By on February 17, 2015

Lexus RCF cliff, side up

Get in the RC F and press the starter button hidden, out of place, next to the gauges. That little tingle crawling up your spine is perfectly normal. Point that gaping rabid spindle maw at your nearest runway, skidpad, industrial plant, Ken Block Gymkhana set, or empty freeway on-ramp. Step on the throttle, hard. Harder, firmer! (Stop giggling!) Watch that trick digital gauge, front and center, as bright as Times Square: when the needle hits about 3,700 RPM the windshield gets blurry, the blood rushes to the head, the chests of every occupant is shoved firmly against the seatbacks, and the exhaust baffles open up and the cabin fills with a WOOOOHHHHHHHH, deep and warbly and just slightly parodic of itself. At this moment, it is the Loudest Thing in the Known Universe. And it rings with the same unmistakable baritone earthquake as the last genuinely insane Lexus—the dearly departed IS F.


Lexus took this photo for our amusement. From an F-Sport extravaganza in Las Vegas, where anything goes, but mainly tires.

Lexus took this photo for our amusement. From an F-Sport extravaganza in Las Vegas, where anything goes, but mainly tires.

Oh, yes, the IS F—Lexus’s first hot-rod experiment in that most American vein, whose inventors should be enshrined in the Hot Rodder’s Hall of Fame, right next to Bob Hirohata. The RC F is 200 pounds heavier, but packs 50 more horsepower: it’s the ISF, only more in every direction. It shares the ISF’s 5.0-liter V8, but with a lighter crankshaft, forged rods, 32 titanium valves…outside it’s all ducts, fans, flares, and gaping maws that could swallow jaywalking schoolchildren, all of which will score points with any wannabe street racer east of the 710 Freeway. It’s all very exciting.

Lexus RCF, front

Given the above, the RC F puts on a good show. All singing, all dancing, tail-wiggling, noise-making. If you conjure a performance bent out of nowhere, you’re allowed to be shouty. Interestingly enough, the turn signals ping exactly like grandfather clocks, the cupholders squeak incessantly when stuffed with plastic water bottles, and the stacked diagonal exhaust tips are finally real exhaust tips. But that’s neither here nor there.

What is important, however, is that the RC F addresses two of Lexus’s greatest shortcomings: first, its clumsy traction control. Turn the drive selector knob twice to the right, for Sport Plus: the steering firms up, the throttle gets touchier, and the brakes are preloaded for the exuberantly talentless. And here, if you press the traction control button, once, you immediately enter “EXPERT Mode. Expert! Nothing more could stoke the ego of our Playstation generation: hell yeah I got all my A licenses in Gran Turismo! Time to take every off-ramp sideways! LIFE DON’T HAVE A RESET BUTTON, SON!

Sport mode means you're serious. Sport Plus mode means you're seriouser. (Photo by Lexus)

Sport mode means you’re serious. Sport Plus mode means you’re seriouser. (Photo by Lexus)

Which is appropriate, this video-game thing. Because even though the plasticky paddles lend it a Forza feel, they control what is finally one of the RC F’s biggest improvements: it finally has a competent transmission.

The eight-speed automatic shifts hard on full attack, upshifts as fast as you can flick the paddles: bam. Bam. Bam. In certain modes, it even kicks a little bit. (Though not like the BMW M4, the RC F’s archnemesis, which boots you in the kidneys with steel-tipped Doc Martens.) It’ll hold a gear until it’s aurally painful to do so, then blip the throttle on a downshift just like a 21st-century sporting machine should. Even the LFA had an automatic that “kinda sucks.” But now, here it is: a Lexus transmission that does a seamless job of transmitting!

Lexus RCF, rear

Turn an RC F through a corner and the effect is a slight delay through that heavy, cliff-like proboscis, before the Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential squares away the rear, eager and snappy, and the traction control lets swing a nice arc before calling it in. You’ll get addicted jumping around every intersection at full throttle. The brakes are terrific. The steering is weighty, which is nice, but slightly numb, which is not. Crash over a particularly rough stretch and while the jolty suspension will send shivers all up your glutes, the wheel will remain rock steady, a triumphant exorcism of both feel and bump steer. (It’s a nice time to mention that the seats are wonderful: thin and flowing and perfectly sculpted.) But the wheel itself is small in diameter and absurdly thick, like squeezing a fat lil’ Buddha—and for our purposes, it’s just what a wheel should feel like.

