Lexus RC F

    PranK
    By PranK,
    Lexus RC F

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    The Lexus IS nameplate dates back to 1998 and the entry-level luxury segment. Originally a popular choice in Japan and the United States, the four-door sedan and five-door wagon variants were your only choice if you wanted the IS. There was no two-door coupe as demand was simply not that high for it back then. Fast forward to 2006 and the new generation, and things have drastically changed. Performance luxury coupes were fast outselling sedans and nowhere was this more apparent than with BMW’s M3 and Mercedes’ C63. To avoid competing with the much more capable Germans, Lexus offered a convertible version only. It wasn’t until 2015 and the third-generation IS that the highly-anticipated coupe version finally made its debut. Weirdly enough, it sported the RC F moniker rather than the IS.

    Though the design is borrowed from its IS sibling heavily, the RC F is a bespoke product in terms of marketing placement. The aggressive design with lots of creases, sharp edges and bold lines makes it immediately apparent that something sinister lies beneath the alien-looking exterior. Lexus claims it pays tribute to the legendary LFA super car, but we’re not seeing that. Make no mistake, this is not a GT-R rival although it looks like it could be. It’s not a super car-killer the GT-R is, but rather a high-performance version of the standard RC destined to compete with the M4 and the C63 AMG, as well as the RS5.

    Exterior

    From the outside, it’s not difficult to distinguish it from the normal RC Coupe. The aggressive styling with massively flared arches and a signature Lexus Spindle Grille make it immediately apparent that it’s something much more special than just a plain RC. The hood boasts a large dimple, but it’s a case of form follows function. The large V8 had to rest somewhere, and the hood needed to accommodate it. But more on the beastly engine later.

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    Both front and rear fascias get L-shaped air outlets to channel hot air from the hood and extract it into the atmosphere. The lower halves of both connect via the bottom part of the door, creating one continuous line. The front end is littered with strategically placed fins which stabilize the large coupe at extremely high speeds. Not the stuff one would expect from Lexus, but we said the same when the LFA debut, so nothing can surprise us anymore.

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    Out back the RC F boasts a new sports exhaust system carrying over the same stacked trapezoidal quad tailpipes like the ones found in the IS F. The best part? It’s elegant and sleek when stationary, with no nonsense spoilers to ruin the flowing design, but take it above 50 mph and you’ll notice a speed-sensitive active rear spoiler pop out from the top of the trunk. It retracts when the speed drops below 25 mph. Available with lots of carbon fiber elements and a choice of three different ten-spoke 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, buyers can customize the exterior far more than what the M4 allows.

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    Interior

    Perhaps even more breathtaking than the exterior, the interior follows the same aggressive and sporty design, but because this is Lexus, everything you see and touch feels completely bespoke. Lexus tried to match the LFA’s unique character and vibe, and for the most part we’d agree that they’ve achieved just that. Whether you’re looking to just cruise or do track days in, the RC F’s cabin is an extremely nice place to be in. The steering wheel, the seats, all of the gauges and even the pedals are one-offs fabricated for the RC F models. The seats can be wrapped in smooth leather and come in three color choices, with a special foaming construction designed to keep the occupants in place under extreme G-forces. You can technically fit adults in the back row, but ideally only for short journeys and if you really, really have to.

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    Alcantara is scattered everywhere throughout the cabin, as is premium leather, with aluminum and carbon fiber trim piece accessories finishing off the entire look. The TFT display encased in a machined-aluminum ring showcases all vital driving information, turning the rev counter red as you pop the F-Sport button on. The 10-speaker sound system with 256 watts is amazing, but true audiophiles will no doubt want the 835 watt, 360-degree three-dimensional sonic Mark Levinson sound system. To say it’s anything short of staggering would be an understatement.

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    Engine and Performance

    Unlike its German rivals, which focus mostly on the sporty side and less on the luxury, the RC F offers a much better balance of both. It also uses a naturally-aspirated, screaming V8, as opposed to the turbocharged units used over in Germany. The engine in question is a 5.0 liter, 32-valve V8 pushing out 348 kilowatts and 527 Nm of torque. It’s also the first sports car to use the Atkinson cycle in an effort to lower fuel consumption and emissions when cruising. The big V8 is mated to a close-ratio eight-speed automatic with a Torque Vectoring Differential. The RC F can sprint to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 275 km/h, 25 km/h more than the equivalent Beemers and Mercs.

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    Front and rear suspension systems are completely independent using monotube, gas-filled shock absorbers and ball-jointed stabilizer bars. The Torque Vectoring Differential (TVD) offers three different driving modes: standard, slalom and track. For a large coupe, the RC F is amazingly competent in the bends. It will understeer at the very limit as a precaution programmed in from Lexus, but turn all systems off and it has no issues lighting up the rears in induced oversteer.

