2020 Lexus RC 300 F Sport RWD Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Some people love milquetoast with their morning coffee
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Lexus offers an extensive line of coupe (RC) variants which are based on the IS sedan platform. Buyers interested in sporting performance gravitate to the "F Sport" versions of this sleek 2+2 conveyance. The lowest rung of the F Sport ladder offers the rear wheel drive RC 300 RWD which is the subject of this test. This entry level coupe carries a base price of $47 390. With just 2.0 liters and four cylinders, the RC 300's 8AR-FTS engine cranks out 241hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque with the help of a turbocharger. This combination is good for a mediocre power-to-weight ratio of 15.5lbs/hp. Lexus suggests a 0-60mph time of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 143mph. The turbo four sends its power to the rear wheels through an 8-speed "Sport Direct Shift" gearbox equipped with paddle shifts for manual operation.
While the straight line performance of the entry level coupe is hardly scintillating, intelligent manual control of gear changes can be utilized to overcome raw power deficiencies. In fact, it's rather fun to get involved with shifting the 8-speed by hand in order to extract maximum thrust from the engine compartment. The reason this car begs you to get involved is the reward you derive from its finely crafted suspension system. F Sport means high performance to Lexus. Their current racing version of the RC, which competes in IMSA's highly competitive GT Daytona (GTD) Class at track across North America, is cleaning up with one win after another against competition from Lamborghini, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW.
One reason for the success of the Lexus effort is great driving combined with top management from team owner and former Indycar champion Jimmy Vasser. But another cogent reason for the success of the RC is the front mid-engine design of the car. Lexus has placed the engine so far back in the chassis that the RC is blessed with exceptionally neutral handling characteristics. In other words, it's a safe car with which to explore the limits of adhesion. And if you select an RC with the race-bred F Sport package, those limits are very high indeed.
Here's what the F Sport kit adds to the basic RC 300: full-faced mesh spindle grill, bolstered F Sport front seats, Performance Driving Mode selector, Dynamic Sport Tuned Suspension. We found the sport suspension to be perfectly calibrated to our driving taste, especially when the Mode Selector dial is twisted to the Sport+ setting. Lexus utilizes independent double wishbone suspension up front, and multilink independent rear suspension, with coil springs and stabilizer bars front and rear. This design sucks up bumps and road irregularities with aplomb.
Our test RC enjoyed added punch from a couple of essential options. Although the standard RC 300 F Sport comes with decent 18x8J alloys shod with 235/45R18 radials, the trick setup here is the optional 19 inch split 9-spoke wheels ($1,995). These handsome gun metal alloys measure 19x8J up front and 19x9J in back. They carry substantially more rubber than the stock 18 inch wheels. Our RC gripped the pavement tenaciously thanks to a set of Bridgestone Potenza RE 050A tires staggered in size (235/40R19 F, 265/35R19 R). You'll also want to tack on another $390 for the available Torsen Limited Slip Differential which makes all the difference in the world accelerating out of curves.
Although it looks nothing at all like a classic British sports car of the 1960s (think Triumph TR-4, or MGB), the RC 300 F Sport mimics the harsh ride, excellent handling, and low power output of those icons of yore. Of course, the interior fittings of the RC leaves those old Brits in the dust. We were especially impressed with the top notch supportive sport seats that keynote the F Sport package. These were finished in a grippy NuLuxe faux leather that looked great with F Sport "exclusive stitching" and F Sport "dark gray streamline trim." The interior of this Lexus is understated to a fault, with almost no bright work to relieve the black/gray tedium. But the only real fault in the interior lies in the twitchy "Remote Touchpad" which controls many infotainment functions. This mouse-like device is overly sensitive and difficult to control. Even as a passenger I found that placement of the mouse was unintentionally deflected by travel motion. Using the system while driving is asking for trouble.
You can equip the RC 300 F Sport with all wheel drive for a starting price of $48,540. That upgrade will bring you a 260hp V6, but instead of the 8-speed gearbox we enjoyed, the AWD RC is saddled with a 6 speed automatic. While we enjoyed the comparative lightness of the 4 cylinder RC 300 F Sport, we'd probably opt for the much more expensive and exciting RC F with its 420hp V8.
2020 LEXUS RC 300 F SPORT RWD
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, turbocharged
TORQUE: 258lb.-ft. @ 1650-4400rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/30MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $55,540
HYPES: Light, Agile
GRIPES: But Not Fast
STAR RATING: 7.5 Stars out of 10