Test Drive: 2017 Lexus RC F

Nate Hassler / Courtesy Lexus

Boasting a 467 horsepower V-8 engine, this new, sporty coupe has a serious need for speed.

I’m heading north toward Napa Valley in the 2017 Lexus RC F Coupe, away from last night’s stay at the Cavallo Point Lodge (601 Murray Cir., Sausalito, California; 415-339-4700; cavallopoint.com). Situated in the shadow of the Golden State Bridge, across the bay from San Francisco, the hotel is a mix of modern and older buildings that reveal its former life as an army base, built in 1902. But the thrill of the getaway I’m making is much sweeter than the relaxation achieved the night before in what was once the captain’s quarters: After, all, the benefits of pulling up in a Lexus go way beyond the driving experience.

Since 2002, Lexus has partnered with hotels across the U.S. to offer special perks to Lexus owners, and among their 15 current partners, Cavallo Point is one of them. Here, if you own a Lexus, you automatically qualify for a room upgrade (based on availability) and a $100 resort credit (you can use it at its stunning spa or to book a cooking lesson, to name just two options). And even if you’re not a Lexus owner, Cavallo Point makes it possible to see what you’re missing out on: The hotel has keeps a small fleet of their vehicles on site for guests to take on test drives.

Hotels around the country—including my next destination, the Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville, California (6526 Yount St., Yountville, California; 707-204-6000; bardessono.com)—have hopped on board to offer all sorts of benefits to Lexus owners, including complimentary meals, private boat rides, resort credits, and room upgrades.

It doesn’t take any extra perks, though, for me to appreciate the RC F. The 2017 model is much like its predecessor with some added tech tweaks like the clever Scout GPS feature that lets you pair your smartphone with the car so that maps and directions appear on the car’s display screen. New triple-beam LED headlamps for better nighttime illumination are also a new option.

Courtesy Lexus

Behind the wheel, it feels like I’m on the prowl, with a satisfying engine growl that begs me to put my foot down on the accelerator. I’m rewarded with panther-like quickness. That’s what comes of a 467 horsepower V-8 engine that sends the car from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. But the RC F is a beast that is easy to control thanks to a very responsive electronic steering system and a smooth-shifting, 8-speed transmission that leaves me in charge. The interior is attractively designed with a track-ready vibe, including a sports car–style shifter and high-back seats that keep me firmly planted and comfortable, even during a long drive. Of course, the optional 835-watt Mark Levinson sound system adds great entertainment value, too.

I’m glad I satisfied the RC F’s need for speed while on the highway because Napa Valley roads have low speed limits seemingly designed to prevent you from missing any of the many wineries for which the region is famous. I close in on the Bardessono, which is as modern as Cavallo Point is historic. Driving a Lexus means I’m invited to an exclusive wine tasting at the nearby Hall Rutherford Winery. And here too is a small fleet of Lexus cars, including an RC F, available to test drive. I’m told the RC F is the most driven of the cars available, and that’s no surprise. I just hope no one asks me to borrow mine.

From $64,165; lexus.com.

For more luxe coupes, see our reviews of the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 and 2017 Jaguar F-TYPE SVR.