This week we’ve had the Lexus RC F in for test, a Lexus RC Coupe with a potent, naturally aspirated V8 which aims to take on the BMW M4.
It’s more than two years since the Lexus RC F arrived as a Lexus Coupe aiming to take on cars like the BMW M4 and AMG C63 as a car which offered a bit more comfort and a Japanese take on what it takes to make an appealing premium performance coupe.
The Lexus RC was already a handsome coupe, and the F take on that has seen a suitable level of machismo and aggression dialled in to its looks, with bulbous bits where they should be, more imposing grille and bigger wheels and tyres.
But what sets the RC F apart is what’s under the bonnet – a delightful, naturally aspirated 5.0 litre V8 with 471bhp.
That should pique the interest of anyone with petrol running through their veins, although the extra weight the RC F carries over the competition may just dull that appeal, or even more than negate it.
Lexus RC F Coupe Inside and Out
Lexus design may once have been a bit bland and beige, but the GS spindle grille started almost a revolution in design for Lexus, and the RC F has looks no Lexus would have had a decade ago.
The big grille points at the horizon and dominates the front end, with gaping air intakes each side below shouting the need to gulp air in to the brakes.
The headlights have a distinctly Lexus shape, and the running lights are a ‘swoosh’ (Lexus/Nike style), lots of angles running down the flanks, big turbine alloys, a long opening behind the front wheels, a bulging back end and stacked quad tailpipes at the back. It’s convincing.
Inside is a little more tame than the exterior, but you do get some great grippy seats, a chunky steering wheel, plenty of leather and a digital display for the instruments which changes depending on driving mode and is inspired by the LFA.
The centre console is imposing and logically laid out, the infotainment screen can convey much more than the basics and there’s a general feeling that the RC F is a properly quality product.
That feeling of quality is helped in no small part by a decent spec which includes leather, Cruise, Smart Entry and Climate as well as a Mark Levinson sound system, Lexus Premium Sat Nav with DAB, Premium Nav Pack and Carbon Inlays.
There are a few niggles, including the less than perfect touchpad for the infotainment, the cramped back seats (don’t even think of putting anyone past puberty in the back), the miserly size of the infotainment screen and what, by modern standards, seems a glut of buttons, switches and things to prod.
But actually, like all Lexus interiors, it is so well put together and so appealing that it just feels right. It’s better than the sum of its parts.
Lexus RC F Coupe Performance on the Road
There’s really only one reason to buy a car like the RC F, and that’s for the performance.
But jump in this naturally aspirated V8-engined Lexus and you would be forgiven for thinking it’s quite a pussycat.
Unlike many of its ilk, it really is very happy to poodle around town, where its firm, but pliant, setup, little road noise and great insulation make it a very peaceful and pleasant place to be.
Equally, on a motorway you really could be in almost any Lexus, in a great cabin with great seats just letting the miles roll by.
But if the opportunity arises, by design or by accident, to floor the throttle and attack some bends, the RC F starts to show what it has to offer. And it’s not a small offering.
The RC F’s 0-62mph is a very respectable 4.5 seconds and top speed 168mph, although you do have to work quite hard to get the acceleration you’d expect, with the RC F’s engine only really coming alive over 4,000 revs.
But when it does decide to properly wake up, it wakes up with a bellow and a roar that only a naturally aspirated V8 could summon, and you forgive all that went before as the hairs on your arms wake up and say hello, and a smile starts to grow.
Trouble is, the RC F isn’t a lightweight, and that does show if you start to get anywhere near the edge of its abilities, with steering that just seems to be lacking that last bit of control, and handling that just isn’t quite as sharp as you’d expect.
Perhaps that’s the trick torque vectoring diff fitted to this car which makes the car feel just a little antiseptic through the bends, although there’s no arguing it has great grip and poise, or perhaps the settings we’d finally settled on weren’t ideal?
That’s not to say the RC F isn’t good in the bends – it really is – or that it doesn’t have impressive performance, because it does.
But it all seems a slightly odd balance of abilities.
There seems to be more of an emphasis on the RC F’s abilities in everyday motoring than at the extreme. The RC F almost seems a better car when it’s not at the edge of what it can do, whereas the point of a car like this is to be at its best when it’s wrung out to the edge.
It’s good, but it’s confusing.
Lexus RC F Coupe Review Verdict
There’s an awful lot to like about the RC F, but we ended up a bit confused by it.
We love the naturally aspirated V8 engine, but we were a bit frustrated it seems set up to be lethargic at low revs and modest throttle inputs.
That said, it made for quiet and stress free travel in everyday situations, and the Lexus-good cabin was a treat to be in. The spec is great too, with almost everything you could want coming as standard.
The only thing that didn’t was the trick Torque Vectoring Differential. Frankly, we didn’t really get on with it. Perhaps we needed a track to properly appreciate what it can do for handling?
That lack of response below 4,000 revs also saw us being a lot harder on the car than we would have been if it picked up quicker. That saw us average just 18.1mpg, which isn’t awful for the performance you can wring out of the RC F, but is a bit of an ouch. Owners would doubtless get in the 20s.
All the ingredients, and more, for a cracking car are present and correct, with a chassis which can clearly handle the power, and an engine which has an appealing response and output, albeit in the top half of its rev range.
But for us the RC F is just a bit wide of its target, and feels a bit confused.
That said, there’s is much to enjoy about the RC F, and it’s frustratingly close to being a terrific car, it just misses the mark for us even though it’s got a cabin and exterior design which is as appealing as anything it competes against, and a spec which has almost nothing missing.
If you are in the market for a car like the RC F – a BMW M4 or Mercedes C 63 AMG, perhaps – make sure you go and have a good play with the RC F before you take the plunge.
Because you might just find it ticks all the boxes for you.
Lexus RC F Coupe Review Photos
2017 Lexus RC F Coupe Specs
- Engine: 4969cc 471bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 4.5 seconds / Top Speed 168mph
- Economy: 26.2mpg – Official / 18.1mpg – Test
- Emissions: 252g/km
- Price: £60,495
- Test car supplied by Lexus UK