2016 Lexus RC F Review

Take one look at today’s sports car landscape and the truth is undeniable: The Lexus RC F is the last of a dying breed.

Its naturally aspirated V8 that sounds like it’s ready to rip a hole in the sky when the skinny pedal reaches the floor puts the RC F in rare company as the only sports car of its ilk outside of an American muscle car to go without forced induction, a holdover from a bygone era of raw, unadulterated power. Natural aspiration is no longer the rule — it’s the exception.

Muscle-bound Brute

Cast aside all doubt that the RC F is anything but the automaker’s take on the muscle car of yesteryear. Nestled between the front wheels is a 5.0-liter V8 that, unlike much of the competition, breathes on its own, relying on variable cam phasing, a longer cylinder stroke and high compression ratio — 12.3:1 — to get the job done. The burly eight-cylinder puts down 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque but takes a while to get there, waiting until a screaming 7,100 rpm for the full monty of horsepower, and 4,800 rpm for all that torque to come online. That’s a far cry from the RC F’s turbocharged adversaries, which put all their twist down as early as 1,750 rpm despite the usual bouts of lag associated with strapping a snail to the exhaust manifold.

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The engine’s power heads rearward through a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic, making a quick pitstop at a limited-slip — or available torque vectoring — differential before hitting the wheels. And when it does, the RC F is lights out, accelerating from a standstill to 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds. It’s not the fastest sprint in the segment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t smile-inducing.

Getting F’d Up

The F monicker is to Lexus what the M division is to BMW, or AMG to Mercedes-Benz. It’s all about performance, and lots of it. The concept, then, is to take something sensible — in this case the Lexus RC coupe — and make it downright silly.

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The RC F’s chassis, like the RC coupe from which it was born, is a bit of a parts-bin franken-car, and is built from the front and rear clips of the GS and IS sedans, respectively, and the center section of the extinct IS convertible. The RC F is slightly wider, longer and lower than the RC coupe, and adds a handful of functional intake and outlet ducts that improve cooling and aerodynamics. Likewise, the self-actuating rear spoiler — which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic with the performance pack — boosts aerodynamic performance, and looks good doing it.

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The RC F may share a platform with the RC, but don’t expect a similar ride. Only about 30 percent of the suspension components carry over to the F-tuned coupe, with the springs, dampers and stabilizer bars swapped out for improved agility. The result is a much stiffer ride that does little to absorb bumps and road imperfections, communicating the slightest crack in the pavement with a jerk and thud.

Truthfully, the RC F is downright jarring at times, and fares poorly during commuting duty. But take the long way home and the the rigid chassis and suspension are sheer brilliance, keeping the car communicative and planted through corners. It’s also in the corners where the optional torque vectoring rear differential, included in the performance package, comes into play. The unit does more than just detect wheel spin, but intelligently sends torque where you need when you need it. Head into a turn, and the brushless electric motors will respond, reducing drive force on the inside rear wheel before sending it to the outside for a smooth and strong exit.

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Identity Crisis

The RC F is a little two-faced in its drivability, and can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a premium sports coupe or a muscle car. It isn’t quite as refined as its European counterparts, or even the 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, but it can definitely be just as much fun. It’s all part of the Jekyll and Hyde act the RC F plays to perfection, riding around quietly with the drive mode selector set to normal before coming alive in Sport and Sport+, powering into and out of corners with reckless abandon.

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Despite the advanced tech it employs, the RC F is raw and wild, and is almost like a spiritual successor to the fourth-generation BMW M3, the last of the German sports coupes to do without forced induction. It’s easy to get the rear end of the near-4,000-lb car to rotate before swinging it back where it belongs, while the six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes slow the RC F in a hurry despite its heft.

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Of course, driving it aggressively means holding gears longer and hanging out above 3,000 rpm to stay in the heart of the powerband, a quick way to push the RC F’s fuel economy well below anything even worth communicating (but if you really want to know, I ended the week with an average of 19 mpg, a vast improvement after the horrendous 12 mpg the car returned after a few days of traffic and twisty roads).

If Looks Could Kill

Like the rest of Lexus’ current lineup, the RC F features an exaggerated spindle grille that sits low and wide, and looks like it’s ready to chew up asphalt and spit it out the stacked rear exhaust. If there is a sports car in this class that looks the part, it’s the RC F.

The bulging hood and raked roofline only add to the aesthetic aggression, while the available carbon fiber reinforced plastic roof is the icing on the exterior cake. The head-turning factor is alive and well with the RC F, and it definitely stands out from the comparatively subdued competition.

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The cabin of the RC F is about as well appointed as any of its competitors, and comes with comfortable and supportive sport seats that are available in beautiful red leather, which contrast well with the carbon fiber and suede trim. It’s also incredibly quiet despite the raucous exhaust note, with the little road noise to speak of easily drowned out by the 17-speaker stereo fitted in our tester.

