2020 Lexus RCF Review

2020 Lexus RCF - Sporty V-8 coupe a Lexus pinnacle


When Toyota launched its Lexus Luxury division in thirty years back, Japan's largest automaker foresaw its new endeavor as a lower volume, higher transaction option/opportunity.

Within Lexus itself, lower-volume, niche products exist for those with discriminating palates and comfortable bank balances.  Try the RC, for example, a refreshing flavor introduced in the 2015 model year.  To folks wishing a quenching soft drink during hot summer spells, RC signifies a long-established cola brand (Royal Crown).  To Lexus enthusiasts, the duo denotes the invigorating 'Responsive Coupe.'

Three RC flavors (the four-wheeled type) each boast their own strengths; the RC 300 includes a four-cylinder turbo; RC 350 ups the ante to a naturally aspirated (non turbo) V-6 while the returning power champ tops out as our tester this week,  the RC F and its naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter 472 horsepower (up five from 2019) V-8. Both the RC 300 and 350 offer the choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive with the RC-F exclusively dealing rear drive.

The "F" suffix marks the pinnacle of power available in the Lexus universe.  Currently, only two Lexus models express the 'F' designation, the four-door GS F and two-door RC F. Both include potent V-8 inspiration along with double wishbone type front and multilink rear suspension. The "F" signifies Fuji Speedway, the Pacific Rim local where Lexus conducts much of its high-speed testing, development and oodles of fun car play. It's the Lexus answer to German brands also offering high impact side gigs including the Mercedes-Benz AMG division and BMW's M selections.

The RC F provides daily driving opportunities during the week, and serious bona fide weekend track thrills all while looking marvelous in the process.

From the get go, RC F rates as a sports car, not just a sporty coupe.  Drivers and passengers experience a low-to-the-ground ride experience, feeling all the contours along the way.  From an audio perspective, the roaring V-8 engine doesn't dare muffle its bellowing power surge.

The V-8 connects to an eight-speed automatic transmission (with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters) generating a rather ho-hum  16 miles per gallon city and 24 highway utilizing premium-grade 91-octane fuel. It's not the most potent of its class, but gets the job done.

What's new for RC F in 2020 centers around a weight savings (approximately 50 pounds) thanks to such updates as steal suspension parts swapped for lighter aluminum versions, a lighter intake manifold and smaller A/C compressor.

Sales of all RCs in the 2019 calendar year reached a targeted 4,591 shoppers in the U.S., up from 2018's 3,358.

The RC represents one of two Lexus couples in 2020.  While RC sports a secure, stationary roof, the LC 500 two-door, introduced in the 2018 model year, flips the script with a retractable hard-top. The LC 500 also borrows the RC-F's 5.0-liter V-8 under its hood while upping the starting price to $93,975. Unlike our RC tester, the LC 500 convertible offers a gas-electric hybrid version (LC500h), swapping the smile-inducing V-8 for a 3.5-liter V-6 combined with two electric motors and lithium ion battery pack.  

Heavy RC F side doors, with strap-like exterior handles, swing out wide, allowing access into the teeny tiny two-bucket seat second row.  Don't expect palatial accommodations as any semblance of leg room necessitates serious negotiating with front bucket occupants.  It's best left to small kids or smaller pets.

Visualize the 'Flare Yellow' color upgrade (an extra $595) our tester proudly wore as a traditional Mustard Yellow, a Frenches Mustard Yellow one expects on a Chicago-style hot dog, not a paler Grey Poupon Dijon hue which has no business anywhere near a juicy hot dog (or Lexus), although the Grey PouPon brand carries an upscale, albeit snobbish cache Lexus may one day ponder.  In any event the trendy Flare or Mustard Yellow screams 'look at me!'

A rear-wheel RC 300 starts at $41,295 and pricing quickly ascends upward.  Our RC F V-8 started at $64,750 before extras, ending at $89,504 after $1,025 destination fee.

Stand-alone extras include triple beam LED headlights ($1,160), upgraded navigation/17-speaker sound system ($2,725), torque vectoring differential ($1,250) and orange Brembo-brand caliper covers ($300).  Performance ($11,400) and Premium ($5,350) Packages add black carbon fiber interior and exterior enhancements, heated/ventilated front seats, rear seat center console, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and heated steering wheel.

A newly christened option package in 2020 also turns heads.  The 'Track Edition' adds visual and performance upgrades including carbon ceramic brake rotors, titanium muffler, additional carbon fiber highlights and two-tone interior for about $96,000.  Track Editions include a launch control tuned to rocket the RC-F from zero to 60 in a mere 3.96 seconds.

Electronic push-button start comes standard, positioned up high on the dashboard and away from any steering wheel interference.  The center dash anchors via an old-school, distinguished analog clock flanked by two horizontal vents. Ventilation system controls below include two rows of smallish rectangle push buttons monitoring fan speed, direction, A/C and assorted defrostings.  Dual zone temperature settings monitor from thin, touch-sensitive vertical tube sensors flanking the buttons.

Above the circular Roman numeral clock, set deep back into a cove-like setting is a 10.3-inch multi-function screen.  Smartly, two twist dials near HVAC buttons control volume and station select.  Unsmartly, remaining interaction depends upon 'Lexus Enform Infotainment System,' and its wonky flat remote touchpad between the front buckets, necessitating a steady skating fingertip to activate the far away screen curser.  Allow plenty of practice time for proficiency with this and optional in-screen navigation.  Apple CarPlay Smartphone compatibility comes standard, allowing iPhone applications to play through screen (no Android Auto invite yet).

Between enveloping front buckets is a chrome dial for selecting five drive modes.  Each selection brings forth a new graphic framing the instrument panel's central circular digital speedometer. An analog speedometer resides to the right with a top speed exceeding 200 miles per hour.

At the backend, the RC F adds quad exhaust piping in a balanced fashion with a pair flanking each side in staircase fashion. The trunk above absorbs a diminutive 10.1 cubic feet of volume. Functional hood and side scallop vents cool down the engine and brakes respectively. For extra cooling duties, lower grille vents cool engine oil.

In front, the long hood with workable scoop leads eyes to the black, can't miss Spindle Grille, a Lexus identifier gracing all family members. It's a truncated hourglass with the circular Lexus logo front and center inserted with a checkered-pattern fill.  The same design occupies lower corner vents. High side character lines combine with narrow side windows.

A large rear window contrasts with a small deck lid hiding a sporty extra. A retractable speed-activated carbon-fiber spoiler wing (part of the performance package) mechanically lifts up from its flush-mounted rest position when traveling at highway speeds or by activating a far left side dashboard button.

2020 Lexus RC F

Price as Tested: $89,504

Wheelbase: 105.7 inches

Overall Length: 185 inches

Overall Width: 72.4 inches

Overall Height: 54.9 inches

Fuel economy: 16 mpg/24 mpg

Curb weight: 3,902 pounds

Assembly: Japan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.