That suspension corners nearly flat, all the time. It jolts, sure, but it is never abusive, never crashing. Our producer for the Hooniverse Podcast, Chris Hayes, met up with a girl for a date—as you do, when handed the keys—when she asked, where shall we go for dinner? “Why not Santa Barbara?” he said. So they blasted the 95 miles to Santa Barbara, then back, at night, in under an hour. Why not, indeed. The long-legged RC F can do this to people.

Lexus RCF, side

Lexus wants to take out BMW and the M4, which is a given, because every luxury manufacturer short of Bristol wants to take out BMW and the M4 these days. What’s the biggest difference between this and the M4? You can have fun with the RC F at any speed. The M4 sneers at your lack of talent, your nonchalance, your daily driving—it grumbles and protests below 10/10ths, and will continue to do so until you press 37 separate buttons to put it back in its place. If you don’t panic-flog an M4 to the upper limits of your nerves it yawns like a bored supermodel, unimpressed at your attempts at sexual fulfillment.

Lexus RCF, exhaust

Lexus had to conjure a performance bent out of nowhere, and the LFA is suffering for it*—and yet it worked on the IS F, the ground level of a side of Lexus we once considered new, and groundbreaking, and impossible. With the RC F—and the recently unveiled Lexus GS F—dare we say we now expect it?

* For a completely different set of circumstances, mind you.

The RC F is thirsty. Around town it's a truck-like 14 miles per gallon. To paraphrase Public Enemy, Eco mode is a joke in your town.

The RC F is thirsty. Around town it’s a truck-like 14 miles per gallon. To paraphrase Public Enemy, Eco mode is a joke in your town.

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34 Comments on “Lexus RC F, Reviewed!...”

  • avatar

    Nice side profile.

    Ugly mug.

    Lexus is slipping on the interior trim quality & getting too gimmicky in a GT-R, or even Mitsubishi Starion (or GT3000) kind of way with the video game style controls, gauges & dials.

    Still, the hungry, loud V8 is pure and welcome and the transmission seems way better now at holding & ripping shifts.

    At a 20% discount to an M4, this could be a contender for a sales race, ugly warts and all, because reliability & aftermarket.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll be curious to see how well it does. The RC-F is cheaper and has a V8, but the M4 is faster 0-60, faster in the slalom, faster to stop, more torque, described as more “nimble”, weights 400lbs less, and it doesn’t have the Lexus front end.

      Granted the M4 isn’t what it used to me (in my opinon), but it would be a very interesting comparison. Granted most people won’t push this car (or any car) past 7/10th, but I do think the M4 is better in that range.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure if this is the one I sat in at our autoshow, simply because they all look similar, but my ears touched the ceiling, why? Because my head couldn’t go upright.

    Only 6’2″

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a big problem.

      Unless I’m mistaken, this will slot in around 65k to 70k MSRP, and aside from the exotic LFA, be Lexus’s performance halo vehicle, akin to MB’s AMG or BMW’s M series vehicles, so volume is probably going to be on the order of around 1,000 vehicles per month in N.A.

      But, still, if it’s that tight inside – and no manual transmission option – eesh.

      At any rate, this seems too busy, gimmicky & “trying too hard.”

      • 0 avatar

        Okay, I just found out accurate pricing on this.

        Aside from the hideous predator grille, this RC 350 @ $43,000 or RC-F 350 @ $47,000 TOTALLY EMBARASSES THE CADILLAC ATS AND CTS IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE, FIT & FINISH, QUALITY, ETC.


        If you look at the comparison in seat stitching, seat quality, interior trim, paint quality, fit/finish, etc., the Lexus SHAMES THE CADILLAC ATS OR CTS.


        Look at some close up photos of the gauges, stitching, paint, panel fit, etc. Cadillac is sad. Look at the ORANGE PEEL IN THE ATS PAINT FFS!!!