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The only complaints inside come from the dated look to the infotainment interface and audio and climate controls, and the touchpad that has to be used to navigate through the different functions of the infotainment system. And, of course, the rear seats, which offer nowhere near enough legroom to seat anyone with, you know, legs. The interior also suffers from a lack of rearward visibility thanks to the wide C pillars.

The Verdict: 2016 Lexus RC F Review

Lexus has clearly taken aim at the premium sports coupe market with the RC F, but it’s not quite on the same playing field as its rivals — except when it comes to price. About $62,000 or so will get you into one, but count on spending closer to $80,000 to get the stuff you want, pricing it above the standard-bearing BMW M4. It’s also, at least on paper, slower than most of the competition, a potential deal-breaker in a segment where bragging rights reign supreme. But it’s rear-wheel drive, has a naturally-aspirated V8, and is a blast to drive, an honest to goodness sports car in the purest, rawest sense.

Discuss this story on our Lexus Forum

  • Mark S

    Is the eight speed dual clutch fast?

  • Very fast, Mark. Maybe not Porsche PDK fast, but pretty close.

  • Circa79

    too heavy and expensive for that level of performance. I dont have an issue with skipping the turbo V8, but they need to lower the price to reflect what the car can actually do. This is Mustang/Camaro performance for $30k more.

  • Circa79

    i dont think this is a DCT, its a conventional 8 speed.

  • Mark S

    Good to know – bodes well for the GS F

  • Mark S

    Apologies my bad.

  • Circa79

    its the same 8 speed that was in the IS-F initially. Cadillac also uses it in the CTS V sport model- which is one reason that car is RWD only.

  • Df

    This is one of the better, honest & accurate, reviews I’ve read about the RCF.

    Everyone else focuses on weight, blah blah blah, it’s heavy. But it’s not as heavy as the boring looking audi rs5. So, it doesnt make sense to demonize the RCF for its weight when they dont do the same for ugly Rs5.

  • Tally

    Agreed. RCF gives a good balance between agression and usability. Plus, it’s bold japanese “GUNDAM” style is awsome.

    Way to break the design mold, Lexus!

  • Larry k

    Yeah, i love how the RCF is super aggressive looking. It’s definitely BOLD!

    A lot of people say it looks like the predator. But the predator is one damn sick and mean looking mofo!!

    I love it!

  • Md

    Absolutely! I’m tired of the same old German designs..yawn.

    Lexus RCF is definitely is one eye catching beast!

  • Kye

    If you look at closely at the specs, the RCF is FASTER than the M4 !

    Not only that, the RCF looms way better. I cant tell the difference between the M4 and and other 2 door bimmer…LOL.

    RCF kills the M4 both in design and 0-60 – hands down.

  • Zach

    Glad to see Lexus isnt following the germans in design. The RCF, IS and GSF look fresh!

    Germans are boring to look at..same old thing every year..LoL

  • Eco Bust

    Styling is subjective, I let people have their own opinion and don’t argue with it. Just the same, I have my own, and in my opinion, this thing is utter trash to look at it. Not the least bit mature or cohesive or desirable. It’s like toyota brought in some teens and told them to throw something together for them.

    There’s the hideous looks, the old fashioned engine, the weight….this thing is no match for a camaro ss, let alone the big germans.

    And to the….person claiming this pig is faster than a M4, thanks for that laugh. Porky here can’t handle a mustang gt, no way it can touch the M, C or even RS5 in a straight line. And in the twisties? Forget about it…

  • Circa79

    it is not faster, its in the mid 4 sec range while the M4 is in the high 3s to low 4s.

  • Shiratori1

    ^Troll

  • Jeff T

    The 36 month lease car, then the world will move on. Kinda sad but this Lexus has nothing to make it a future classic.

  • Ken Chevis

    I owned a 1966 E-Type and when driving the car people could identify the marque…it was a Jaguar and very distinctive. This crap can (and its’ “looks could kill” styling) could be mistaken for…….fill in the blanks, Focus, Kia, Hyundai, and yes (sob) Jaguar. Who are you trying to kid? I now own a 2013 Challenger R/T Classic in metallic black with a very nice 5.7 V8 Hemi under the hood. It draws admiring looks from a lot of people on the street. Even you would not say that about the RCF.

  • janon

    First of all, yeah, they all *slammed* the RS5 for weight, so nice selective reading

    Second, the few of you who love “GUNDAM STYLE” and think the RC-F is AMAZING are outnumbered by people who like the clean lines of rhe A/S/RS5 by like 100 to 1. Looks are subjective, but you know…

  • janon

    Try fully accurate. At least with the objective bits.

    The RC-F IS a *poor performer* relative to its class *and* fails to inspire an emotional response per like 7 our of 10 reviews

  • janon

    Slower AND more expensive than Audi, BMW and Mercedes PLUS polarizing styling! Sounds like a win!