from Fiat that excites me, although I have looked into a 4C from Alfa.

          • 0 avatar

            First you say that nothing went wrong with the BMW and now you say that you had to replace a taillight.

            Statements like that are why I don’t trust anecdotes – my neighbor loves her X5. Though I’ve seen a mechanic make a house call 3 times for the window regulators alone in the past few years.

            I’m always suspicious of judgement of people who love their cars – love is blind. I think there’s more credibility in the statements of people who dislike their cars “oh my lexus is such a turd the door lock actuator broke and the subwoofer blew up”.

          • 0 avatar

            “First you say that nothing went wrong with the BMW and now you say that you had to replace a taillight.”

            Seriously? You’re focusing on one single repair item over 7 years of ownership? OK fine, I never did anything to the car over 7 years of ownership, with the exception of replacing a taillight. One single item. Corrected.

            I had similar experiences with my two M cars, my X5, and my Porsche. I forgot to throw in my VW I had years ago. I’m not trying to argue this is anything more than anecdotal, and my only point being that it is not an assumption that German engineering will automatically equate to maintenance and repair money pits.

        • 0 avatar

          I have a 2011 BMW 335d, and other than a scr tank failure covered under warranty have had 0 issues with the car. I also have a 2008 X5 4.8 with about 100k miles, and 0 issues, everything works and it was a loaded vehicle with the adapatove suspension. I’ve generally had about as good of reliability on my vws as well. It depends on the car, and the care. My friends suburban is broken all the time with ac problems, windows not working,etc. I’d say my German cars have been more reliable than any American car I’ve owned.

          • 0 avatar

            I had an X5 I bought CPO from BMW. Drove it for over 7 years without any major issues. Really loved how it drove too. I was always thorough wth my maintenance. My dad beat that into me. I’ve bought new and CPO, but I have always tried to avoid lease turn in’s.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re an excellent Russian Roulette player. I’ve only made it to 70k miles once with no issues in a BMW. Electrical shorts not related to fuses, water pumps and cooling systems in general and window regulators have been the most common. The X5 has introduced a whole batch of other problems not seen before.

        Maybe I’m just bad at Russian Roulette.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        I have also had good experiences with German cars (in my case, Audi and BMW) and no-so-good experiences with American cars. Japanese cars have been mixed for me.

        I don’t let any of that really influence my purchasing decisions. If I really like a vehicle, I’ll purchase it regardless of its origin. The way I see it, all vehicles need maintenance and all will need repairs eventually. If those repairs come sooner rather than later, I’m generally okay with that. It’s something I understand and expect when owning something as complex as a modern car.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s amazing how many people will crap on American cars for above-the-waterline problems (NVH, broken interior trim, ect) but give European cars a pass for below-the-waterline problems (timing chains that break, cooling systems, active suspension problems, cracked subframes, IMS) all of which require >10 hours of skilled labor and god knows how many special tools to fix.

      I’ve seen F-bodies on coilovers and good tires lay the hurt on E46 M3s. And you can get a fast F-body for the price of fixing the main bearings, subframe, VANOS, and cooling system in an E46 M3.

      • 0 avatar

        I dunno. Chevys subrurban is one of the lowest rated vehicles for reliability according to consumer reports, in fact rated a car not to buy.. My friends who own them we always joke as to what they’ll be driving next week as their always in service loaners.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of the B&B latch on to reliability claims beyond what is justified by the available data.

    • 0 avatar

      Ryan buy what you like and can stand. You have to drive and see it everyday. I like the Camaro SS but is a lot more cramped than the RcF. The M is nice but too pricey and maintenence costs.

      When I went to buy my new Scatpack Charger I looked at the RcF for fun bc they had ridiculous deals since they weren’t selling well. The car was nice on the inside, but I loved the Charger transmission, intoxicating exhaust note and the fucking torque. The RcF did look nicer in person, but it takes getting used to.

  • avatar

    Bark, I completely agree with much of your assessment, although would add that there still are some legit journalists sprinkled in the mix.

    Regarding BMW, the magazines used to rubber stamp them. However with the current generation, I think there’s been obsessive panning of the M3/M4 to an extreme, even as the car improved with updates and the new comp pack. Just like you said, once the storyline is set, its hard to change it.

  • avatar

    How about a nice CR-V and a brand new roof & maybe some landscaping?

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      CRV would be the best answer for 90% of these “what should I buy questions”.
      If you are buying a vehicle not for its practicality and reliability then you are buying something based on passion or how it makes you feel. Those types of decisions aren’t for someone else to answer for you.

