In some ways, the Lexus RC F Track Edition is the most focused coupe Lexus has built since the LFA. But it also seems a little confusing.
For a brand with an average buyer age north of 55 years-old, building a carbon and metal car that looks like it belongs on a racetrack… in a videogame… seems an odd move.
MOTOR review: RC F Track Edition first American drive
It exudes automotive aggro, from the staggered titanium exhausts turned blue from heat, past the lightweight forged BBS wheels, up to the black and white face of our test car, looking like a Stormtrooper has left the Star Wars universe and gone anime instead. Fortunately, the imposing black ‘n’ white works in the Track Edition’s favour.
The carbon wing on the back is also a big tick for these eyes, though it doesn’t seem like something Lexus would normally do itself.
But it’s not all show. The carbon keeps the RC F’s centre of gravity lower, and the 19-inch BBS wheels reduce unsprung weight, helping the big carbon ceramics behind them pull the admittedly still-heavy car up. Weight is also saved though the removal of Lexus’ tricky computerised torque vectoring diff (TVD) in favour of a Torsen mechanical unit (we’ll get to that later), as well as a hollow but reinforced driveshaft.
Carbon and simplification mean the Track Edition is down 65 kilograms from its standard RC F sibling, the equivalent of kicking out your smallish passenger to get a faster lap time.
And while the weight reduction is welcome, it’s the simplification which achieved it that makes the Track Edition a better car. It’s like Lexus’ engineers stopped trying to turn an ageing car into something ‘cutting-edge’, and instead embraced the fact it’s a bit old school.
From inside, the retro vibe is strong thanks to red carpeting, Alcantara, and leather, with the now-dated Lexus infotainment system taking pride of place in the centre. That touchpad must go. Please, Lexus?
Start up, and the 5.0-litre sounds relatively muted for what it is. It’s also rev-limited based on engine temperature, so reaching the upper-end of the tacho where the V8 really sings is only possible after getting on your way.
This means its peak power of 351kW, which is available at 7100rpm, is off-limits at first. Peak torque, however, is. The full 530Nm comes along at 4800rpm, and stick around until 5600rpm, though the sound of induction and atmo screams tempt you to chase the redline. Sticking near it is also easier thanks to a honey of an 8-speed torque converter, which responds eagerly to upshift requests (via paddle or shifter) and is still relatively compliant when it comes to downshifts.
As a car to drive on the road every day, the Track Edition is a little stiff, though that gearbox becomes very smooth in Comfort. The car handles and behaves well, but even Comfort mode gets a little much after a long stint behind the wheel – which itself is not massively feelsome thanks to numb but light steering. But as a driver’s car, this might be one of Lexus’ best.
Without masses of boost, the RC F’s need to remain towards the top of the tachometer means even in a straight line, there’s an element of excitement to the car that’s not incredibly common. Luckily, that carries through to its cornering ability.
Wheels shod with MOTOR’s Tyre Test 2019 winner, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, help hide a little of the RC F’s weight through bends, as it makes traction rather predictable. The tyres are sticky enough that they won’t let go given a reasonably sharp turn, but they won’t surprise you with a sudden loss of traction if you overcook it.
This means you can have a little bit of fun with the rear, via your right foot, if you happen to find the right moment. This also comes thanks to the Torsen diff, where the techy TVD unit would be trying to fight your mid-corner antics by keeping you ‘on course’.
But where the diff’s advantage is simplicity, it’s a good thing the brakes went the other way. Rather large carbon ceramics are capable of halting the relatively heavy car efficiently, but doing it mid-corner can result in some unwanted rotation, and doing it in the wet… well, the whole exercise becomes a bit sketchy in the wet – you’re best to choose a dry day as 1715kg becomes rather a handful otherwise.
But even then, it’s actually a fun handful. A reminder that bug V8 coupes can still be muscular, and that Japan still builds exciting cars north of the $100,000 marker.
Sure, it’s probably not going to be the first choice for the 60-year-old business exec who’s owned Lexus cars since he was a yuppie, but with only 10 Track Editions coming to Australia, it shouldn’t be too hard to find buyers even at $166K. It’s certainly rarer than a C63 S Coupe or an M4 Competition. It’s also arguably as likeable, even if not as capable.
It turns out Lexus’ strange exercise in undergoing a track-focused rebrand makes sense after all, even if you don’t quite get it at first.
2019 Lexus RC F Track Edition specs
BODY: 2-door, 2-plus-2 seat coupe
ENGINE: 4969cc V8, DOHC, 32v
BORE/STROKE: 94 x 89.5mm
POWER: 351kW @ 7100rpm
TORQUE: 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm
POWER-TO- WEIGHT: 204kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: double wishbone, dampers, coil-springs anti-roll bar (f); multi-link, dampers, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
STEERING: electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
BRAKES: 380mm carbon ceramic discs, 6-piston calipers (f); 380mm carbon ceramic discs, 4-piston calipers (r)
WHEELS: 19.0 x 9.0-inch (f); 19.0 x 10.0-inch (r)
TYRES: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, 255/35 ZR19 (f); 275/35 ZR19 (r)
LIKES: GT3 styling; won’t get tired; old-school fun; sounds potent but…
DISLIKES: …should sound angrier; still a weighty unit; THAT INFOTAINMENT INTERFACE
4 out of 5 stars