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Lexus RC F long-term review

By Scott Newman, 15 Apr 2018 Reviews

Lexus RC F long-term review feature

We welcome the Lexus RC F into our garage, new carbon clothes and all.

Introduction: Mixed Messages

The name-calling started early. The Lexus RC F’s divisive styling tends to attract comments regardless of its paint colour, but my new long-termer’s black-and-white panda scheme, combined with its cab-rearward coupe proportions, have led the office comedians to dub it the “Bowling Shoe”. Very droll.

It certainly turn heads, though at the time of writing I haven’t conducted any straw polls to see if these looks are a result of admiration, curiosity or disgust. Part of the RC F’s success at grabbing the public’s attention is no doubt due to the fact that the black contrasts aren’t paint, but carbon fibre.

The aptly named Carbon Edition uses the exotic black weave for the bonnet, roof and rear spoiler, but anyone expecting a Superleggera-style diet will be disappointed to learn it saves only 9.5kg: 6.1kg from the roof, 2.9kg from the bonnet and 500 grams from the wing. When applied to a car weighing 1860kg, the visual effects will be felt far more than the dynamic ones.

On a kilogram-per-dollar basis it’s a heavy price to pay as ticking the Carbon box costs $20,597, though it does bring with it ‘High Plus’ forged 19-inch wheels (usually $2500). Nevertheless, it’s an option price you’d more readily expect to find on an Italian supercar than a Japanese sports coupe, especially when premium paint – including this car’s White Nova – is another $1500.

It is very well equipped, though, including heated and ventilated leather seats, an 835-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo (there’s some of that kerb weight...) with digital radio and voice control, climate control with funky electrostatic slider switches for temperature control and seemingly every active safety system under the sun, such as Active Cruise, Blind Spot Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Automatic High Beam and pre-collision braking. However, the lack of smartphone mirroring betrays its 2015 vintage and time will tell if familiarity makes Lexus’s unintuitive touchpad control interface and maddeningly complex menu systems any easier to use.

If not, at least there’s a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 to take my mind off it. It seems slightly odd that a Japanese car with such a futuristic design would have such an ‘old-school’ engine, but the 2UR-GSE, co-developed with Yamaha, sings a particularly sweet song and develops 351kW at 7100rpm and 530Nm. And while the concept might be traditional, the engine itself is clever with its combination of direct and port injection and ability to switch between Atkinson cycle for fuel economy and Otto cycle for power, the details of which I’ll go into in a future update.

It’s attached to an eight-speed torque converter automatic and there’s four powertrain modes to choose from – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ – with a further three settings for the electronically controlled, torque vectoring limited-slip differential – Standard, Slalom and Track. A track session beckons for an opportunity to play with the various parameters and to see if it’s engineering brilliance or marketing hype. The claimed 0-100km/h time is an optimistic 4.5sec (the best we’ve managed is 4.75sec) and top speed is limited to 270km/h.

Read MOTOR's interview with the Father of the Lexus RC F

Brakes are by Brembo, an impressive setup with 380mm two-piece rotors and six-piston calipers up front and 345mm rotors with four-piston calipers at the rear, and tyres are Michelin Pilot Super Sports measuring 255/35 (front) and 275/35 (rear). Until very recently, the RC F also used passive dampers, however, like its four-door sibling the GS F, it was updated in 2016 with Lexus’s Adaptive Variable Suspension, offering “30 levels of damping force” and “seven damping-force control strategies” – fancy.

At this point there are plenty of questions and very few answers, which hopefully future updates will provide. The true measure of success for the RC F will be determined by whether, after four months, I’m defending its honour or coming up with names of my own.


Claimed combined consumption: 10.9L/100km
Starting ODO: 5511km
Duration: 4 months

Liked: I liked the carbon bits - so sue me 
Disliked: Its' clear servo visits will be frequent

Update 1: Cabin Curiosity

The inside scoop on the good and bad of the RC F’s interior

There are few things worse than being shown up by your younger sibling.

The Lexus RC F is only three years old, but compare its interior to that of the new LC500 and you’d think the gap between the two is an entire generation.

Granted, the LC is a good $50K-plus more expensive than the RC F in its basic form (though our long-termer’s optional carbon pack narrows that gap to $25K), but it also looks and feels it.

Not that the RC F is terrible, it just lets itself down with some baffling control interfaces, while some areas of the cockpit smack of the corporate accountants having too strong of a say.

