“Buck and a quarter?” the guy asked, walking by as I was filling the gas tank. A shot of panic coursed through me. Had he been following me and recognized the car? Or was he inquiring about the price? Yeah. Yeah, that made more sense. I relaxed.
“Actually this is eighty-two, though they start at sixty-five thousand.”
He slowed his walk, nodding, eyebrows raised, impressed. He looked the car over more thoroughly. “It’s nice.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Yeah, it’s fast all right. I’m regularly finding myself doing almost twice the speed limit wherever I go. I don’t mean to – I don’t need a speeding ticket – but that 5.0L 32-valve V8 engine is just SO MUCH FUN to wind out that I can’t help myself. That the suspension keeps right up with the engine makes it sublime to drive and very easy to go fast.
With the introduction of the 2020 RC F and limited-edition RC-F Track Edition in Detroit this past January, we eagerly looked forward to checking it out. Before it’s available to the press though, Lexus offered us a few days with the outgoing model. Not having experienced the RC F before, I jumped at the opportunity to familiarize myself with the old RC F in order to gauge the changes and improvements in the new RC F.
The body is pure Lexus, from the trademark grille to the expressive tail lights. It hints at the gorgeous LC 500 but it’s not as seductive. A smaller, more compact package with big wheels and enormous Brembo brakes. The hood looks swollen, as if it’s bulging from the power contained under it. The roof and rear wing are carbon fiber (a $5500 option). Design is subjective but we like it. Especially in the Ultrasonic Blue paint.
Suede and carbon fiber heavily decorate the interior to nice effect. There’s a sporting luxuriousness to it. Or a luxurious sportiness. The front seats are heavily bolstered and supportive. They’re both ventilated and heated for comfort. The back seats are an afterthought. There’s not enough legroom for an adolescent child, let alone an adult. But this is a driver’s car, not a family hauler. The view out is good, with few blind spots. It has a simple and easy-to-navigate interior.
Controls are traditionally laid out and simple to understand. The trademark Lexus infotainment touchpad occupies it’s rightful place on the center console next to the drive mode selector. The mode selector offers you Eco Mode, Sport Mode, and Sport+ Mode which firms up the suspension. There’s also a “Snow” button to give safer handling in inclement weather and a TVD button that allows you to choose from pre-loaded electronic programs that enhance the cars ability for either slalom and track.
Settling into the bolstered seats, you find they’re surprisingly comfortable and stabilize your torso well enough to encourage you to take a fast set of corners. Pressing the Start button, the big V8 revs to life before settling into a quiet rumble that makes people take note. Slip the transmission into drive and head on out. The V8 provides plenty of power. PLENTY. Flex your right foot and it quickly goes from quiet rumble to loud yell as the exhaust butterfly valves open up. However in “Normal” mode the engine resists being unnecessarily revved if it doesn’t have to be.
It gives the impression of refinement, as if racing around like a hooligan is beneath it. You know the power is there but it lurks in the background for the sake of politeness, coming out only when insistently prompted. It tries to be frugal and efficient in order to reduce it’s carbon footprint and save you a few dollars at the gas pump.
It tries. It really does. But twist the mode selector dial to Sport and the engine loosens right up and gets more responsive, more eager to rev, more willing to eschew fuel efficiency for the sake of unbridled speed. Dial the mode selector to Sport+ and the suspension firms up under you. Suddenly the shifts are harder and sharper. The throttle response is immediate and it accelerates frenetically to it’s 7200rpm redline. The engine blips and downshifts as you brake. It’s like Superman emerging from the phone booth Clark Kent just entered. Or an automotive Jekyll and Hyde.
The suspension provides a firm but compliant ride in Normal mode. It’s comfortable and capable. In Sport+ mode it becomes much firmer but it’s still not jarring or harsh. There’s little lean through corners, even when really pushing, and the Michelin Sport Cup tires ensure that the car stays planted and holds it’s line as it roars through them. There’s no drama, it just goes, doing what you ask of it. And should the back tires break free – the big V8 can do it quite easily – the drift is predictable and easily controlled – balanced. Easy to catch and reign back in. It’s a remarkably tossable car.
And should some distracted housewife, lost in her grocery list and distracted by screaming children, pull out in front of you while you’re pushing extralegal speed, the big Brembo brakes (6-piston front, 4-piston rear) clamp down on the large rotors and scrub off speed with ease. The brake pedal is firm and gives good feedback, without any sponginess or grabbiness. As far as brake systems go, the RC F’s is fantastic.
The steering is steady but sharp, with excellent bite at turn-in. It never fights you but does as you ask it. Transitional response is superb for such a heavy car, especially when TVD is in “slalom” mode. Yet cruising down the road at a sedate pace, it doesn’t feel nervous or darty but solidly smooth and relaxed, like a powerful luxury car should.
Get tired of letting the car shift itself? The RC F has a set of paddle shifters behind the wheel that shift immediately and greatly improve the driving fun.
The beautiful thing about the RC F is how well everything works together to make it a comfortable luxury coupe with the ability to devour a race track. Lexus is to be commended for the perfect dual-nature of this automobile. I’ve had the opportunity to drive a few Lexus F Sports, which are capable cars with some serious sporting potential, but this – this is just sublime.
It’s a true driving machine that will slap a smile across your face almost instantly. Every drive we took became an adventure. Every on-ramp a pit exit. Push it as hard as you want, it can handle it. Just make sure you’re ready. A back road blast can leave your palms sweaty, your heart racing, and your nerves in tatters. It has so much potential that the only place you’ll find it’s limits is on a race track. Anything else is simply suicidal. Then switch the mode selector back to normal and motor sedately home while the air conditioning keeps you cool and comfortable. Perfect dual-nature.
In the week we spent with it, we couldn’t find any flaws. It’s really that good. Besides the LC 500, the RC F has to be the most exciting Lexus we’ve driven yet, and with a price tag that starts at $65,000 USD it’s a virtual bargain. We’re now very eager and ready to experience the 2020 RC F.