        Yet Johan wants to charge BMW money for the ATS & CTS.

        The ATS & CTS can’t even touch Hyundai Genesis quality.

        Here’s a thread with photos demonstrating what I’m speaking of:

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 6’2″ as well and it’s fine. Did you not adjust the seat?

      • 0 avatar

        Again, all I remember is it saying F-sport and looked very similar to this with 2 doors, the seat back was reclined and pushed behind the b pillar, maybe it goes back more but I felt any further back would just make the position bad.

        Granted I was in the passenger side when I did this, so take that as you will.

        The seat appeared to be very low in relation to the floor so if it did adjust up and down I would say it was completely down.

      • 0 avatar

        We are not all built the same. If you are 6’2″ with long legs, you will probably fit just fine in about anything. I’m 6’2″ with little short gorilla legs (29″ inseam), and I fit in just about nothing with a sunroof. And some cars make it worse because seats tracks tend to be inclined so the seat gets higher as you get closer to the wheel.

        This is probably a fine car, but I find it hideous inside and out. Outside I could probably live with, but not the inside. Definitely trying too hard.

        • 0 avatar

          “… I’m 6’2″ with little short gorilla legs (29″ inseam), and I fit in just about nothing with a sunroof.”

          Same here…I’m 6’3″ and a bit with a long upper body and Orangutan arms and I have trouble fitting in most cars that I would want especially with a moonroof. I have a buddy who is the same height but all legs and he has an IS-F sedan…I can hardly get in it. Which is one of the reasons that I drive a truck.

          However, I like this RC-F…..but I’m more excited by the upcoming GS-F (I know, I’m in the overwhelming minority).

    • 0 avatar

      I’m 6’2″ as well and had no issues. I sat on both sides.

  • avatar

    One complaint I always heard about the IS-F is that you could never adjust anything and the that the traction control was always far too obstrusive and problematic. I read from you that it’s improved, but some of the reviews I’ve read on the RC-F is that traction control is still an issue. To the point that some reviews did not like this as a track car. Any thoughts?

    • 0 avatar

      As the owner of an ’11 IS-F I can tell you that the traction control is not a problem – hold 1 button down for 3 seconds and it’s completely off. In “sport” mode it allows a lot of sideways before kicking in. If you leave it in normal mode it is intrusive.

  • avatar

    The nose would be a deal killer for me. At least the M4 doesn’t make me want to strangle myself with my own bowels to escape the ugliness.

  • avatar

    But but but Clarkson said that the LFA was the best supercar ever made! How can it be that a slow, absurdly expensive car with 100hp fewer than similarly priced rivals and a pathetic, outdated E-gear style transmission “for better mechanical feel” was the excuse instead of the more accurate “we couldn’t get/make a DSG” didn’t sell? Could it be the complete lack of performance pedigree, the anonymous styling, or the fact that the car is easily outrun by 911 Turbos and GT-Rs?

    I’m with DW on the IS/RC interiors. Lexus is only getting away with that level of quality because most of the competition has cost gutted their interiors as well, and/or are very old and due for replacement. The new Benz C-Class though looks like it costs $20K more on the inside.

    • 0 avatar

      Clarkson is a tool.

      He can be entertaining in many ways, but as it’s not mutually exclusive, he’s also a ginormous tool.

    • 0 avatar

      It could be that your criteria and aesthetic judgment are suspect.

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      “Could it be the complete lack of performance pedigree…”

      Toyota would have done well to advertise some connection to the 2000 GT. Oh well.

      To the LFA’s credit, however, it sounds lightyears better than a GT-R or a 911 turbo in their wildest wettest dreams. And, if I’m honest, in terms of speed I’m not sure a Ferrari 599 (which would be it’s more logical peer) would fair THAT much better against againast a 911 turbo S or GT-R.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree on the 2000GT.

        The LFA does seem to be an amazing car, but it’s also out of production and more than double the price of a GT-R or Turbo S. Double + the price is a lot to pay for minor performance improvement. I think Edmonds actually did a comparison between the LFA and a 911 GT2 RS. Performance numbers were almost identical with the exception of the skidpad where the LFA had the advantage from what I remember.

