There’s a lot to like underneath the Lexus RC F’s rather, er, distinctive bodywork. As a luxury muscle coupe with a naturally aspirated V-8 for a heart, it is still impressively high tech, sumptuously appointed for everyday comfort, and nicely composed when pushed hard. Lexus dialed up the RC F’s excitement for 2020 with a new Track Edition and a host of small updates across the lineup. While those changes succeed in making the standard RC F a touch better to drive, they fail to sufficiently address its oppressive curb weight.
We’ve already driven the drift-happy RC F Track Edition, which costs $97,825 and adds carbon-fiber body panels and aerodynamic appendages as well as carbon-ceramic brake rotors. Additional weight-saving measures that it shares with the regular model—including hollow half-shafts and more aluminum in its suspension—help the Track Edition drop a significant 253 pounds versus the last RC F we tested, a 2015 model. The net result is a 3.2-second quicker lap time around Virginia International Raceway’s Grand Course. We expect its other performance metrics to also improve once we get one to the test track.
As for the regular RC F tested here, however, its weight reduction is almost nonexistent. At 4017 pounds, our test car is only 31 pounds lighter than before and remains roughly 400 pounds heavier than a BMW M4. The RC F’s 5.0-liter V-8 is as smooth revving and sweet sounding as ever, emitting a prominent intake honk at lower rpm that gives way to a burly snarl as it approaches its 7250-rpm redline. Minor changes, including a lighter intake manifold, help it produce 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque—increases of 5 horses and 6 pound-feet. Yet, as much as we enjoy the sound and direct response of a naturally aspirated V-8, it’s easy to see why most manufacturers have replaced them with smaller turbocharged powerplants that unfurl their maximum torque just off idle. In the RC F, you have to spin its 5.0-liter mill to a lofty 4800 revs for it to reach peak twist. Which is fun but not necessarily quick, particularly in a car as heavy as this Lexus.
Despite a shortened final-drive ratio (3.13:1 versus the previous 2.97:1) and the best efforts from the snappy, Aisin-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission, the RC F’s V-8 takes a beat to wake up from a good poke of its accelerator. This is partly because Lexus relaxed the engine’s throttle tuning for a more linear feel, but the recalibration makes the RC F feel slower than its 472 horsepower suggests. While we expect the Track Edition to join virtually all of the RC F’s competitors in the sub-four-second-to-60-mph club, the standard RC F misses the cut with a 4.1-second time—a mere 0.1 second quicker than the previous car. Similarly, its unimpressive 12.7-second quarter-mile pass at 113 mph is about the same as before. Although electronic launch control has been added for the new model year, our quickest acceleration runs were made without it.
The RC F’s Sport drive mode is our preferred setup for spirited cruising, as it maintains a luxury-car comportment yet slightly sharpens the responses of the drivetrain and brings a bit more engine and exhaust noise versus the standard setting. You have to step up to Sport+ for the RC F to feel athletic. Regardless of the mode, the eight-speed transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, although the V-8’s dearth of torque at low rpm can cause the gearbox to hunt for the best gear ratio. To keep the V-8 on boil through corners, we often found ourselves manually tapping the responsive shift paddles on the back of the steering wheel. While we never tired of winding out the RC F’s engine, doing so did drop our average fuel economy to 16 mpg, the same as the EPA’s city estimate. Cruising on our 75-mph highway loop returned a far more impressive 27 mpg, which is 3 mpg better than its federal highway rating.
The RC F’s drive modes also control its adaptive dampers, which offer a considerable range of ride stiffness. The Sport+ setting produces a lot of vertical heaving on poorly maintained roads, but overall ride comfort and body control are excellent. There’s no hiding the RC F’s girth on a twisty back road, but stiffer bushings for the rear subframe and the electrically assisted steering rack do help it feel more precise over undulations and quick transitions.
All 2020 RC Fs receive refreshed front and rear bumpers, headlights, and taillights, plus Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires in place of the previous Pilot Super Sports. Our test car also featured the optional torque-vectoring differential (TVD), which is a $1250 more than the standard Torsen limited-slip diff. Although Lexus’s engineers preferred the directness of the standard rear end for the RC F Track Edition, we’ve already proven that the TVD setup is the quicker way to go in the regular model. The system has three settings (Standard, Slalom, and Track) that are controlled via a button on the center console, with Track providing the most noticeable improvement to the car’s agility, especially on corner exits. Aided by the new Michelins, our example posted 0.98 g of grip around the skidpad, which is up from the previous model’s 0.95 g. However, its so-so 163-foot stop from 70 mph is nine feet longer than before.
The RC F’s interior largely carries over for 2020 and warrants few complaints. Its cushy-yet-supportive front seats are all-day comfortable, and the cabin’s overall execution is satisfying to both touch and look at. The driving position is excellent, the two rear seats fit actual adult humans, and driver conveniences abound, although Lexus’s distracting touchpad infotainment interface is still present.
At its $65,925 base price, the 2020 RC F is compelling as a V-8 luxury coupe but less so as an outright performance machine. However, its appeal is far less convincing at our test car’s $89,654 asking price, with the bulk of that upcharge coming from the $11,400 Performance package (carbon-fiber roof, spoiler, and exterior accents) that’s bundled with the otherwise separate $5350 Premium package of convenience features. While that’s more than we’d be willing to spend on any RC F, the even-pricier Track Edition does showcase this Lexus’s potential when it’s burdened with less mass. We just wish more of the Track Edition’s mass-reduction tricks would trickle down to the standard car.
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