    Conclusion

    Will it beat an M4 or a C63 AMG Coupe on a track? Definitely not. But that’s missing the point. As a real-world performer, we’d argue that the RC F is more competent than both. It’s just as fast on A and B roads, with the added benefit that you get to enjoy sumptuous luxury and Lexus refinement. It also helps that the 5 liter V8 screams like a race cars’ unit at anything beyond 5 grand. A real joy to drive.


    2017 Porsche 911 GT3 & GT3 RS

    PranK
    By PranK,
    2017 Porsche 911 GT3 & GT3 RS

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard about the new Porsche 911 GT3 and its RS hardcore variant. How could you not have? Every magazine has been praising it and every schoolboy’s bought an RS poster just to hang it up on his bedroom wall. It’s been called the sportscar of the decade, the bargain of the century and even a supercar. Well, the simple fact of the matter is that it probably IS the greatest sportscar ever made, and we’ll tell you exactly why. To further differentiate the “standard” GT3 from the insane GT3 RS variant, we’ve decided to compare the two and highlight the differences between them.

    Design

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    The normal GT3 looks like, well, a GT3 racecar for the road. It’s wider, lower and more aggressive than your run-of-the-mill 991 911. Almost everyone bar those partially blind can tell the difference between it and the regular car. That’s mostly down to one thing: that huge rear wing. You can’t ignore it can you? It’s just there, sitting tall and proud. For 2017 Porsche has redesigned the bumper lights and the air intakes, bringing it more in-line with the new Carrera. The air intake layout is especially interesting, since it seems to be remarkably similar to the one found on the Cayman GT4. Headlights and taillights get a slight revision, as does the decklid and the bumper at the back.

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    Then, there’s the GT3 RS, and you really can’t miss this one even if you are blind. For starters, the front bumper has been completely redesigned sporting larger air intakes big enough to engulf a small child altogether, thinner LED stripes and a huge splitter. The front fenders get louvers, and that’s a first on any production Porsche. They’re not just aesthetic however. They provide actual downforce at the front axle, pushing down on the tires, providing more turn-in and stability. The rear fenders get intakes similar to those found on the 911 Turbo variants and revised side skirts with an all-new wheel design round off the look. Well, that and the ridiculous rear wing. If you thought the GT3 had a large wing, wait till you see the RS’ fixed one. The weird thing is that it doesn’t look out of place, especially since you have the splitters and the louvers. It really does give off the impression that it’s a well thought out package, mostly because it is.

    Interior

    We’ll just touch base on the interior and move on, since it’s the usual Porsche stuff you expect to find. The GT3 RS bases its cabin on its younger GT3 sibling, boasting some RS badging, Alcantara all around and a sportier layout. The bucket seats were ripped straight out of the 918 Spyder and offer more support as well. A Club Sport Package is standard on the RS, offering a bolt-in roll cage, battery master switch preparation and a six-point safety harness for the driver along with a fire extinguisher should things go wrong, which hopefully they won’t. If you’re after even more race-ready equipment, there’s always the Sport Chrono Package with integrated timers and Porsche’s very own Track Precision app. It measures lap times automatically via GPS, logging data on a smartphone. A useful feature to compare your laptimes and measure up against your mates at the end of the day.

    Engine

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    This is the 911’s crowning jewel. The standard GT3 houses a 3.8 liter flat-six Boxer engine at the back, producing 354 glorious naturally-aspirated Kilowatts and 439Nm of torque. By contrast, the GT3 RS uses a bigger 4.0 liter flat-six unit with 373 Kilowatts (18 more than the GT3) and 459Nm of torque. The two units might not seem that different on paper, but the way they go on about delivering their power is anything but. For instance, the GT3 RS does indeed feel more powerful, and you can feel the extra kilowatt difference, but they get delivered slightly lower down in the rev range. When we say slightly we mean that it “only” revs to 8,250 rpm, whereas the GT3’s unit, because of its smaller displacement and titanium connecting rods with forged pistons, goes all the way to 9,000 rpm. Just imagine that. A six-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine screaming at bike-rivaling revolutions per minute. If you think it sounds glorious, you’d be right.

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    Both engines use Porsche’s brilliant 7-speed PDK transmission, but the 2017 GT3 might see the addition of a third pedal and a manual shifter. Porsche isn’t revealing anything just yet, but it’s almost certainly going to happen. Finally, after years of complaining about the lack of manual, we finally might get our wish.

    Driving dynamics

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    If you’re purely after a track car, go for the GT3 RS, no question about it. It’s got more aero, 20mm wider tracks at the front and rear, a revised suspension and more power. It is, for all intents and purposes, the faster car. Period. However, don’t mistake it for being the better car. On the road, the GT3 is just as fast as the RS, and arguably even more fun. The lack of the RS’ trick aero means it’s much more willing to dance and it’s just amazing getting to rev it out to 9,000 rpm. It looks slightly more mannered and if you choose to leave the roll cage out, it’s much more livable with on a day to day basis.

    Conclusion

    It’s a matter of picking your poison really. Do you want something which will annihilate every other car on the track, or the best sportscar ever made capable of demolishing any B-road? Porsche has you covered on both fronts, and it’s a win-win situation either way you go.