      • 0 avatar

        So why’d he ask the question?

        But, OK, I realize the sincerity of his asking was that of one drunk to another, “Heavens! What SHALL we do with this crumpled $20 bill I chanced upon whilst hurling at yon recycle container?”

        Bark is a most reliable enabler.

      • 0 avatar

        Why would you go for a CR-V over a Civic? If he’s considering a coupe, his body’s flexible enough to get into a normal-height car, and for that he’ll get something that’s easier on gas and consumables, faster, and more fun to drive.

  • avatar

    Thanks for debunking the douchebaggery that seeming exists in some car comparisons. This why one actually has go go out and drive the damn cars and see how YOU like them. The reviews are just a data point (and not always a good one). I’m starting to trust forums and discussion more than the printed rags…

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking of forum fodder, one thing Ryan should confirm in the RC F is headrest (sorry, “head restraint”) comfort. It’s become a genuine problem with certain Lexus models and trim levels. (Base NX 200t, I’m looking at you.) I assume the RC F gets ones that are good and have some degree of fore-aft adjustment.

  • avatar

    Imo, the nicest thing about Lexus cars is that they generally don’t annoy you. The stereo doesn’t have carplay / android auto but the bluetooth works well.

    They’re down some amount of power and a little heavier than more lithe, track-oriented cars but they handle bad roads much better and don’t get weird in negative temperatures like some cars do.

    At the end of the day, each Lexus gets around at least as well/trouble-free as a Camry. You pay money to add to the driving experience without compromising on the reliability. It’s a great car, an iron fist in a velvet glove. You’ll love it.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Want an honest BMW review?
    My wife’s ’06 BMW Z4 3.0si has one of, if not THE worst quality interiors I have ever encountered. Beyond the dash is a sea of hard plastics, all barely above construction grade. Everything inside creeks and crunches as the car flexes. Moving the seat into a position I can fit in (5′ 10″) emits noises that have more than once resulted in my wife shouting at me that I was going to break something as the plastic screams in compression.
    This being a car which is 1 step below the Z4M.
    The car also looks like the head of a penis.

    As far as today’s topic, I’m back to looking at the SS. I don’t think what you give up going to the Chevy is worth the thousands of dollars you spend to compete. But to be fair, I’m still enjoying driving my GTO which would be completely intolerable to many folks around here.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw an otherwise lovely 60K mile Mercedes-Benz SLK with paint falling off its center console as if it had been applied by a 15-year old tuner.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a Bangle-era BMW, which is arguably when BMW lost the plot. All of the Bangle cars had worse interiors and worse styling than the cars they replaced (E38 vs E65, E39 vs E60, E46 vs E90)

  • avatar

    Have you considered Infiniti Q60 400hp ?
    Japanese reliability+ great engine.

  • avatar

    Given your requirements, Lex FTW. Caymans will become worthless quick, and I fear the M2 will try your wallet long term. After the Lex, Holden SS would be my next choice. I see you regretting the ATS-V seven years down the line. MY10 CTS-Vs are trading right around 30 and those were 70K in 2009. For contrast, an MY10 SC430 trades between 25 and 44 clean <60K miles, it msrpd at 68. No contest between Lex and Cadillac anything these days for 28.

  • avatar

    There’s “car review and stats” information, and then there is “actual butt time in vehicle” information. I go with the second, each and every time. Sure, car “A” might have faster 0-60 times or whatever, but at the end of the day, how the car makes me feel when I drive it is much more important. Heck, on most days, if I flog the gas pedal leaving a light, I can leave behind a vast majority of drivers in my plebian ’14 Escape. There are probably many, many more “slower” cars that I’d prefer to own over ones that are supposedly superior.

    I’m still a little torn on the front end styling of the new fleet of Lexi, but I’d not sneeze at a nice, new IS. And this coming from a dyed-in-the-wool Bimmer fan (who happens to agree that BMW ain’t all it used to be and gets a pass all too frequently now regarding performance).

    Get what you want and what makes you (and the Misses) happy. For me, I’m still wishing I could come up with the scratch to buy a certain 1980 BMW 518 (yes, 518) on auction now. But dog shows for the newly adopted daughter are not cheap, so it’s out of the question for at least the next 8 years!

  • avatar

    The big problem with the RC F sits across the showroom: the GS F. Despite having two extra doors and a more usable back seat, it’s lighter than the RC and (based on the regular GS; I’ve never driven a F) is a very competent handler. It has the same wonderful-sounding V8 and Lexus refinement and reliability.

