Lexus RC F review
The Lexus RC F is beautifully built and engaging, but not quite the ultimate driving machine
Based on the standard Lexus coupe, this high performance variant is one of two high-performance F cars currently on sale, as distinct from those simply carrying the Lexus F Sport badge.
The Lexus GS F is the other, with both models sharing the same mighty 5.0-litre V8 engine. Previous F badged models include the original IS F, and of course the Lexus LFA supercar was developed under the auspices of the F team, too.
The regular Lexus RC coupe provides the basis for the RCF model, although with 2.0-litre and 2.5-hybrid powertrains the standard coupe is nothing like as performance focused. The Lexus F models are designed to take on the supercar-rivalling performance of Mercedes AMG and BMW M models, and on paper at least the RC F delivers.
That’s largely thanks to the lusty 5.0-litre, normally aspirated V8 that’s stuffed under the bonnet, although the ride and handling of the RC F has also come under the scrutiny of Lexus engineers who’ve made significant chassis upgrades.
These include an optional torque-vectoring differential with standard, slalom and track modes, gas-filled shock absorbers and ball-jointed stabiliser bars for the all-round independent suspension.
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The RC F is also differentiated from lesser models by its active rear spoiler, raised bonnet profile, a bonnet scoop copied from the LFA supercar and 19 inch forged alloy wheels. Inside you get a funky set of instruments, also lifted from the LFA, plus a sporty thick-rimmed steering wheel, high back sports seats and various other go-faster trim embellishments.
The standard spec list is impressive too, with a high resolution 7 inch multimedia screen, 10-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with sat-nav and reversing camera, rain sensing wipers, parking sensors and eight airbags. You also get an impressive roster of safety kit including Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist, Stability Control, and Vehicle Dynamic Management
There are two versions of the Lexus RC F coupe including the standard model at £59,995 and the RC F Carbon, which adds the torque-vectoring diff and a carbon fibre roof, bonnet and rear spoiler for an extra £8k.
The Lexus RC F has plenty of showroom appeal. Its styling is striking and modern, and the cabin is a terrific place to sit with an interesting interior design that’s very different to German rivals. Combine that with loads of kit and high quality materials, and the RC F offers quite a bespoke feel from the driver’s seat.
It’s exciting to drive too, up to a point, but it’s a point where more dynamic rivals like the BMW M4 ease comfortably ahead in pure driving appeal. On the plus side, this most hard-core of the Lexus coupes has a wonderful V8 engine sound, grips well, and will cover ground faster than most things on the road. But it feels relatively heavy, has a firm ride and a powertrain set-up that makes it hard to get the best from that mighty V8.
Engines, performance and drive
Out on the road, the Lexus RC F is fun to drive with a ride that’s firm but not to the point of unnecessary discomfort. The car turns in well, especially if you have the optional torque-vectoring diff with the drive setting in ‘slalom’ mode. However, even in this most agile of set-ups the RC F is less responsive and less engaging than the BMW M4 coupe.
The steering is quite nicely weighted, but is devoid of road feel, and you feel all of the RC F’s 1,765kg kerbweight when asking the car to change direction quickly. It just isn’t as nimble as the BMW, and doesn’t seem to have such a limpet-like grip on the tarmac, although its extra power (46bhp more than the M4) apparently stands the RC F in good stead at the racetrack. Lexus has itself claimed the RC F is faster than the BMW head-to-head on track.
If you’re not shopping for ultimate agility, but are simply looking for a stylish, luxurious coupe with bruising performance and great cruising ability, the RC F can provide all you ask of it.
The Lexus RC F has a naturally aspirated, 32-valve light alloy 5.0 V8 engine, which was designed new for the car. With 471bhp to play with, it was always likely to be the car’s standout feature and that has proved to be the case. What those familiar with the traditional Lexus values of calm and refinement might find more surprising, is the bellowing soundtrack that accompanies prodigious use of the throttle. Lexus has clearly taken a leaf out of the AMG handbook, and the RC F certainly sounds fun.
It’s a good strong engine, and likes to rev, which is useful as peak torque of 530Nm isn’t delivered until 4,800rpm. After that the RC F really flies, but the car occasionally feels as though it lacks the immediate low down punch that is required for more impressive road performance. An eight-speed auto gearbox that responds lazily to paddle-shifter inputs, although it does works well in regular auto mode, worsens this problem. The upshot of this is a 0-62mph time of just 4.5 seconds, in a car that doesn’t ever feel quite that fast on the road.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
With a 2.0-litre turbo version, and a hybrid version of the RC coupe sharing showroom space with the full-on RC F at Lexus dealers, you’re unlikely to pick the 5.0 V8 if your priority is economy. Actually none of the RCs are exceptional in that regard, but the RC F is unsurprisingly the least efficient of the bunch.
Lexus claims an official combined cycle figure of 26.2mpg for the car, which is doubtless achievable but unlikely to bear much relation to what you’ll get in normal road use. Hefty use of the right foot will soon see consumption drop down into the teens, but that’s the price you have to pay for such over-the-top performance.
