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Ford’s growling Mustang GT isn’t the only rear-wheel drive performance coupe powered by a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine on the Australian new car market.
Pfft! Those things are everywhere. If you’re willing to literally double-down and spend twice the pony car’s circa $65K asking price, the Lexus RC F comes into range; the Japanese luxury brand’s take on a two-door, four-seat, muscle car.
Rather than wrestling with the blue oval, it’s a challenger to the German ‘Big Three’, pitching its deep-breathing, high-revving atmo power against shove-in-back, low-down, turbo-torque.
We spent a week behind the wheel to see how this mature, but recently updated machine, measures up in 2020.
|Lexus RC 2020: RC F Enhancement Pack 3|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Base price for the Lexus RC F is $134,129, before on road costs, which puts it in the same ballpark as the BMW M2 CS ($147,400), undercuts the Audi RS5 Coupe ($157,700), and prices it above Merc-AMG’s C 43 Coupe ($116,500).
The ‘Enhancement Pack 3’ (EP3) option bundle fitted to our test car (19-inch BBS alloys, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, titanium exhaust, carbon fibre cabin trim, and glass sunroof), adds $29,161, for an as-tested total of $163,290, which stars to push it into even tougher territory (think M4 CS and C 63 S).
But aside from the EP3 extras, the RC F is well furnished when it comes to standard features, with highlights including, semi-aniline leather accented trim, electrically adjusted (10-way with memory), heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, plus a 10.3-inch centre screen (managed via the ‘Remote Touch’ interface and voice recognition) running satellite navigation (with live traffic updates) and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system (including digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality).
Other boxes ticked include, auto-fold exterior mirrors (with auto-dimming, heating and memory), auto LED headlights (with active high beam), LED DRLs, indicators, and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, an 8.0-inch multi-function digital driver display, leather-trimmed gearshift and (electric height and reach adjustable) steering wheel, ‘Drive Mode Select’ (Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+, and Custom modes), ‘Adaptive Variable Suspension’ (Normal and Sport S modes), and ‘Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management’ (Sport S+ and Expert modes).
Along with the standard safety tech (detailed in the Safety section below) that’s a pretty handy basket of fruit that stands up well relative to the asking price and competition.
At just over 4.7m long, a bit more than 2.0m wide and less than 1.4m high, the RC F has a classically macho wide coupe stance with a distinctive Lexus twist.
In a late 2019 refresh the RC F was upgraded with suitably jagged single-piece, LED headlights and an even wider version of Lexus’ signature ‘spindle grille’ featuring a new mesh pattern.
Pumped up guards sitting over the standard 19-inch BBS rims feature gills behind them to help smooth airflow around the front of the car, stabilise it overall, and exhaust cooling air flowing around the brakes.
A revised rear diffuser is now body coloured, the stacked-at-an-angle quad exhaust pipes are a Lexus ‘F’ hallmark, stainless steel window trims are now dark rather than bright thanks to a thicker oxide film covering, and the LED tail-lights feature a new L-shaped insert.
Of course, a car’s looks are always subjective, but I think the RC F’s interior is super cool, combining long, flowing graphics on the seats and doors, with rounded, multi-level sections and brushed metal finishes across the dashboard.
The racy instrument binnacle tips its hat to classic sports cars of the ‘60s, the analogue clock between the central air vents could come off as cheesy, but actually looks great, and the large multimedia screen set ‘rear-of-stage’ at the top of the dash is subtly integrated.
True to form, this Lexus is beautifully finished with an obvious eye to design detail and manufacturing quality. Which makes its biggest failing all the more irritating.
The ‘Remote Touch’ control pad behind the gearshift in the centre console managing settings in the media system is hateful.
Operating in similar fashion to a laptop mousepad (only worse) despite available adjustments for speed/sensitivity, even on its most benign setting it is maddeningly over-reactive and inaccurate. Lexus should just put its hand up, say “My bad” and retire it, yesterday.
Practicality is unlikely to be high on the priority list for anyone shopping for a car like this, but comfort and convenience certainly will be.