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    2018 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STi

    PranK
    By PranK,
    2018 Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STi

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    Anyone into cars even the slightest has probably heard enough stories and read enough articles about the WRX and WRX STI to make them sick. It’s literally everywhere, but for a good reason. The Impreza platform is one of the few rally car transitioned road-going icons. Its rivalry with Mitsubishi is legendary, and its battles with the Lancer Evolution are the stuff dreams are made of. In many ways, this is the perfect all-around vehicle, offering everything you could possibly want from a car. It’s fast, looks great, can sit five people, doesn’t require a personal petrol station and with a big boot, it’s practical.

     

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    The current Impreza generation (G4 – fourth generation) received some criticism when it first came out, mostly because it didn’t look even remotely close to what the concept hyped us all it would be. Mind you, it’s still a lot better than the previous iteration, the G3, which is considered by many to be the worst Impreza of all time. Anyway, getting back to the story in hand, let’s discuss the new one. After a few years of a steady increase in popularity, Subaru decided the Impreza needed a revamp to keep those figures rising. So, they took the WRX and WRX STI, gave them some minor updates, and here’s the result.

     

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    From the outside, it’s nigh on identical. We mean really, it looks like it’s the last generation Impreza to anyone but the keenest of enthusiasts. Even then, you’d have to have a good eye to spot the differences, because they really are minute. The WRX STI gets all the glory, being the flagship model, so it’s got a few more changes than the “standard” WRX. None the less, the WRX has something to show for its midlife facelift too. For starters, the radiator grille has been redesigned and now features sharper points on both sides, with a more open design thanks to the removal of the bottom-part insert. It’s less fussy and cluttered, offering a more elegant and sophisticated look. Well done Subaru there then.

     

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    The corner trim inserts housing the daytime running lights and fog lights have been tweaked to form a more aggressive look, while the air dam gets an enlargement procedure with a bigger surround. The mentioned elements now come finished in a glossier black, not that you’d notice from a far anyway. Something new and actually useful in that it serves a functional purpose are the LED Steering Responsive headlights (US models). They follow the road ahead to give you better vision. They’re not adaptive, i.e. they don’t work with cameras or radars, and instead, they receive input from how much you’re turning the steering wheel. It’s simple but effective. Both WRX and WRX STI models receive the update.

     

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    The interior is, much like the exterior, unchanged, with a few exceptions. The same general cabin of the Impreza can still be found in the new car, with the smooth and curved dash in the middle, housing two displays (upgraded to 5.9 inches from 4.3), a thin center console and a centrally mounted shifter. The interior door grips have been redesigned with a smaller, more attractive theme, but you wouldn’t have noticed that had we not just mentioned it. It’s not a lot, but it makes getting in and out just a tad easier. The biggest news however comes in the form of quality control. Upgraded interior materials improve the overall feel of the cabin vastly, and they go nice with the new rear-seat armrest.

     

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    The biggest issue with the Impreza, since the car went on sale, was the interior, and it seems Subaru are aware of the issue, as every year they keep improving it. Interiors used to not matter in a car like an Impreza WRX, but with the recent improvements in rivals’ cabins, the Impreza had to step up its game or risk getting shunted to the back of the pack. We’re glad to say that the both the WRX and WRX STI now feel more premium inside, and not like standard Impreza saloons with a better engine.

     

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    Elsewhere, the entire Impreza lineup receives heated exterior mirrors and the WRX Limited model receives new seats which feature power lumbar adjustment. Some people had an issue with the WRX’s in-cabin refinement, so Subaru decided to install thicker door glass, revise the door sealing and fill the windshield header beam with foam. This further prevents frontal and high-speed rushing air noise. This update is U.S. market exclusive. We never had an issue with the WRX in that regard, but there you go.

     

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    The non-STI, i.e. WRX models get a 2.0 litre horizontally-opposed Boxer unit under the hood. If it sounds similar it’s because it is, it’s the same engine it had last year, and the year before… and the one before that. Still, we’re not complaining as it offers 192 kW of power on tap, making it rather quick. For anyone wondering, yes, the WRX STI still gets the 2.5 litre Boxer unit as well, but it’s capable of shifting at a much quicker pace thanks to 221 kW.

     

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    WRX models receive updated electric power steering, specifically designed to improve the overall feedback through the steering wheel. The six-speed manual transmission received some changes, but Subaru didn’t disclose what exactly. They just said it would improve shift feel, and that’s entirely fine by us.

     

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    The Impreza WRX is expected to arrive in Australia mid 2017, around the same time the STI makes an appearance. There’s a dilemma however. A brand-new generation Impreza is set to debut around the same time, with sales beginning next year. With rumors that the future WRX and its WRX STI might even feature a hybrid powerplant, achieving more power, a simple question arises: go for the current WRX or wait for the next-gen one? If you’re impatient, we suggest you just go for the current one. Who knows when the new generation will debut, and what it will be like. The prospect of a hybrid WRX is appealing, but many people will surely disapprove.


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