By on November 7, 2016

2016 Lexus RC-F Front quarter

2016 Lexus RC F

5.0-liter DOHC V8, port and direct injection (467 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm; 389 lbs-ft @ 4,800 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic

16 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

17.2 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $63,745*

As Tested: $79,355*

*Prices include $940 destination charge.

In fairness, I was going too quickly even for the interstate. Even then, I’m pretty certain I saw a third numeral flicker on the dash display as I apexed the off-ramp onto the unfamiliar rural divided four-lane.

Then I saw a black and gold Dodge Charger sitting in the median.

I immediately asked myself if I can legitimately write off a speeding ticket as a business expense.

Fortunately, the deputy sheriff was either napping or texting, as the bellowing orange 2016 Lexus RC F was distinctly conspicuous as I slowed to socially acceptable speeds. I unclenched, took a breath, and continued in search of more enjoyable roads.

2016 Lexus RC-F orange profile

And enjoy I did.

I don’t know if I can call the Lexus RC F beautiful with a straight face. It is purposeful and brutal, certainly, but it’s not an E-Type Jaguar. The various vents, intakes, and flares make a bold statement about the sporting credentials within.

2016 Lexus RC-F orange front

My tester had the optional $5,500 Performance Package, which adds a carbon fiber roof and rear wing, as well as a trick torque-vectoring differential. Yeah, adding extra black accents to the fabulously loud Molten Pearl gave the big Lexus a jack-o’-lantern look, which was a hit at the school drop-off line in mid-October. I loved the look, however — it seems to visually lower the car a bit more than cars with a painted roof.

2016 Lexus RC-F orange rear

Out back, that carbon rear wing raises itself at speed, or with the push of a button for the entertainment of onlookers. The quadruple exhaust tips are a bit showy, but nothing about this Lexus is subtle. They are perfect for the character of this beast.

The well-bolstered front seats in the RC F are spectacular. Plenty of adjustment fore and aft, up and down, with heated and cooled seats on the Premium Package made my long interstate drive effortless. The $5,500 package also includes carbon fiber interior trim, primarily below the steering column and atop the glove box. It’s not completely convincing, though. Otherwise, the leather and sueded leather-like material — Alcantara? — is appropriately plush.

2016 Lexus RC-F Seats

I can’t speak for the rear seats, though the tears of my eight-year-old daughter might. We had a mishap upon commencing her first RC F ride, where the power seat returned to a memory position incompatible with her booster-seated legs. Much screaming ensued. Removal of the booster seat allowed her feet to slide under the driver’s seat, and the girls rode with but one complaint for the rest of my test.

2016 Lexus RC-F instruments

The problem they voiced loudly was the lack of any sort of handle to brace themselves, or to help extricate themselves from the deep seat bottom. Or, put delicately, there were no “Oh Feces!” handles. When I decided to “enjoy” my drive, and allow my spawn to enjoy it along with me, they would slide against the interior panels with force. Thus, my time experimenting with and exploiting the various performance settings was limited to solo drives.

It’s the engine that is the big story here. 467 horsepower from a 5.0-liter V8 is still impressive, though most pony cars make similar power. The eight-speed automatic transmission, though certainly shiftable via paddle or lever, is a letdown — I’d love to try this with a six-speed manual. Sport and Sport Plus drive modes, selected via a knob just to the right of the shifter, do make the transmission shift more aggressively, holding gears a bit longer, especially in Sport Plus. The transmission slams firmly into each gear with the throttle pinned, and will blip the throttle during downshifts to keep the rear from becoming too unsettled.

2016 Lexus RC-F engine

The really trick bit is the TVD button for the optional Torque-Vectoring Differential, part of the Performance Package. Rather than a traditional Torsen limited-slip as fitted to the standard RC F, the TVD allows for electronic biasing of torque to the rear wheels based on driving behavior. Between Normal, Slalom, and Track settings, the differential will change how the rear of the car drives – and importantly for your local tire dealer, how it slides.

Unlike the IS Turbo I recently sampled, this RC F uses a touchpad interface for the navigation and entertainment systems. It’s located immediately aft of the shift lever, and just ahead of an extended lip for the center console storage lid. It works well, but can be a bit sensitive. I found when driving while wearing a coat with loose sleeves, those sleeves would occasionally brush the touchpad and select different radio stations. I even sleeve-dialed my wife once.

The optional ($2,610!) navigation worked smoothly otherwise, and the the always-stellar Mark Levinson audio system had no troubles fighting the noise from the wide Michelins.

2016 Lexus RC-F dashboard

Between normal commuting, a two-hour early morning highway cruise, and a four-hour return via the curviest roads I could find, I spent plenty of time behind the wheel of the brilliant Lexus. Beyond road noise from the sticky tires and the boisterous exhaust note when exploring the deeper reaches of the right pedal, the Lexus was nearly as serene as a more staid ES sedan. The ride was firm over pockmarked Ohio freeways, but never jarring or unpleasant.