And the RC F delivers just that for its front seat passengers, providing lots of space, as well as numerous storage options, including long door bins with room for smaller bottles, two cupholders in the centre console, a large, lidded storage box/armrest between the seats (housing twin USB-A ports, an aux-in jack, and a 12V socket), as well as a decent glove box.
But that space we were just talking about pretty much evaporates when you move to the back. This is a classic ‘2+2.’ The electric folding and sliding front seats make access okay, however, sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm height, headroom is tragic, legroom is tight, and toe room is bad.
So, let’s assume it’s a kids-only area, and once ensconced back there, they’ll appreciate a fold down centre armrest, two cupholders between the seats (with a roll-top cover), and adjustable air vents. But there isn’t a USB point in sight which may lead to friction when devices lose charge, or a plug-in negotiation with front-seaters.
Lexus claims a modest boot volume of 366 litres (VDA) and it’s important to note that although there’s a ‘ski-port’ door to accommodate lengthy things (like skis?) the rear seats don't fold down. So, flexibility is limited, although there are tie-down hooks at each corner of the floor to help secure tricky loads.
The Lexus RC F is a no-tow zone, and don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only immediate option. Good thing roadside assistance is included in the warranty package.
The Lexus RC F is powered by the latest iteration of the brand’s (2UR-GSE) 5.0-litre, naturally aspirated V8 engine.
Featuring exotic touches such as a dual variable valve timing (with electric actuation on the inlet side), dual-length intake runners, forged connecting rods, titanium valves, and the ‘D-4S’ control system (combining port and direct-fuel injection) it produces 351kW (471hp) at 7100rpm, and 530Nm from 4800-5600rpm.
Drive goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed (torque converter) automatic transmission with a new ‘AI-Shift’ control designed to adapt to the driver’s style and shift drive modes more effectively, as well as a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 11.1L/100km, the V8 emitting 254g/km of CO2 in the process.
In our week with the car, over a combination of city, suburban and freeway conditions (including some enthusiastic B-road running) we recorded an average of 12.8L/100km, which, while not exactly frugal, is still impressive for a V8, performance-focused coupe.
Minimum fuel requirement is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank.
To help avoid a crash the expected systems like ABS, EBD, brake assist, as well as stability and traction controls are all on-board.
And despite its relatively advanced age (the RC was launched globally in 2014) the RC F hasn’t been left behind, with more recent safety developments also included.
Specifically, pre-collision warning (including AEB, with pedestrian detection), active cruise control, lane-departure warning (with steering assist), vehicle sway warning, auto high beam, blind-spot monitoring, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic alert.
But if an impact is unavoidable, you’re protected by eight airbags (driver and front passenger front and side [thorax], driver and front passenger knee, and side curtain bags).
Pedestrians aren’t forgotten either, the RC F featuring sensors able to detect if the front bumper has collided with a person, immediately lifting the back of the bonnet up by around 65mm, to help absorb impact force. Interestingly, the ‘Pop-up Hood’ sensors won’t deploy this function if the car collides with anything else.
There are top tether points and ISOFIX anchors to securely fit baby capsules/child restraints in both rear seat positions.
4 years / 100,000 km warranty
The standard Lexus warranty in Australia is four years/100,000km, which outscores the likes of Audi and BMW on duration (both at three years) but trails on kilometres (both offering unlimited km).
Then there’s Merc, which has gazumped all the luxury players with five year/unlimited km cover. Plus, there’s the fact that the mainstream market standard is now five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
To balance the scales, the ‘Lexus Encore Privileges’ program provides 24-hour roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty, as well as access to owner events and special offers.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/15,000km (whichever comes first), and Encore capped price servicing is available for a three year period, averaging $595 annually, for an all-in cost of $1785.
A Lexus loan car is provided while your pride and joy is in the workshop, or a pick-up and return option (from home or office) is available in some instances. You’ll also receive a complimentary wash and interior vacuum. Nice.
A performance car should excite the senses, but the RC-F leans on one a little harder than the rest… hearing.
