2020 Lexus RC F Review - 'F' For Fast

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Lexus RC F Fast Facts

5.0-liter V8 (472 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm; 395 lb-ft @ 4,800-5,600 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
16 city / 24 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
14.4 city, 9.6 highway, 12.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$64,750 (U.S) / $85,450 (Canada)
As Tested
$89,504 (U.S.) / $97,000 (Canada)
Prices include $1,025 destination charge in the United States and $2,195 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 lexus rc f review f for fast

It’s no secret the Lexus RC F is fast. That’s what tends to happen when you drop a honkin’ V8 in a two-door luxury coupe.

That said, the RC F, and the RC coupe it’s based on, feel almost like mysteries, giving how they seem to be afterthoughts in a class that itself has become a bit of an afterthought in today’s crossover-crazed marketplace.

Afterthought, as used here, is a relative term – I know luxury sport coupes remain on the radar of the well-heeled buyer. But I get the feeling that when people think about cars in this class, BMW and Audi are more top of mind. Not to mention that when one thinks of Lexus, the RC probably doesn’t instantly flash into the minds-eye. Even when asked to think about Lexus performance models, I’d wager most people conjure up the LC or the IS F from a few years back.

Maybe I am wrong about such things – and if I am, I know you folks will tell me (and some of you will question my sanity and cognitive abilities in the process) – but I feel like the RC F just slips below the radar.

Even when slathered in bright yellow paint, like my loaner was.

Perhaps that’s for the better, should you possess a lead foot while failing to possess a radar detector.

So, the RC F blends. As much as it can, anyway, with the retina-searing paint and rumbling V8. Blend or not, it’s still a blast, although it’s the kind of car that needs to be tracked to fully unlock its abilities.

Underhood lies a 5.0-liter V8 that makes 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque without any forced induction. Yep, it’s a naturally-aspirated V8, something that’s a bit of a rarity – if not an afterthought – these days.

An eight-speed automatic transmission gets the grunt to the rear rubber.

A rear-drive, naturally-aspirated V8 sports coupe? How old-school.

It should not surprise you when I type that the RC F has more than enough gusto for merging or passing or getting you into trouble. Nor should it shock when I say the RC F handles acceptably well enough, despite some excess pounds (see below), to compete in this class. Lexus models, including performance cars, do tend to have heavy steering that feels a tad artificial, and that is the case here.

It should further be less than shocking to hear that the RC F is stiffly sprung, though still within the bounds of what’s acceptable for a luxury sport coupe that will spend more time in traffic than at the track. The suspension – double-wishbone in front, multilink in the rear – does have adaptive damping.

The biggest flaw here is weight – the RC F feels heavy. That’s not really an issue on the freeway, but it does make the car feel a bit porky in cornering.

As per usual with a Lexus performance vehicle, there are Sport and Sport+ drive modes, with the latter being the choice for when you truly want to get wild. Both will spice up the proceedings acceptably, though.

There’s a lot to be said for old-school, rip-roaring V8s and the sound they make. The exhaust-pipe soundtrack here is wonderful, so score that one in the “pros” column.

The RC F often reminds that Lexus started out as a company that initially focused on luxury cruising before figuring out how to hang with the track rats. Lexus gets a lot of the performance elements correct, mainly when it comes to the engine, but there’s still work to be done. A trip to the gym could shed some pounds, and some tweaks to the electrically assisted steering could make an already good car more engaging.

In short, when it comes to performance, the RC F is really good, but not yet ready to dethrone certain rivals.

Driving dynamics aside, the rest of the experience is pretty standard Lexus – class-competitive materials, plenty of creature comforts, gauges that switch depending on drive mode, and outdated infotainment. Oh, and that annoying touchpad controller for said infotainment.

Aside from the stiff ride and the more or less useless rear seats, the RC F doesn’t demand much in the way of compromise. At least not in terms of comfort – fuel economy is another matter, at 16/24/19.

A car that bases at $64K and prices out at $89K should be comfortable, of course.

The list of standard features is predictably long, including launch control, Apple CarPlay, Brembo brakes, 19-inch wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, rear wing, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-departure alert with steering assist, LED headlights and taillights, satellite radio, Wi-Fi, keyless entry and starting, sport seats, dual-zone climate control, Lexus’ Enform app suite, Bluetooth, USB, and the sometimes infuriating touchpad.

The options list is similarly long, with the big kahuna being the $11,400 Performance Package, which adds a carbon-fiber roof and carbon-fiber interior trim along with carbon-fiber aero bits that include a front spoiler, rocker-panel splitters, and diffuser. The package also adds a speed-sensitive carbon-fiber wing.

Other options included triple-beam LED headlights, a package that included navigation and Mark Levinson audio, orange paint for the brake calipers, parking assist, the yellow paint that makes bananas jealous, and $5,350 Premium Package that included heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and power tilt/telescope steering wheel. A torque-vectoring differential adds $1,250, and illuminated door sills finish off the tally.

For nearly $90K, you expect a special car. Especially if you’re starting from an already luxurious price point and ladling a Hyundai Elantra N Line’s worth of options on top. And the RC F comes close to that.

But alas, it falls in the realm of the merely very, very good. It’s something more than a grand tourer, thankfully, but something less than the truly sublime German metal (though the grille isn’t nearly as offensive as what’s been plastered on the face of you-know-what).

No one would kick the RC F out of their driveway, but would it be the first selection at a track-day event if one could choose from amongst it and its competitive set?

Probably not.

Still, it’s satisfying enough on most back roads. All it needs to really shine is a diet, some interior updates, and some steering adjustments.

Until then, there’s nothing wrong with being merely fast

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 13 comments
  • ToolGuy VW (marque not group) and Tesla very nearly switched positions on a YTD basis.
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