There are positives, such as the comfy, supportive seats, widely adjustable driving position, build quality and fit and finish, equipment list and the way certain functions are operated by the press of an obvious button. Heating or cooling the seats in the RC F, for instance, takes one second to press a button, whereas in the LC500 it takes about 10 minutes and a degree in neuroscience to find the appropriate sub-menu buried in the infotainment system.

First month report of our RC F long-termer

The infotainment controller is by far the biggest problem in the RC F, or any Lexus for that matter – it’s an ergonomic disaster. Perhaps it’s slightly easier for left-hand dominant people, but operating the tracking pad diverts significant attention away from the road and selecting the desired button is often little more than pot luck.

1 - Grand Designs 
The triple decker design theme works well enough, though the centre dash is very bland, but hopefully some of the LC’s swoops and curves are incorporated come update time.

2 - Chair in There
Seats are comfy, well-bolstered and offer welcome heating and cooling functions, though a number of passengers have commented how the red leather clashes with Lexus’s signature blue F model stitching. Rear seats will accept adults for short journeys, but it’s pretty squishy.

3 - Mouse Trap
Track pad (slightly) easier to use than old mouse-like system, but that’s the ultimate example of damning with faint praise. Screen is small compared to opposition (though 2018 IS sedan receives a much bigger unit), and functions like sat-nav input and phone pairing are disabled on the move – ARGH!

4 - Park My Foot
We don’t mind retro touches, but a foot-operated park brake is not what we had in mind – what is this, 1989? Equally redundant is the tiny analogue speedo, rated to an irrelevant and unachievable 340km/h.

5 - Parts Bin
A number of cost-cutting measures are evident inside the RC F. The cruise-control stalk is straight from a $18K Toyota Yaris, requiring the adaptive functions to be moved to the steering wheel. Turn the wheel and screws are visible in the boss – not ideal in a premium car.

Month Two

Fuel Consumption this Month: 12.35l/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 
Distance this Month: 1506km
Total: 7017km

Liked: Cooled seats in a Melbourne summer
Disliked: Trying to operate the damn track pad

Update 2: Weekend Warrior

RC F reveals its personality on a Sunday drive

I have a problem.

Lexus says MOTOR’s long-term RC F is fitted with its Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which was added as part of an update in late 2016. This makes sense, as at a similar time the RC F’s four-door twin, the GS F, scored an identical upgrade which substantially improved its day-to-day ride comfort, erasing one of our key criticisms of an otherwise very likeable car.

Herein lies my problem. According to Lexus: “AVS has seven damping-force control strategies. In Eco, Normal and Sport, the system prioritises ride comfort while … in Sport Plus mode the focus of the damping-force control is handling stability”. Trouble is, as much as I flick the dial between Normal and Sport Plus I can’t feel a blind bit of difference.

Now, I’m not at all suggesting Lexus hasn’t fitted the AVS, rather that the difference between the damping strategies must be relatively slight. Or I’m a terrible road tester, which hasn’t been ruled out at this stage.

The cloud to this is that the ride isn’t exactly great – not terrible, but irritatingly reactive to smaller bumps – however the silver lining is that the RC F can be driven around in its most aggressive Sport Plus mode with little to any deterioration in ride quality. This endows Lexus’s 5.0-litre V8 with the crisp throttle response you’d expect of a naturally-aspirated engine as well as ensuring as much of that eight-cylinder growl – artificially enhanced by the Active Sound Control system – enters the cabin as possible.

It’s not an engine that offers the instant gratification of today’s over-torqued turbo units but it sneaks up on you, continuing to gain pace as the revs rise all the way to the 7100rpm cut-out.

Second month report of our RC F long termer

A long drive over the Christmas break in tandem with DC in a BMW M4 Pure proved the RC F’s potency. Out of corners the M4’s generously endowed mid-range would steal it a couple of metres, but from there on it was virtually level-pegging as the Lexus dug into its sweet spot higher up the tacho.

Having an M4 along, perhaps not quite the benchmark in this segment – that would be the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe – but certainly a formidable foe, proved instructive on a number of levels.

Coupe comparison: BMW M4 v Lexus RC F v Jaguar F-Type V6 S

Usually cars perform better in insolation only for their flaws to come into sharp focus when compared to their peers – see the Lexus LC500 at PCOTY in this month's issue – but in this instance it was the RC F’s strengths that came to the fore.