CO2 emissions are pretty high at 251g/km, which means the driver of a company RC F would be hit pretty hard in the pay packet. Road tax is pricey too.
The numbers make the six-cylinder turbo engine in the BMW M4 look quite good. BMW claims 32mpg and 199g/km.
Insurance groups for the RC F depend on which model you pick. Although the performance is the same between the RC F Carbon and the standard model, the high cost of repairing damage to carbon fibre panels puts the insurance group up to 50. The standard RC F is a couple of groups lower at 48, although a BMW M4 is only group 42.
While you might expect a BMW M4 in the most alluring spec to hold onto a little over 50 per cent of its value over three years and 30,000 miles, the Lexus RC F fares a little worse. Used car data experts at CAP reckon the RC F will retain 47-48 percent, so in the worst-case scenario you could be almost 5 per cent worse off in the Lexus.
The Lexus starts a couple of grand higher than the M4 too, although on the plus side, the comprehensive kit list on the Lexus means you won’t have had to shell out much on extras up front.
Interior, design and technology
The standard Lexus RC coupe is to most eyes a pretty car, and the extra bells, whistles and aero addenda of the RC F only add more visual pizazz. It’s quite a lot more extrovert than the standard car with those gaping ducts at the front. Also, the RC F has rather a bull-nosed side profile, due to the bonnet extension required to make space for the bigger engine installation.
If you pick the RC F carbon with the black expose weave bonnet and roof panels, your name probably is not Shrinking Violet. Still, even the standard RC looks pretty muscular and a little ostentatious, particularly when lined up alongside a BMW or Mercedes. Many would argue that individuality is a strong part of the car’s appeal, in a market where the ‘repmobile’ origins of the German competition is quite evident.
Inside, the RC coupe’s dash design is lifted from the IS, so again it’s quite different from the German-issue fare. It’s arguably not as unrelentingly ergonomic, but there’s a really good quality feel and some lovely detail touches – including swipe control for some switchgear, which looks very classy.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The RC F models get the upgraded Premium infotainment system, which means the 7-inch multimedia screen has touchpad control, rather than the fiddly joystick of lesser models. The touchpad is initially quite difficult to use on the move, although it improves with familiarity, so it’s useful that voice control is also included. The menu interfaces for the sat-nav are feature packed, but not the most intuitive, but you can relay direction instructions to the central instrument cluster. There’s an optional 17-speaker audio system with 835w output if the standard issue 10-speaker stereo isn't up to snuff. Most listeners will think it is.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Terrific seats with a wide range of adjustment make the Lexus RC F a great long-distance machine, in spite of the car’s firm ride. There’s a great cabin ambience that helps the luxurious feel, and refinement is good when cruising. The view out is slightly unusual, with the low roofline and wide screen giving a letterbox view of the world ahead. It’s not restrictive, just different, although that swoopy nose is quite hard to see when parking, making the sensors essential.
The car is reasonably practical when it comes to oddment storage, with small door pockets, a decent-sized glovebox with air-con to stop your chocolate melting, a compartment with a lid between the seats and a pair of cup-holders.
At 4,705mm long, 1,845mm wide and 1,390mm tall, the Lexus RC F is pretty similar in size to coupe rivals. For example the BMW M4 measures up at 4,671mm long, 1,870mm wide, and 1,383mm tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
While the front seats are comfy with sufficient headroom (just) for even the tallest drivers, the rear seats are a different matter. There’s little legroom, and headroom is severely compromised by that sloping rear roof making the rear seats pretty claustrophobic for adults – although kids will love it, of course. Access is reasonable too, if you don’t mind waiting for the electric seat slider to do its thing. The BMW M4 offers greater space in the back, mainly thanks to its longer wheelbase.
The RC F offers a reasonable boot for a sporty coupe, although it’s not as good as most of its rivals. There’s 374-litres of space in which to pack your luggage, whereas the Mercedes C-Class Coupe has 400 litres, the BMW 4 Series gives you 445 litres, and the Audi A5 tops them all with 455 litres.
Reliability and Safety
Lexus regularly outperforms rivals in our Driver Power survey, and while the brand has been edged off the top spot in 2016 there’s little doubt the Toyota owned marque has reliability all sewn up.
The RC coupe in standard format is closely related to the Lexus IS saloon which finished first overall in our 2015 survey, and fourth this year. That’s better than any Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar, by quite some margin. In fact, this year Lexus had four cars in the top 10, and there isn’t another mainstream manufacturer out there with a better reputation for reliability.
Safety is taken care of with eight airbags, plus all the electronic assistance systems you could want, including blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring and lane warnings, EBD, and Brake Assist.
For reasons yet to be explained, Lexus models don't get the five-year warranty that applies to Toyota vehicles. What you get instead is a three-year, 60,000-mile package, which is pretty standard fare in the premium sector.
Service intervals for the Lexus RC F are 10,000 miles or annual, depending on how quickly you rack them up.