The 2020 Lexus RC F Is a Performance Car at Odds With Its Luxury Station
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Product: RC F
Release Date: Mid-2019
Price: $64,750 base / $89,960 as-tested
It’s been a while since I was fixed up on a date, but I remember the drill: You’ve been linked up with a person who seems to be a match based on mutual interests. You’ve even seen a photo or two. and you’re intrigued enough to give things a whirl. Expectations run high. It’s either going to be magical or a horrible tragedy…
…but the reality ends up being somewhere in the middle. You get on well, and there are admirable qualities to this person, but the connection isn’t there. You really believe the right person for them is out there, it just isn’t you — and you even feel a little guilty for not falling head over heels for them.
That’s how I felt about the 2020 Lexus RC F. It’s a great car I should’ve loved…but didn’t.
What We Like
At first sight, the Lexus RC F makes a solid impression. The blend of luxury styling around an aggressive package communicates that this is a coupe meant to tear up the track by day and drop you off at the club at night. Like a boxer working as part-time muscle, the elegant exterior of the RC F barely contains the bruiser underneath. Usual Lexus trappings like the spindle grille front fascia are exaggerated, and further accented by the hood and wheel well vents. The rest of the design looks more stately and traditional; what bold choices taken are much more subdued that the ones up front. It contributes to a fun-house mirror effect in person that really makes the front end stand out — but look at it from afar, and it presents a fairly clean package.
The centerpiece to the RC F is the 5.0-liter V8 that gins up 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. Funneled through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Lexus lays down enough power to the rear to please any driver looking to “stunt on some fools,” as goes the parlance. Eager to see if the RC F can put its money where its mouth is, I took it to Monticello Motor Club and pitted it against its 4.1-mile track.
Rolling out of pit lane, I was hesitant to join the pack of performance cars out running laps. The Lexus was an odd duck among them, but it didn’t take long for the RC F to find its groove. From the jump, the RC F has the grunt to get up and going very quickly, bludgeoning its way out of corners and shooting down straightaways. The 14.9-inch six-piston Brembo front brakes worked wonders bringing the RC F to a halt, and remained consistent throughout multiple sessions.
Watch Out For
The RC F’s cabin starts to betray the RC F’s identity crisis. Split between luxury and sport, the interior of the Lexus tries to support the Lexus standard of comfort and elegance while also appealing to the youthful lead-foots who don’t want “dad’s stuffy Lexus” but still want to be taken seriously. The end result is a suit-with-sneakers vibe that is not inherently bad, but will probably turn off those who expect a certain level of Lexus-level panache.
Take or leave the design, and you still need to reconcile with the functionality of the cockpit. There are plenty of menus and options to dig through in both the gauge cluster display and through the infotainment system. The layout of the cabin doesn’t lend to touchscreen functionality and instead sticks to the trackpad that’s been a mainstay for Lexus and Toyota vehicles for some time. Haptic vibrations and snap-to item selection helps in execution, but the track pad is still tricky to use while on the move. There is, thankfully, an array of physical buttons to reach for when it comes to most, but the layout struggles to make the best of the real estate provided. Compatibility with Apple CarPlay does make things feel a little more familiar to the iOS-inclined.
And while the harmonious moments behind the wheel of the RC F on track were great, it took work to get there. In its track-reading setting — with the steering tight, the throttle response maxed out and the torque vectoring differential keyed to give you its best — the Lexus still felt overburdened. All the good work it was doing felt less in service of achieving maximum speed and mostly to keep from tripping over its own feet.
By the end of the day at MMC, I felt like I’d explored all the performance the RC F had. Though it did indeed prove it could walk the walk, it didn’t leave me wanting more. It’s fun to drive, it’s got the looks and has plenty of performance capabilities for any RC F owner to take to the occasional track day, but those who want to make that a regular thing will quickly find the car holding them back. (Perhaps that’s when they buy the RC F track edition.) It’s got performance enough to hold its own on a track day, but there are diminishing returns on the excitement it provides.
Stylish, sleek, and sexy, the RC F turns heads no matter where it goes. But for some, it may just not be love at first drive.
Lexus provided this product for review.
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