Road Test Review – 2020 Lexus RC-F – Is This The Ultimate Japanese Pony Car? [Video]

In a segment where lap times are rapidly becoming the defining measuring stick in terms of what makes a good car, it can be easy to forget that sometimes, buyers want a performance car that also excels in feeling and sounding special. Lexus is keenly aware of this, and has made some welcome updates to the RC-F for 2020.

But can these updates help the RC-F truly stand out in a crowded segment, while retaining the core essentials that enthusiasts love?


A Solar Flare Of Expressive Styling:

For 2020, the RC-F received a mild refresh that aimed at adding more styling substance to the car. This included LC-like headlights to accent the spindle style front grille, as well as subtle changes to the rear of the car. There’s nothing earth shattering here, but the car is still a canvas that certainly draws plenty of stares especially with the vivid yellow that adorned our tester. As mentioned in the past, the RC looks like it leapt off the pages of a Japanese manga comic, and that also allows it to have a look that is very unique for the segment. Our tester also arrived with healthy splashes of carbon fiber trim.

Part of the $11,400 Performance Package, this rather pricey option transforms the 2020 RC-F into a more track focused weapon, thanks to the addition of items such as a carbon fiber front splitter, roof, rocker panels, rear diffuser, as well as a trick speed activated rear wing. The carbon fiber accents look awesome when paired with certain colors, but the front splitter does require drivers to be more cautious when parking the RC-F, especially near curbs. Rounding out things are a set of 19-inch BBS forged alloy wheels slathered in black paint.

The end result is a very curvy canvas that has a very distinctive look, but the RC does sit in a very interesting position when compared to some of its rivals. While the RC-F does have a leg up over the Audi RS5 coupe, the sleek Lexus does lose out to the current generation BMW M4 coupe, as well as the Mercedes C63. However, the Bimmer’s advantage could be lost when the next generation model makes its way to showrooms. Unlike the outgoing model, the next gen M4 is slated to get much bigger twin kidney grilles, and that has already proven to be a very controversial move, especially in the eyes of long time BMW loyalists.


Beautiful Interior Is Kneecapped By Horrid Infotainment System:

The interior of the RC-F is a mixed bag, but it did an admirable job of impressing us. While our tester was not the limited production Track Edition, the cabin still does a good job of driving its performance intentions home to consumers. High quality materials are abundant, with supple leather, Alcantara inserts, and real metal trim being scattered throughout. The fore-mentioned Performance Package also adds more carbon fiber in the cabin, and that in turn further enhances the ambiance. As is the case with other performance coupes, the back seats are best enjoyed by cargo and small children. But the two front seats reward the driver and one lucky passenger with good amounts of leg and head room. The seats themselves are very supportive, and do a good job of keeping occupants firmly in place in spirited driving. Rear visibility is hampered by the sloping roofline, but we are glad that blind spot monitoring is along for the ride to help watch your back. Many controls and switches are within easy reach of the driver, and the amount of engine noise that makes its way into the cabin makes you forget about the trials and tribulations of the modern pop music scene.

However, the infotainment system is still arguably the lone flaw that serves to figuratively kneecap the RC-F in terms of execution. While the 10.3 inch screen is decently sized for the segment, it is not a touch based unit, instead, it is controlled by a touchpad that is mounted on the center console. When the touchpad first appeared on the scene several years ago, we were hopeful that it would finally bring an end to the years of frustration generated by the old mouse style controller. While the touchpad is an improvement in aesthetics, it’s just as frustrating to use as its predecessor. The pad acts like a mouse in operation, and moves a cursor that accesses various menus. The software here is very jittery, and it often requires multiple clicks to access certain menus. Apple CarPlay is now standard for 2020 and it does remove some of the frustration, but for Android users such as this author, we have to wait a bit longer before Android Auto makes its way to the RC.


Muscular 5.0 Liter V8 Makes Bold Performance Statement:

The Lexus RC-F is not a Ford Mustang by any stretch of the imagination, and yet, there is an honest to goodness naturally aspirated 5.0 liter V8 lurking underneath the RC-F’s hood. The engine was lightly massaged for the 2020 model year, and it now produces 472 horsepower, and 395 lb-ft of torque, which is a 5 hp and 6 lb-ft boost over the 2019 model. Power delivery is buttery smooth, and the engine delivers its power delivery across the entire rev band. This helps the muscle come in gradually, and avoids the abrupt jolt in power that often is associated with modern turbocharged power plants. The sound that emanates from the exhaust is distinctive, and it is a very pleasing soundtrack to the ears. The engine also makes the porky RC-F move with newfound zeal, with our tester capable of making the sprint to 60 mph in just over 4 seconds. This is still a good time, but there are rivals in the segment that can get there quicker. The BMW M4 Competition for example can make the sprint to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifolglio is in that vaunted slice of real estate too. An eight speed automatic is the only transmission choice available, and it does a good job of sending power to the rear wheels.

Handling in our tester also proved to be a compelling highlight during its stay with us. To find out if the RC-F had the handling chops to still keep up with its segment rivals, we took it on a brief road trip to our favorite stretch of road in a quiet rural part of the state. The winding roads and natural scenery there provided a very vibrant backdrop, and the RC-F impressed us with how much poise it had when tackling spirited driving. The 3,902 lb curb weight does manifest itself at times in the steering, but while you have to do more work to get the most out of the RC-F, it’s certainly worth it especially with the smile that emerges on your face when you make the trek home. While the BMW 4-Series may offer more composure in its handling manners, the addition of a burbling V8 soundtrack adds a level of character that not even the most potent of turbocharged six cylinders can match.


Value Quotient:

Pricing for the 2020 Lexus RC-F can be considered in the upper reaches of the segment, with base RC-F models starting at $65,925. This pricing is in line with many of its German rivals, but with how old the platform and some of the infotainment technology are, it might make buyers scratch there head and wonder if it is indeed worth it in the long haul. This is before you even factor in the price of some of our tester’s optional equipment which plays a role in creating potent sticker shock. While the $11,400 Performance Package is the most egregious offender in this regard, the $5,350 Premium Package is not far behind. This particular package adds heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, blind spot monitoring, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and more. While these are welcome additions, it makes you wonder why Lexus is charging extra here, since many of these features come standard on a decidedly more mainstream $34,000 Hyundai Sonata.


But while the 2020 Lexus RC-F might make your local accountant question your budgetary abilities, everyone will agree that it is a very compelling ticket to driving fun. In some ways, it is like the Japanese equivalent of a muscle car. It’s fast, brash, and eager to please, even if it prefers wearing a velvet lined suit to the track instead of a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.



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