Once I encountered the twisties, the RC F woke up. I turned the selector to Sport Plus, switched the TVD to Slalom mode, and attacked the hills of southern Ohio. Set up like this, I found the Lexus would happily bring the rear around when driven enthusiastically, but it wouldn’t turn into a tire-smoking drift monster.

I wasn’t brave and/or stupid enough to try turning off the traction and stability controls — I wasn’t on the track, and thus had no reason to activate either the in-dash lap timer nor my AAA membership.

It’s basically a pony car, but with a posh twist. While it certainly compares nicely to an M4 or a C63, a Mustang GT or Camaro SS are natural alternatives. It occupies an interesting place in the market, as the Lexus buyer can choose rowdy and refined in one package.

2016 Lexus RC-F orange rear quarter

Lexus provided the vehicle and a tank of fuel for purpose of this review.

[Images: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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43 Comments on “2016 Lexus RC F Review – The Fastest Pumpkin Around...”

  • avatar

    A beautiful car with 2 or 3 too many JC Whitney body kit parts.

    • 0 avatar


      When you see a brake duct on a GT-R you are convinced that it is an essential part of the organically fragile monster underneath…

      This looks and feels hollow.

  • avatar

    So in ride and luxury how does it compare to a Mustang GT?

  • avatar

    My wife LOVES this car, however I keep reminding her it requires a mortgage to buy since it costs about the same as our first house. I wish Lexus made a small affordable coupe to get people hooked on the brand. Think back to Acura with the Integra/RSX. For example imagine an FR-S but with a Lexus interior and a hybrid drivetrain to improve performance/MPG. Something that undercuts the Infiniti Q60, thus priced in the mid 30s instead of the mid 40s.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a litany of reasons I’m looking at a BRZ Limited with the sports package as my next car.

      It has the right performance backbone with the Brembo brakes, Sachs suspension, manual transmission, and adequate power. It also has just enough creature comforts for me with leather/alcantara heated seats, passable infotainment now but hopefully CarPlay by the time I pull the trigger. The aftermarket has answered the power problem with a litany of proven-reliable supercharger options to add once the warranty is over (easy enough to install over a weekend). Plus it has a back seat that is good enough for kids under 10, and our only one is 1.5 now.

      It is essentially the RWD RSX I always wanted when I owned mine, and the price will be right too. I can’t find much not to like. It could replace my S2000 and mazda 3 as an only car, which I haven’t thought of anything made in the last 6 or 7 years that can claim that.

  • avatar

    $2610 for navigation?!?!?

    How do manufacturers get away with this? A $79 Garmin will do the same thing. A *free* cell phone app will, too, as long as you get data where you’re driving.

    That price is downright criminal.

  • avatar

    Sleeve-dialing your wife is not a problem. The problem is when you also conference in your girlfriend.

  • avatar

    Those staggered exhaust tips look er, a bit 90s ricey. And that has a nose that only a mother could love. So much bumper overhang!

    If I was in the market – ha! that will be the day – for such a car I would go for one of the tuner Mustangs.

  • avatar

    It would be a REAL stretch to get one of these.. And with the horrible rear-seat ergonomics (I have 2 daughters around your age), doesn’t sound it’s worth even running the numbers..

  • avatar

    Color, styling touches…

    Why can my mind’s eye only see an internet troll driving this thing?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…where the power seat returned to a memory position incompatible with her booster-seated legs”

    Having never owned a car with memory seats, I’ve never considered this horrifying possibility.

    That loud orange color makes this niche car extra niche-y.

    • 0 avatar

      It works the other way too. My wife’s Volvo returns to its memory position based on the key fob used to unlock it. So if I use her to key to move the car I wind up with my knees pressed into the dash.

      The blue is much better, like all other Lexus you can get it several shades of grey.

  • avatar

    Infinity called and wants their C-pillar back.

  • avatar

    It’s a good car…it is the opposite of an enthusiasts dream car but Lexus has never been that…and it doesn’t appear special enough to become a classic or anything. At least Lexus has something in the segment and maybe make a buck or two off the LFA R&D in the process.

    This segment is already so saturated with horsepower at the limits of street-ability that it will be hard to make a splash. I think it fits right inline with the previous gen IS-F in being both unique in its design and exclusivity.

  • avatar

    Why is there a performance pack on the top-tier, super sport version of the coupe? If this is the pinnacle of their performance model, why aren’t those parts standard?

    Clearly, I know nothing about bringing a car to market in a profitable way because I’d make the performance pack standard and damn the profit margins. Hell, I’d make it part of my marketing strategy. “Why pay more for extra performance on a BMW when it is standard on the RC-F.”

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Is it built to go 250,000 miles like any other Toyota/Lexus? That’s Shelby GT money.