    I don’t care with either F that it’s down on power compared with the top Germans. I agree they have more character while still having more than enough speed, and that V8 noise is fantastic. But I can’t imagine why anyone would buy the RC when the GS is there.

    • 0 avatar

      As a GS400 driver, I agree. Love the V8 in my car, plenty powerful, bulletproof, sounds great. Who cares if a contemporary M5 is faster on a track, I’ll never race an M5 on a track. I will enjoy a quiet, beautifully made car with an interior that still looks and feels new 17 years on. This is what Lexus does, they set a high standard for every single part of the car and then meet that standard.

      • 0 avatar

        All credit to Lexus for even offering the GS, given it’s subject to in-house competition from above (LS), below (IS), and the side (ES, size rather than price).

        The one person I know with a GS loves it. And her three previous cars were (not necessarily in order) Swedish, German, and American. I.e., she’s not a Toyota/Lexus zealot.

    • 0 avatar

      “But I can’t imagine why anyone would buy the RC when the GS is there.”

      Well, it is a $20K price difference to start at. Even with the premium and performance packages on the RC, you’ll be at about $11K less than the GS-F.

      These cars are pricey but I don’t know if they are expensive enough to wave off $10K – $20K.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a good point. I didn’t realize the price difference was that high with similar equipment. (I doubt Lexus will build a single RC F without the Premium package except as a paid order, but Performance probably isn’t universal.)

  • avatar

    Get the BRZ. I have one and I love it. It makes every trip an adventure — even on crappy Canadian roads.

  • avatar

    I can’t really put my finger on why I don’t like the styling, it’s almost dated looking like it was the concept car for the original Infiniti G35/Nissan 350z from 15 plus years ago.

  • avatar

    You all are seriously willing to risk the purchase of a vehicle without approval from the automotive and sport-driving expertise you get with Jonny Lieberman and the Motortrend staff?!

  • avatar

    Two doors and a V8? I could even get past that ugly-ass nose for that combination. Go for it, man, and don’t look back.

  • avatar

    If you truly don’t care what others think, buy a minivan.

    Were it my money, I’d go for a Hellcat Challenger. Two doors, supercharged V8, the best retro styling in 20 years. Drive it gently and it will return your money, I have no doubt.

    Or, drive the s**t out of it and have great stories for your grandchildren.

    Either way, you win.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Is the two door thing a requirement? I have been poking around online and it seems a SS can be had for reasonable dollars. You know resale will be there, reasonable MPG, loads of fun. The one I rode in as well as drove was quite comfortable both sides, drive and passenger seat.

    Perhaps not Lexus interior, but certainly not garbage.

  • avatar

    Infiniti Q60:

  • avatar

    On BMW love: my ’87 325is remains my favorite car, that silky inline-6 was like nothing I’ve had before or since. But, that same BMW I loved snapped its timing belt right after the warranty expired. Crash! Boom! I only then learned what an “interference” engine is. On the ATS 2.0T that “noticeably shakes the car at idle.” I have found that all inline-4’s are, at best, lumpy at idle. All inline-4’s seem like agricultural implements after that sweet BMW inline-6. If most BMW 3’s are now inline-4’s, what’s the point? I’m not sure anyone’s 2.0 inline-4 is much better than all the others. Honda might do them a little better, but not much.

  • avatar

    I second the ’87 325iS. Quiet motor, very comfortable sport front seats, one of the first cars to have heated front seats(my car was purchased new in Toronto, before coming to San Francisco. Just sold it in May after owning it longer than any other car, and would buy another if I had more space. One thing I loved about these cars is that you don’t sacrifice equipment or features compared to the 5 and 6 Series, you just get a smaller package which is what I wanted. They weren’t cheap when new ($27,400 CDN) but a very neat car.

  • avatar

    Go with the lexus, better resale if you finance and its a far better car all around vs BMW.

    For me next car I want out of the automatic and into a small manual sport coupe a 4 season car. Was thinking 128 but the fact that I would have to have a $15 to $20k kitty for when big X or smaller x events happen(s) keeps me away. Too bad the Lexus wasn’t manual.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It seems a loaded Mustang GT could be a good option. It leans to the grand touring side presently but there are lots of aftermarket or Ford Racing pieces (I’d like to see some lap times on a stock GT with the Track suspension ).What about the Audi S5? I’d personally pass as I’m not the narcissist that tend to buy, or lease more appropriately this brand.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    Drive the M2 (if you can find one) – you won’t look back.

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