When it comes to high-performance coupés, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are tough to beat. But what if you want something a little different? The Lexus RC F could be the answer.
It is a high performance, mid-sized coupé blessed with four seats, a gigantic V8 engine, striking looks and what is probably the largest front grille a modern-day car has ever seen. To call it a big departure from your typical Lexus would be an understatement.
It comes in standard and Carbon trim – the later weighing 10 fewer kilograms, thanks to some carbon fibre panels. We drove the standard model, which costs £59,995 in the UK, to see if its Germanic rivals should be afraid.
Talk to senior Lexus people and they will admit their cars need to look more visually arresting. The edgy NX sports utility vehicle was the first step and the RC F is the follow up. It’s certainly dramatic, with pumped-up wheel arches, deep bumpers front and rear and that spindle-shaped grille seen on other recent models. “The RC F at the very least looks like a brutish sports car.”
It is a matter of personal taste as to whether it all hangs together well enough. Somehow the 19-inch wheels look a little on the small side from some angles, and the design lacks the cohesiveness of the NX. Choose the right wheel and colour option, however, and the RC F at the very least looks like a brutish sports car.
This may be a car with serious sporting intent but it is a Lexus at heart, so everyday functionality has not been sacrificed in the name of speed. With an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, four driving modes and three modes for the electronic differential where fitted, the RC F is barely more challenging than a GS or IS saloon to drive albeit considerably firmer.
Space for occupants in the front is good and the dedicated two rear seats provide ample elbow room for those in the back, although the sloping rear does cut into the headroom for taller folk. The boot, meanwhile, has a saloon-like aperture and checks in at a very healthy 366 litres.
Performance & handling
The RC F is certainly the most aggressive car Lexus has produced since the spectacular one-of-a-kind LFA supercar, owing to the 471bhp V8 up front and some serious hardware beneath the body.
The engine’s natural aspiration shows itself in two ways; firstly with a delicious engine note that gets better as the revs soar, and secondly with the need to rev it hard in the first place. It may have 391lbft (550Nm) of torque but you need to hit 5,000rpm to see all of it.
“It may have 391lbft (550Nm) of torque but you need to hit 5,000rpm to see all of it.”One of the key options for the RC F is the Torque Vectoring Differential (standard on the Carbon edition), which aims to give the driver a choice in how the car behaves. In reality you really have to be pushing on to exploit the subtle differences.
Of greater use is the four stage ESP system (VDIM in Lexus-speak) which includes an ‘Expert’ mode, allowing you a good degree of slip before the system intervenes to try and keep you out of trouble.
There’s no denying the RC F is fun and fast, but you need to work at it to enjoy the full potential, unlike the BMW M4 and its quieter six-cylinder engine. Even with greater power and torque, 0 to 62mph takes two-tenths longer for the RC F, at 4.5 seconds. Top speed is 168mph, mind you, bettering the limited 155mph in the M4
Economy & environment
The naturally aspirated approach also proves more costly when it comes to fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Helpfully the driving mode selection still includes an ‘Eco’ mode, which turns down the air conditioning and activates the stop-start system to improve the situation, but you will still be spending a lot of time pouring liquid gold into the thing.
The combined fuel consumption figure is 26.2mpg with emissions of 252g/km – significantly more than the BMW M4, which sneaks in at 194g/km when fitted with an automatic gearbox, but virtually identical to the similarly-powered Audi RS5.
Equipment & value
The £60,000 price tag and the fact it is a Lexus means the standard equipment list is impressive. Opt for the standard car and you get 19-inch wheels, a high-spec audio system with navigation and parking monitor, excellent sports seats, retractable rear spoiler and the mechanical limited slip differential.
The few things you can add as options include an electronic differential (price to be confirmed), Active Cruise Control with Pre-Crash Safety (£1,295), Mark Levinson audio system (£1,000) and a sunroof (£1,000). Hardly cheap extras, admittedly, but the RC F can happily live without them.
The RC F is groaning with safety kit and acronyms. You get eight airbags including knee bags for driver and front seat passenger as well as the usual combination of ABS, ESP, brakeforce distribution, hill-hold control and lane keep assist as standard.
Add powerful Brembo brakes and a body with numerous additional strengthening panels to the mix, and you can be safe in the knowledge this car will look after you should the worst happen. Other Lexus models have secured a five-star Euro NCAP rating and we expect the RC F to do the same.
The Lexus RC F is something of a flawed gem. So many of the ingredients are spot-on; the noisy and characterful V8, the sharp rear-drive chassis, powerful brakes, firm suspension and the fact it is beautifully built and very well-specified.
This is a car that works best either when taking it steady in full auto mode or being thrashed silly – it’s much less compelling when driven somewhere in between, which is probably most of the time. Relatively high fuel bills that go with V8 ownership will also be a turn off for some.
The BMW M4 is better on paper even but feels more artificial than the RC F. Audi’s RS5 is fun but flawed, while the next-generation Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG has yet to arrive but is likely to be a corker.
Buying the RC F over any of these alternatives would not be a bad choice, merely an unusual one. It will almost certainly be a satisfying and fun car to own, which is exactly the point of a performance coupé.