With the addition of launch control in last year’s update the big V8 will reliably slingshot you from 0-100km/h in just 4.5sec, which is no mucking around quick. But it’s the combination of raucous induction noise, furious mechanical roar, and bellowing titanium exhaust that add extra drama to the experience.
Fact is though, while maximum torque of 530Nm is not to be sneezed at, that number is only available from 4800-5600rpm. Although the RCF starts to get into its stride at about 3000rpm, the twin-turbo BMW M2 CS smashes it for mid-range punch with its 550Nm on tap from just 2350rpm.
So, in everyday, even mildly enthusiastic driving, the RC F sounds amazing, and don’t get me wrong, this is a proper performance car, but it doesn’t have the low-down, kick-in-the-pants grunt of its turbocharged six and eight cylinder competitors.
Linear power delivery, and the crisp throttle response only a naturally aspirated engine can deliver go some way to evening things up, however, and there are multiple systems to help tune the drive experience to your exact preference.
‘Drive Mode Select’ offers five settings (Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+, and Custom).
Eco lowers engine output, dampens the throttle, and dulls the air-con in the name of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. But you’re not buying this car to save the planet, so don’t touch that button, Sport S is the sweet spot (and save Sport S+ for track days).
Quick gearshifts from the eight-speed auto (particularly using the wheel-mounted paddles), that rapid throttle response, and nice steering feel work seamlessly together to deliver a satisfying backroad experience. Sport S holds gears longer on the way up the ratios, and is quicker to shift on the way back down.
In a more civilised mode, with eight gears to play with, freeway cruising is relaxed, especially given the top two ratios are overdriven.
The ‘Adaptive Variable Suspension’ offers Normal and Sport S modes, and here normal is the go. The basic set-up is double wishbone front, multi-link rear, and Lexus says the SACHS-developed AVS shocks can adjust damping force across a range of 30 levels. But even in the default Normal setting the ride is firm.
According to Lexus, the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres (255/35 fr / 275/35 rr) have been tailored specifically to the RC F and they grip hard, keeping the 1715kg coupe planted in quick corners. But their narrow profile no doubt contributes to the car’s less than limo-like feel around town.
Then the ‘Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management’ system fine tunes the car’s stability control in Sport S+ and Expert modes. Expert only happens when you’re in Sport S+ and turn the stability control off. So again, best to go full racer at the circuit, and we didn’t explore VDIM this time around.
The electrically-assisted steering is not only accurate (the strength of the steering rack bushing has been increased by 150 per cent to boost response), but the wheel itself feels great, and the huge (380mm) Brembo carbon ceramic brakes are mega (working well from cold unlike some other carbon set-ups).
Under the heading of notable mentions, the digital instrument cluster is inspired by the V10-powered Lexus LFA supercar, switching between a blue economy indicator ring in Eco mode, a standard tachometer and digital speedometer in Normal, a white and red cluster in Sport S, and orange in SPORT S+ (with three-stage upshift indicator lights).
Plus, you can also switch between racy functions such as a lap timer and G-force display, and soft-trim knee pads on the sides of the front centre console improve comfort and seating stability if you’re having a crack.
There’s so much to like about the Lexus RC F EP3. A glorious atmo V8 soundtrack, sharp dynamics, plus loads of standard features and safety tech in a beautifully engineered four-seat coupe package. It can’t match the turbos for mid-range thump, and if you need practicality look elsewhere, but it’s the type of performance car we’ll be looking back at in years to come as one of the last to proudly hold its head above a rising tide of turbos, hybrids, and electric hot rods.
|RC F||5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$105,900 – 133,870||2020 Lexus RC 2020 RC F Pricing and Specs|
|RC F Enhancement Pack 1||5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$109,900 – 138,930||2020 Lexus RC 2020 RC F Enhancement Pack 1 Pricing and Specs|
|RC F Enhancement Pack 2||5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$109,900 – 138,930||2020 Lexus RC 2020 RC F Enhancement Pack 2 Pricing and Specs|
|RC F Enhancement Pack 3||5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$129,000 – 163,130||2020 Lexus RC 2020 RC F Enhancement Pack 3 Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|
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