Batman Goes To Yosemite: The 2017 Lexus RC-F

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Lexus RC-F
The 2017 Lexus RC-F.
On the day the 2017 Lexus RC-F was delivered to my driveway, I walked out, saw it there, all menacing in black (Lexus calls the color "Caviar") and I said to Glenn, the delivery guy "...and then one morning, I wake up and I'm Batman".

Seriously.  This IS the Batmobile.  Okay, so I'm not Batman (tragically) nor is Mrs. TireKicker Robin (thankfully).

We did have an adventure planned.  One that didn't include crimefighting.  We were off in search of beauty unknown in Gotham City.  And, as regular readers know, for us, that usually involves a lot of twisty back roads.

Folsom to Oakhurst map
Map of Folsom, CA to Oakhurst, CA (source: Google Maps)
Incredibly, for a kid raised 60 miles south of  Yosemite National Park's east gate, I had never been to Yosemite Valley.  Mom wouldn't drive Tioga Pass.  Here's why:

1963 photo of CA State Route 120, Tioga Pass
CA State Route 120, Tioga Pass in 1963.
That's Tioga Pass in the 1960s.  Someone (most likely my dad) drove Mom over that in the 1940s (when, if anything, it was worse) and from that point forward, Mom and Yosemite didn't happen.

Too bad, because, while there is some beautiful scenery up there on Tioga (Mrs. TireKicker, then known as "Navigator", and I drove it three-plus years ago), it's nothing compared to the Yosemite Valley.  And I still hadn't been there.

Tioga Pass is a much better road today, but I live on the west side of the Sierra now.  So it's an easy run.  About three hours and 15 minutes down historic CA 49, a quick jog onto CA 120 before it begins climbing and down into the valley from TireKicker World Headquarters in Folsom, California.  The map shows Oakhurst as our final destination because that's where we spent our nights, driving back in to the park for three days.

Highway 49 runs through California's historic Gold Country....it's 95 percent winding two-lane roads.  As is Highway 41 between Oakhurst and Yosemite Valley.  Exactly the right environment for the 2017 Lexus RC-F.
Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Lexus RC-F
2017 Lexus RC-F.
The RC-F is a combination of old-school brute force and technological wizardry.   There's a 467-horsepower 5-liter V8 under the hood mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.  The suspension bits include an "F" spec double-wishbone front and multi-link rear, a TORSEN limited-slip differential and Brembo ventilated disc brakes with opposed aluminum calipers and high-friction pads. There's also a speed-activated rear spoiler to provide some nice rearward downforce on an otherwise nose-heavy (V8s aren't light) car.

2017 Lexus RC-F instrumentation
2017 Lexus RC-F instrumentation.
It's all good stuff, but the real magic begins when you select the SPORT S drive mode.  SPORT S gets you more dynamic throttle response and tightens up the suspension.  The next step is the button marked "TVD" on the console.  That stands for Torque Vectoring Differential.  That distributes power between the inside and outside wheels of the car, which helps to rotate in the direction of a turn (TVD is optional).

There are three settings, Standard, Track and Slalom.  I chose Slalom for two reasons.  One: I suck on the track (something I found out first-hand at the 2016 Western Automotive Journalists Media Days at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and two, these roads really are a lot like slalom courses.

Understand:  There's nothing wrong with the RC-F before you select SPORT S or dial up "Slalom" on the TVD.  But do those two things, and it's like the car is reading the road.  The thing simply sticks like glue, responding to your inputs rightthissecond.

And, for such a powerful beast, the fuel economy isn't horrendous...an EPA-estimated 16 city/25 highway, which we fell a tiny bit short of at 22.5 mpg on the road.  But then, Highways 49 and 41 aren't a straight, flat stretch of interstate, either.

All this made getting there at least half the fun, but nothing can prepare the uninitiated for Yosemite.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.
I'm not going to get into a travel piece here.  Just go to Yosemite.  If you've never been, go.  If you've been, go.  Doesn't matter that the rainy season hasn't come and the falls are a trickle.  The photo above from a smart phone on a bridge while we were out for a walk. I'm Batman and Ansel Adams.  The place is just stunning.  See it as often as you can.  It is California at its most spectacular.

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Lexus RC-F
2017 Lexus RC-F.
Back to the car.  The 2017 Lexus RC-F starts at $64,165.   Besides what we've already mentioned, that includes LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Lexus Enform Safety Connect, tire pressure monitoring, smart key with pushbutton stop and start, NuLuxe-trimmed "F" spec sport seats with 10-way power adjustments up front, an electroluminescent gauge cluster that includes a G-force meter, dual-zone automatic climate control with pollen filter,  an "F" spec leather-trimmed steering wheel, auto-dimming electrochromic rearview mirror, a 10-speaker Lexus premium audio system, Bluetooth, USB, Siri Eyes Free, a backup monitor with dynamic guidelines, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows and carpeted floor mats with the "F" logo.

That's a very complete car.  But it's a Lexus, and so there were options:

  • 19-inch split ten-spoke forged alloy wheels (in place of the standard 19-inch five-spokes), $850.
  • Premium triple-beam LED headlamps, $1,160.  My only beef:  They were aimed a shade too low for the dark woods at night.  The car also needs but doesn't have fog lamps.
  • Leather-trimmed interior, $800.
  • Navigation system with an upgraded 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system.  Worth every penny of $2,550.
  • A performance package with carbon fiber roof, carbon rear wing and torque vectoring differential, $5,500 and worth it for the TVD alone.
  • A premium package with heated and ventilated front seats with driver seat memory, carbon fiber interior trim, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, intuitive park assist, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors with memory reverse tilt and steering wheel memory, $3,240.
  • Pre-collision system with radar cruise control, $500.
  • Illuminated door sills, $449.
  • Trunk mat, $105.

With delivery, processing and handling fee, the bottom line wound up at $80,314.  Yes, that's a lot of money.  But Bruce Wayne paid more for his.  And it's ugly.