For a long time, Lexus has stood for really wonderful cars.
Beautifully built, wonderfully smooth, but it’s been the rare Lexus model that could turn the heads of buyers who pony up serious dough for Mercedes’ AMG, BMW’s M Division, and Porsche.
Well, there was the Lexus LFA. And it was sensational, but priced new at $400,000 and going for mid-400’s to 600’s (yes, thousands) now, it was always a halo car that was going to be out of reach of almost all of us. (We do still buy Lottery tickets and dream, though).
For the rest of us, Lexus has had their F series cars – not to be confused with the F Sport trim packages. The original IS F V8 sedan was maniacal and fun, but they don’t make it anymore. Now you have a choice of just two – the GS F sedan and RC F coupe.
Well, by nature a coupe gets our heart going faster, and for 2020 the F Coupe has had some serious refinements. So, we have to ask does the 2020 RC F have what it takes to pull the well-heeled out of their European Express machines?
Bolder by Design
Well, it certainly has stepped up the looks. The RC has always had sleek, svelte lines, and F was more muscular and serious looking, but the design was not as cohesive as something like a BMW M4.
Subtle refinements for 2020 brings the coupe more in line, with stacked LED headlights and integrated daytime running lights that give a predatory squint – like a bird of prey eyeing down a nice fat rodent.
It’s a hungry bird too, with that large maw-like grille opening wide, and a new lower lip opening that adds a strong chin line to the front. Tidy, aggressive. We like it. The big V8 motor gets a bulgy hood with vents to help keep the beast cool, and the arched vents behind the front wheels add to the aero look. The profile on our tester was helped by optional 19-inch hand-polished 20-spoke alloy wheels by BBS. These are large wheels and tires, but the wheel wells look like there’s plenty of room to go larger.
Peeking behind the handsome rims, Brembo brakes with massive 14-slotted rotors and 6-piston calipers up front, 13.5-inch rotors with 4-piston calipers at the rear. Painted a racy orange, the calipers call attention to the serious stoppers.
At the rear, new taillights and a new rear bumper have a crisper look, while the rear fascia with staggered dual exhausts on each side is pure Lexus F. Our tester was definitely a standout to begin with, and the shimmering Infrared paont is sure to attract attention from other hi-po cars, the local authorities, and the occasional amorous bee. But hey, turning heads is part of the deal with this kind of car.
Lexus by Nature
While the exterior is extroverted, the interior is pure Lexus, with a healthy blend of sport thrown in. The first thing that catches your eyes are the F Spec sport seats. We’ve sat in other sport seats and found that they hold you well, but are crippling on longer drives. Not here – the seats are nicely bolstered (and beautifully stitched) but with 10-way power adjustability for driver and passenger, it’s easy to get comfortable and feel well supported even for longer journeys.
Trimmed in NuLuxe (leatherette to you and me) the seats look like leather, and you’re surrounded by a very coupe-like center console, with a nice assortment of switches to suit any fighter-pilot fantasy you might find yourself having. Actually, we’re thankful for the switches –the Lexus touchpad for info-tainment remains fiddly, so we’re happy to not use it much.
The info-tainment itself is excellent, Apple CarPLay, Lexus Enform 4GB wi-fi, Lexus Enform Remote with Smart Watch & Alexa Skill Integration, as well as Bluetooth/USB connections. You also get the Lexus Safety System +, which includes forward collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Our tester stepped things up with the Navigation Package, that includes a sizable 10.3-inch color display, superb sounding, 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson Audio system, and Dynamic Navigation with Dynamic Voice command. We spent little time with the Lexus navi, – but our WAZE looked great on the big screen.
Not to be outdone by the Navi package, we also enjoyed the Premium Package, which lives up to its name (and $5,350 price) with heated and ventilated front seats, Driver’s memory seat, heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering column, and rear seat center console with cupholders. Which you will never use as the rear seats are too tiny for anything other than a toddler.
More important than a place for a sippy cup, the package also includes a Blind Spot Monitor with a Rear Cross-Traffic Alert – a definite must as the low seating position and high rear deck reduces visibility.
You could pretty much equip any RC with a lot of these features. So Why go for the F?
Well, it starts with a big thumping 5-liter, V8. It’s even been improved for 2020, Now producing 472 horsepower (up 5) and 395 lb.-ft. of torque (up 6). Not only more powerful, Lexus has done some tweaking to make it quicker. The max torque comes in at 2,800 rpm vs 3,600 previously, helping to answer previous complaints of mediocre low-end power. And the sound is pure V8 heaven.
You’ll have no complaints about acceleration, with a higher final drive ratio, and new standard electronic launch control. Combined with a lighter overall weight, our RC F could hit 60 in just over 4 seconds. Even with all the goodness, we noticed that with the transmission in normal mode, the RC feels heavy, broad shouldered but more interested in providing a grand touring experience.
Moving over to Sport mode is like Jenny Craig for Coupes – it instantly feels lighter, more alive and seriously fast. It revs like crazy, pops off shifts with lighting quickness, and pretty much any other car will become a dot in your mirror. It’s intoxicating, and we averaged 14 mpg. Which is really not bad, considering.
Ride and handling also get a refresh with new stiffer bushings in the rear suspension and steering rack mounts. The ride is firm but still Lexus smooth, but now there is added precision that you notice, especially in the steering. To make the most of this, the coupe wears new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires designed specifically for the RC F, and you can feel it with added grip, sharper turn in and a chassis balance. Our tester had the optional Torque Vectoring Differential, that really lets you take advantage of that lovely power when punching out of corners.
Big Numbers, Big Price?
That depends. Here Lexus takes a page from the Europeans, and starts with a nicely-equipped base model, but gets pricey when you add options. Our RC F started at $64,900 which is an excellent value. Those hand polished BBS rims added $1,500, Triple Beam LED headlights, $1,160, Navi System with Mark Levinson Sound, $2,725, Orange brake calipers, $300, Intuitive Parking Assist, $500, Premium Paint, a bargain at $595, The Premium Package at $5,350, and the Torque Vectoring Differential at $1,250. Add in Delivery for $1,025 and we came in at $79,305.
We should point out that there’s a new Track Edition that’s lighter, more performance focused, and more aggressive looking. At $97,825 it’s sure to be a rare bird, but with stats like 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds – the first Lexus to break the 4-second barriers since the LFA – it’s an amazing car.
Competitors to our RC F include BMW’s M4. With a 425-horsepower twin-turbo V6, comparably-equipped it came in at $75,890. The M4 is an amazing machine, it is harder edged, though. You need to decide how much you’re willing to compromise in comforts to get that ultra-performance. A comparable Mercedes AMG C 63 coupe features a 469-hp V8 and comes in at $85,010. It’s also closer to the luxury with staggering performance blend of the RC F. So, we’d say the Lexus is competitively priced in this segment.
Lexus’ commitment to constantly improving shows in the 2020 RC F. Already a staggering blend of ultimate performance and Lexus luxury, it improves in both, stepping up its game in every way.
The Lexus RC F is an exciting, exhilarating, intoxicating competitor to Europe’s best. And with their signature, quality, reliability, and comfort, perhaps a better choice.
The Lexus RC F is the only exotic coupe you’ll ever need.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.