2020 Lexus RC F Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO
The refined muscle car from Japan
By Rob Eckaus
San Francisco Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
When thinking about a coupe with a V-8 engine in the front, whether a grand tourer or a muscle car, does the Lexus RC F come to mind? Or a different car and a different country? Currently the starting horsepower figure among these sports and performance cars, is 400hp and stays under $100k for the competition in mind. Realistically the starting price is over $40k as well.
The 2020 Lexus RC F posts some impressive performance numbers, offers known Lexus level refinement and luxury (mostly), and renowned and expected quality and reliability. It does stand out versus the European competitors that are forced induction with turbochargers. Of course the “domestic” competition that comes to mind are those Mad-Max-last-of-the-V8s Mustang, Camaro and Challenger. Dare we call it a Lexus Mustang GT? Well equipped at $80,014 that is way over the base V-8 domestic range and right into the premium European competitors and big horsepower domestics.
Shining in the sunlight the Infrared hue is an eye-catching metallic glow that really sets it apart from the earth-tone masses. Even the small rear diffuser is has the optical body color benefit unlike many flat black, forgettable pieces. The 19” forged alloy BBS wheels, handsome as they are, almost are too “spokey” for the metallic orange 6-piston Brembo brake calipers. Yet the combination certainly works.
Hood and front quarter panel air extractors lend to an aggressive side and top appearance, maybe offsetting the controversial large grill in the eyes of detractors? In back, more controversy with the stacked exhaust pipes that Ferrari adopted, and then abandoned. The taillights are partially smoked but carry on that unfortunate trend of sticking out from the body lines. The overall look works, and it is fun to photograph.
But is it fun to drive? Yes indeed. Several years ago I had the opportunity to track the RC F at Laguna Seca. It felt a little big, but confidence inspiring, composed, and fun as a grand tourer, not a sports car and there’s nothing wrong with that. It definitely felt “trackable” even though you knew it was a bit heavy for such shenanigans.
Despite having the same 5.0 liter, 472 horsepower engine as the LC 500 coupe, it is just not as visceral or engaging as it could be. The very efficient Direct Shift 8 speed torque converter automatic transmission seems to shift too early at part throttle into second and third, and the engine and exhaust sounds arrive too late in the rpm band. The sound is also artificially transmitted into the cabin and that aspect is somewhat detectable. But once at full boil and higher into the rpm range, that glorious sound shows up and acceleration is strong. But it’s just no LC 500, an entirely different animal. Downshifts aren’t exciting and they are rather quiet. Overall it’s composed and not threatening. It just doesn’t have that aggressive character. It does hint at what’s under the hood with a bit of a rumble during start-up, and has a nice deep hum, but it just needs to keep that up.
Testing has shown it to be a mid-high 12 second car in the low teens. Lexus states it can do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and that assumes using the new Launch Control feature. It can be a bit tricky without it for an optimal launch but impromptu throttle stabs at green lights felt like two rotations of the tires, “ffffttt” and you were off. Do a brake torque (brake stand) and you’ll light up the rears easily. Once moving along fiercely towards triple digits, the engine soundtrack enhances the experience and the rush caused my passenger to start doing the, “Okay! Okay!” yell which we all know translates to, “Slow down!”.
Now in it’s sixth model year, updates continue. Engine air intake routing was revised for a 5 horsepower and 6 ft lbs torque increase bringing the torque total to 395 at 4800rpm. The intake runners look great in blue as well, but shouldn’t they match the body color? Revised rear bushings further enhance the already responsive handling. Also the headlights, taillights and grill have been revised. Despite some weight reduction, Lexus lists it a still hefty 3904lbs.
Handling is flat, stable and minimal body roll. The electronic torque vectoring differential assists with the high speed turning and power delivery. It also kept the traction control from being too intrusive. Despite the 275 width Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, the rear end will swing out in the wet where one size wider Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3s did not. Moral of the oft repeated story: Be careful in the wet just like any other high performance, rear wheel drive car.
Unfortunately, the stay-in-place requests for Covid-19 kept the drive time much less than desired. This is the kind of car you want to drive and look forward to doing so. And that includes yearning for some track time, both straight and road circuit. It is comfortable, quick and solid feeling, bumps on the road are minor sensations in the butt with no harshness.
Tech heavy with the suite of Lexus connectivity, the audio knobs are small but have a very refined feel to them. They take a light touch, as do the turn signals for the 3-flash-to-pass function otherwise they are fully activated by accident. The infotainment screen is properly sized, but the rear camera view doesn’t use the entire screen and is too small. It sits further away in the dashboard which makes using the full screen a necessity. The seats look good and feel good, the ventilation fan is quiet and unobtrusive. But oddly the passenger seat lacked lumbar support, that’s a big oversight.
Like many performance coupes, the rear seats are just there for looks or gym and food bags. The trunk is certainly sufficient for a personal coupe, with proper cargo tie-down anchors. The cargo net even has a thoughtful integrated zipper for storage.
The RC F offers a unique proposition for the price range with the lack of engine forced induction yet oddly isn’t as hardcore as one would expect. All after time behind the wheel, the desire for it increases. The yearning to drive it manifests itself when not driving it. When driving it one doesn’t want to stop. That’s a testament to Lexus building a fine vehicle. But the last needed step is to unleash the beast.