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.

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