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Lexus RC F 2019 driven

By Tim Robson, 25 Dec 2019 Car Reviews

Lexus RC F 2019 driven

Lexus adds pace to its big coupe, but it’s sending out mixed messages about grace and pace

Lexus RC F 2019 

What is it?

A relatively recent addition to the ranks, the RC coupe is best thought of as a two-door version of the IS mid-sized four-door sedan. It shares the same rear-wheel-drive layout, but it’s a bit smaller overall.

This particular version – the RC F plus Lexus’s Enhancement Pack 3 - is a clever amalgam of the fast and the furious, with the good bits from the top-spec Track Edition (carbon-ceramic brake package, lightweight forged alloy rims from BBS rims and a titanium exhaust) without the overt carbon rear wing, bonnet and guards.

Whenever you say an ‘F’ on the back of a Lexus, it means it’s a go-fast version – and it’s likely packing V8 heat under the bonnet. It’s no different for the LC F, which brings racecar tech like carbon brakes to a brand more renowned for its serenity under pressure. Is it an amicable union?

 

What is the Lexus RC F like to live with?

Straight off the bat, it’s clear that the RC F is no shrinking violet. An aggressive body kit adorns the stylised two-door bodyshell, while huge 19-inch rims complement its tough-guy ride height.

Luckily, though, the huge front bar has juuuust enough height not to grind itself to death on curbs (below).

Lexus RC F 2019

The front end is absolutely dominated by the blackened spindle-shaped grille, with a retractable rear spoiler giving the RC F the best of both worlds when it comes to looks and performance.

Read More Supra who? Four of the Lexus RC F's best bits

Inside, it’s a similar feeling of aggressive opulence. Fixed-headrest racing-style buckets are slung low in the car, with a busy centre binnacle punctuated by machined metal and neatly trimmed leather. The steering wheel is substantial and everywhere the eye falls, there are highlights.

The two rear seats are an afterthought, though, and suitable only for the shortest of journeys by people of average dimensions. They are fitted with ISOFIX baby seat mounts, though.

Lexus RC F 2019

Instrumentation is a mix of classic analogue and more modern digital, and the Lexus is easy to access when it comes to basic functionality. The gearshifter is traditional, the indicator stalk is on the right and primary controls fall easily to hand.

The same can’t be said for the RC F’s ageing multimedia system, with its mouse-style touchpad feeling awkward to use under your fingers and not especially intuitive to access. Thankfully, the RC F now ships with an Apple CarPlay-compatible multimedia system, which brings it into line with its rivals.

Boot space is middling at best thanks to its shallow depth and lack of length, but there is a decently wide aperture for loading bags.

 

What’s the Lexus RC F like to drive?

V8-powered rear-wheel-drive cars - especially two-door naturally aspirated ones – are a rare breed these days and one that looks as overt as the deep blue RC F always brings with it preconceived notions of blazing speed and lairy manners.

Lexus RC F 2019

The long-serving 5.0-litre V8 engine under the stretched snout of the RC F dishes out 351kW and 530Nm, which needs to hustle 1800kg of coupe along.

It’s backed by a traditional eight-speed torque-converting auto, which sends all that power and torque to the rear wheels via a hollow driveshaft to a mechanically operated limited-slip diff.

Lexus has worked hard on the finer points of the RC F’s ride/handling balance, and while the RC F is markedly more tied-down than its non-F siblings, there is now a modicum of sophistication and polish in the way the RC F handles the day-to-day of broken city roads and speed bumps.

There’s now more difference between the adaptive damper’s softest and firmest settings, which helps markedly around town; in fact, using the drive select mode to keep the shocks in their softest settings gives the RC F much more flexibility on less-than-perfect back road surfaces.

Read More Will Lexus head towards a twin-turbo V8?

Power delivery from the silken V8 is laser-straight, and while it feels a little underwhelming at lower revs – we’re all too used to the seductive waft of mid-range torque that a turbo engine produces – things liven up very quickly if you’re in a position to let the RC F rev out to its redline.

For a big car, the RC is agreeably nimble through its direct front end and well-weighted steering, and its carbon-ceramic brakes are a little bitey but absolutely mighty (as they should be for the cost!).

Lexus RC F 2019

The only fly in the ointment is the lack of shift speed in the eight-speed gearbox. It’s very protective of its engine partner, refusing to approve even moderately ambitious requests for downchanges at key moments.

In full auto, it’s not bad, but there are faster, more engaging gearboxes out there.

 

Is the Lexus RC F worth the money?

Our tester costs $134,129 plus on-road costs before the addition of the $29,161 Enhancement Kit, bringing it to $163,290 plus on-road costs.

There are some natural predators in the rear-wheel-drive two-door performance class that are priced similarly to the RC F, including the $167,640 Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe and BMW’s $156,529 two-door M4 Competition. My feeling is, though, that the RC F stands a little apart from its European foes.

Lexus RC F 2019

In this guise and at this price point, for example, it’s the only one to offer a ceramic brake package and titanium exhaust.

Lexus also holds an ace up its sleeve; its customer service experience is arguably the best in the industry, and for many people, this can be the tie-breaker when it comes to choosing a premium brand.

In terms of fuel usage, don't expect hybrid-like economy if you like to hear the V8's siren song. Against a claim of 11.2 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, we used 13.8L/100km over 480km.

 

Pros: Great looks, terrific engine, real on-road presence

Cons: Heavy, power delivery not as addictive as a turbo mill

Rating: 4/5

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