  • avatar

    Thing is, is that this is UGLY – WAY overdone.
    (an admittedly subjective statement).

    What isn’t subjective is that it’s also crushingly heavy considering its size, which will always keep it a ways behind the M4 (and even the Audi RS5) in real-world performance.

    Swing and a miss, IMO.

  • avatar

    Chris Harris just reviewed this car on Youtube and noted pretty much the same things that everyone else is saying – nice fast street GT, useless on a track, FAR too heavy. You can’t expect to compete with the best when you’ve essentially slapped three cars together under one skin with basically a carryover engine.

    • 0 avatar

      My guess is it would be too heavy. And the lack of true manual is disappointing. I kind of like the looks (haven’t seen in person yet however) and the commercials are great. Way outside my price range but… if the Lexus quality holds up maybe in a few years these will be great used bargains? Or will their limited sales make them unicorns that are difficult to find? I’m just glad they made it and are at least trying to compete in the sports coupe segment. Plus its got a proper V8!

      And for the record: I have all gold licenses in the various Gran Turismo installments and have manage to keep my Z on track… well except those two times.

  • avatar
    John R

    The comparisons to M4 may be too on the nose. There may be more merit in comparing this the Audi RS5. If the RS5 were RWD I imagine it would be a lot like this.

  • avatar

    This powertrain is everything that I wish was available in the ATS-V.

  • avatar

    It may be ugly but the combination between performance and quality makes it well worth it.

  • avatar

    The front end doesn’t look especially low, but it extends well beyond the front wheels. I wonder if it will scrape on driveway type transitions due to the long overhang creating a poor approach angle. This seems to be a problem when using 911/Cayman/Boxster as an everyday driver.

  • avatar

    Lexus lives in its own little bubble. That Autocar interview last September with the “Chief Engineer” told it all. He proclaimed this car the most rigid made. “More rigid than an M3?”, he was asked. “The most rigid.”

    “How much more rigid than the M3?”. Well, the man didn’t know. His explanation amounted to, well it cannot be made more rigid, so the RC-F has to be the most rigid.

    Utter BS, if you make a claim and cannot back it up, and haven’t bothered to test the main opposition because intellectually you are so sure of yourself, your word cannot be taken as the truth.

    Here’s the truth – this thing weighs, as others have noted, 400 lbs more than the M3, so its density must be approaching that of pure concrete, and nothing’s more rigid than that. Right? Right?

    Nice engine in a blob of Japanese hubris.

  • avatar


    You no Sajeev, you no say.

  • avatar

    Also, as a full “Review,” which this site is hesitant to use that term, it’s sorely lacking in photos. Tim Cain provides more photos with his “Capsule Review” items, which are theoretically LESSER than a full review.

  • avatar

    I owned an IS-F, and BZ’s comparisons are at best uninformed if not completely obtuse. The 8-speed in my car was every bit as competent and operated exactly as described with the supposedly improved RC unit. The traction control wasn’t an issue either, so I really have to question whether BZ has ever driven an IS-F.

    At any rate, none of this is the author’s fault. Lexus pays people good money to figure out what the competition is up to, yet somehow ends up building an ugly, pig-heavy gimmick-mobile that in no way challenges the M4 at anything. They blew it, and if they don’t yet understand what just happened then the market will bring the lesson home for them, hard and fast. My IS-F never lost a street race to an E90/E92 M3. However, I never believed for a second that BMW was going to take the “torqueless wonder” admonitions lying down, and true to form they didn’t. There’s no way this pig will worry an M4 either on the street or on the track.

    What a complete fucking waste of a beautiful V8.

  • avatar

    This review really needs a “1 year later” followup that chronicles how many units get sold in the first year, compared with the M3/M4 and C63.

    It seems to be 90% of an M4 for 100% of the price, but Lexus definitely has its own fan base. Pretty sure TTAC’s commentariat isn’t really the demographic for either car, so it will be fun to see how the sales numbers turn out.

  • avatar

    I actually like this car. I test drove one at Lexus of Las Vegas and was impressed with its power.

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