  • avatar

    Instagramming is the artificial flavoring of photography.

    If that photo *hasn’t* been Instagrammed may I please know it’s location? I’ve always wanted to swap Sol for a cooler K-type star.

  • avatar

    I think nav is the new ADP (“Additional Dealer Profit” that used to be on the window sticker of Japanese cars, for those who weren’t around in the ’80s). How Lexus can justify $2,610 for a chip, a GPS sensor, and a screen is beyond me, when the most expensive iPhone you can currently buy is $969. Selling $100 max of Chinese electronics for $2,610 is a great business to be in.

  • avatar

    All manufacturers overprice their nav units, but Lexus puts an extra twist on it by bundling it with the sweet ML audio. So to get one you must have the other.

    My sister purchased the big brother GS-F in the same color – saved a bundle because the dealer couldn’t sell it for 90 days. I call it the 80% car. You get 80% of the refinement of an LS and 80% of the BMW M5 in one car. No complaints so far except for the somewhat rude service dealership in San Jose (Stevens Creek). Apparently it’s a NorCal thing – the dealership we bought it from in SoCal was much friendlier.

    • 0 avatar

      This is not correct. I don’t know of any Lexus that bundles ML and nav. At least for LS, GS, IS, and RC, ML requires nav, but not the other way around.

      Almost no Lexus cars are produced without nav. It’s one of the options that will be on basically every car in dealer stock, along with blind-spot monitor and whichever package has heated and cooled front seats.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe every Lexus, even the cheapest is200t whatever has nav.

        The top of the line sport coupe? Yes.

        IMO this coupe is neither fish nor fowl. I can put up with a lot if its a $35k pony car… I can also put up with a lot if its a $200k supercar… but a $75k lexus type thing that isnt?


        • 0 avatar

          No, nav is an option on all except the LS and LX, just one that’s on almost all cars.

          One of the great virtues of Lexus is that it has accurate product information on the internet. No guessing or trying to figure out what vague webpages mean. There is a PDF precisely specifying standard and optional features for every model. Here is the one for the 2016 RC F, showing nav as optional, and required to get Mark Levinson:

          Also, one man’s “neither fish nor fowl” is another man’s Goldilocks.

  • avatar

    I saw a non-F version one of these in a sandy/metallic beige locally, you can almost see an old SC300 if you squint hard enough. I find the styling both inside and out a bit too jarring, but it is a pretty fetching combination of classic grand touring proportion with smooth Lexus qualities and Toyota’s solid 3.5L under the hood.

  • avatar

    A guy down the street from me has a lower-tier white RC (350?). I like the styling, I’m a big fan of Toyota/Lexus in general…but I would never buy this car. “Big, comfortable, and heavy” is just not what I want in a sports coupe.

    In Japan the RC-F is even more of a rip-off: they are priced at $90-$100k USD here (GS-F is the same). That’s imported C7 Z51 money. You basically can’t get a sporty V8-powered car here for less than ~$50-$60k for an imported Mustang. :~(

  • avatar

    If I’m going to buy a car in this segment, I want the real thing. Until the next RS5 debuts, that would be a C63. I don’t want the Lexus mutt that’s made from three old platforms that were chopped up and glued together.

    Speaking of, now that the RS5 is moving away from their old NA V8 to a turbo 6, expect Saturn V levels of thrust from that thing.

  • avatar

    This and the GS-F are probably the last of the naturally-aspirated scream machines.

  • avatar

    Very, very nice in orange.

  • avatar

    Wife and I drove these fast at Autobahn CC at Lexus event. They are a hoot.
    Still hard NOT to buy Vette at this price, though.
    But I love the transmission and brakes.

  • avatar

    Is this car based on the same platform as the BRZ and FR-S? Seems like it would be different since Toyobaru claims the BRZ/FR-S needs the junky NA flat four to keep the hood low. Needs moar V8 like this beauty. Can you imagine if Toyota made a Mustang competitor with this motor/chassis and sold it at Toyota dealers? Would it work or be another Genesis Coupe sales failure?

  • avatar

    The grill is still a deal breaker no matter how good the car is.

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    Clarkson hated these things on Top Gear last year.

    • 0 avatar

      My understanding is that they are just a bastardized mix of IS and GS platforms, and heavy as hell.

      The LC is looking much more interesting. And hopefully it does well enough they decide to not just chase the SL, but maybe go 911 hunting as well.

  • avatar

    It’s a Mustang GT with less panel gaps for twice as much money.

  • avatar

    Because it’s portly if I remember right. Probably fine for daily driving, but this thing is basically a 4,000lb car. This thing weight s 500 lbs more than a BMW M2, 300 lbs more than a Mustang GT and about 1000 lbs more than my 911.

    That is a fun killer.

  • avatar

    Who in their right mind would buy this slow, frankenstein-like machine over a C63 or M3/4?

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