Aside from that stonking V8 (though it’d be nice if the noise was less manufactured) the RC F’s brakes – 380mm rotors with six-piston calipers up front twinned with 345mm four-potters at the rear – are far superior to the BMW’s in feel and stamina, its behaviour at the limit is less edgy and its stability control system far more lenient and subtle in its intervention, though the amount of opposite lock it permits in ‘Expert’ mode means the name isn’t meaningless marketing rubbish.

The eight-speed auto can’t match the shifts of the M4’s dual-clutch for swiftness, but it’s brisk enough to prevent annoyance. Working against it is its weight. Virtually every negative compared to the M4 – specifically insufficient urge under 4000rpm, a relative lack of agility and lower ceiling in terms of outright grip – could be largely nullified by a hefty diet.

Very stiff the structure may be, combining the front of a GS sedan, the reinforced centre section of the old IS Convertible and rear end of the IS sedan, but no wonder it’s heavy – it’s made out of three cars! A little more weight to the steering wouldn’t go astray, either.

Follow MOTOR's long-termers

Nonetheless, the Lexus earned plenty of points this month. I appreciated its differences to the German hegemony before, but there’s now a greater appreciation for how much engineering depth is behind those polarising looks. But is there enough to withstand some hot laps at one of Australia’s fastest racetracks? More on that next month.

Month Three

Fuel Consumption this Month: 18.48L/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 14.91L/100km
Distance this Month: 1081km
Total: 8098km

Liked: The RC F revealing hidden qualities
Disliked: Damper settings indistinguishable

Favourite moment: Keeping a BMW M4 in sight 

Update 3: Heavy Hitter

Time for the flabby Lexus to do some exercise

"I’ll take a punt and say it’s a 10”. Scott Williams’ answer is not a welcome one.

The senior Bureau of Meteorology forecaster was asked to rate the storms scheduled to lash Victoria out of 10 and he delivered the maximum score among phrases like “unprecedented” and “top end of rainfalls seen in the last 30 years.”

These aren’t words you want to hear when you’re booked to tackle Phillip Island, one of Australia’s fastest and most challenging racetracks. We’re fortunate to spend more time on track than most here at MOTOR, but practice is only valuable if you know what to practice, so a day’s instruction with Evolve Driving would double as an opportunity to spend some time on track in the RC F.

Few standard road cars can withstand the rigours of a full day at a circuit. Usually, a couple of hard sessions, a half-day at most, will cook the vast majority of road-based brakes and tyres. Lexus F models are exceptions to the rule.

Despite substantial kerb weights, their brakes display impressive stamina and Michelin Pilot Super Sports handle track day stresses better than most. Neither of these things are particularly relevant right now during the first track session as the heavens open with a ferocity that would have Noah going back to the drawing board.

Giant rivers form across the track and having seen first-hand what happens when a car aquaplanes on PI’s front straight – a Mercedes E63 barrel-rolled in front of me at an AMG event a few years ago – discretion is definitely the better part of valour. Yet caution is still not enough.

Despite having the electronics fully on and wiping almost 100km/h from a typical dry speed on the main straight, as soon as I brush the brakes on the downhill run into turn one the car snaps sideways on a river.

It’s amazing how life goes into slow motion at moments like this. The whole situation is over in a handful of seconds but every one is crystal clear: the futile attempt at opposite lock; the “uh oh” thought as the car hits the wet grass followed by “don’t touch anything!”; the relief as the car rejoins the circuit, a patch of dirt on the turn one apex the only evidence of the misadventure.

Thankfully, from then on the day runs much more smoothly. The RC F’s naturally-aspirated V8 is a huge advantage in slippery conditions; lacking the massive turbocharged torque of its rivals (M4, C63 Coupe) means it’s much easier to meter out the power and avoid wheelspin.

‘Expert’ might be a fairly cheesy name for its sports ESP setting but it’s also an apt one as it allows a very generous amount of slip before intervening. It’s perfectly calibrated for circuit use. If you really want to have fun, turning the electronics off opens the door to massive slides, the RC F a natural drift car thanks to decent levels of feedback, good balance and lots of steering lock, though it requires quick initial reflexes.

The wet weather provides a great opportunity to work on driving technique and allows for plenty of laps as tyre and brake wear is negligible, but questions still remain over the Lexus’s ultimate ability.

Thankfully, the final session is dry but a day of tip-toeing around has left me far too cautious. Switching to the passenger seat, Evolve owner Dean Sammut demonstrates just what the RC F is capable of, as well as the correct way to drive it.

Oddly, the big Lexus feels more at home here at Phillip Island than just about anywhere. The pace it can carry through PI’s long, sweeping corners is staggering – when you get the line right, that is – the speedo showing north of 200km/h on the exit of Turn 3.

Only now with repeated dry-weather laps do the brakes begin to feel the strain, but impressively the groans and graunches slowly disappear as normal driving resumes. Unlike Scott Williams, I’m not going to get carried away and say the RC F is a 10, but as a track car it definitely defied expectations.

More on MOTOR's Long Term reports

Month Four

Fuel Consumption this Month: 15.57L/100km
Average Fuel Consumption: 15.13L/100km
Distance this Month: 1327km
Total: 9425km

Liked: Doing lots of laps at a very cool track
Disliked: Being out of control at 150km/h

Update 4: Conclusion

It’s the final commitment ceremony. Will we stay or leave?

I’ve been watching quite a bit of Married at First Sight.

I know, I know... and no matter how hard I scrub, the shame doesn’t disappear, but my girlfriend enjoys it and it has a similar sort of appeal to those Nurburgring crash videos that feature numerous Renault Clios and BMW M3s pinballing between the armco. It’s awkward, a bit painful, but compelling viewing nonetheless.

Being paired with a long-termer is a similar process (to the show, that is, not crashing at the ’Ring). All of a sudden you’re living with a new car and expected to get along – or at least that’s what the public relations person at the car company hopes.

Thankfully, we usually have some prior experience before being sandwiched together. In the case of the RC F this wasn’t necessarily comforting, as while not without appeal, it hasn’t exactly wowed us during previous encounters. Hmmm.

Still, that’s why we do these tests, to see if longer exposure brings to light virtues (or flaws) a quick road test or comparison may miss. 

Spending the past four months with the Lexus RC F has certainly improved my opinion of it, albeit there are a few caveats, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Some will never consider an RC F purely for the way it looks. And fair enough, it’s a challenging design. Its snout is a bit bulbous and its ‘eyes’ too squinty, but I actually don’t mind it – in the right light (and no, not complete darkness) it looks quite cool.

I was also one of the few who liked the carbon treatment, though you’d have to have rocks in your head to pay $20,597 for it, especially given the meagre 9.5kg weight loss. It would be an expensive option if it saved 10 times that amount.

The highlight of the RC F is undoubtedly its engine. It sounds a bit contrived, but the way the engine note hardens substantially around 4000rpm never fails to entertain and with 10,000 hard press kilometres under its belt, the 5.0-litre V8 was feeling particularly healthy, powering 1800kg-odd of Lexus to 230km/h along Sandown’s straights on a recent track outing.

Unusually for such a heavy car, on track was where the RC F impressed most. Its brake stamina makes a mockery of the BMW M4’s standard setup and the Lexus will keep circulating long after a Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe has run out of rear rubber.

Despite two fairly substantial track sessions and plenty of road use the RC F’s stoppers still had plenty of bite and the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres were hanging in there, though rear grip was beginning to suffer.

A shout-out to the Expert ESP mode, too, which is brilliantly lenient and impressively subtle in its intervention.

Now for the bad stuff: the ride is okay, but with adaptive dampers could be better; it wasn’t driven with economy in mind, but an atmo V8 lugging a heavy car around led to a fairly serious thirst; worst of all, though, is the infotainment system, something you interact with every day.

Lexus needs a complete rethink of its control interface as the current trackpad is at best infuriatingly unintuitive, at worst dangerous given the amount of attention it diverts from the road. Good stereo, though, and the seats’ heating and ventilating functions were both used during its stay.

So would I buy a Lexus RC F? No.

No short stints or fast flings on Long Term Reviews

To return to the opening paragraph, if I was forced into the relationship Married at First Sight-style, we’d certainly find common ground and have an enjoyable time, but it’s not my dream partner.

For my money, the GS F is the more impressive Lexus – it’s lighter, more practical and a better drive. Likewise, while the RC F is a grower, it can’t deliver the instant adrenalin hit of its more powerful rivals from BMW and Mercedes; both would be more alluring on a quick test drive.

However, early on in the RC F’s tenure I spied a car that would be the perfect choice if you’re looking for a screaming V8 coupe and I haven’t been able to shake the thought since. It might be yesterday’s news, but the E92 M3 follows the same recipe as the Lexus, only with tastier ingredients.

It’s true marriage material.

2017 Lexus RC F Pros & Cons

Three things we fell for: 
1 - Ace drivetrain
2 - Great seats
3 - On-track talent 

Three things we got sick of: 
1 - Track pad
2 - Track pad
3 - Tr... ok, firm ride

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