Fantastic engine, good build quality, old-school muscle car feel
Rivals are sharper and quicker at this price, whole car feels a little last-generation
What is it?
It’s the Lexus RC F, and we’ll start with the bad news. Having first been unveiled at the Detroit motor show back in 2014, the RC F was updated in 2018 to comply with ever more stringent emissions regulations. That meant changes to the wonderful 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 that saw power drop from 471bhp to 457bhp.
Feels cruel to kick off a review of a Japanese performance coupe by noting that it’s down on power, but flip that and think of it this way – Lexus has somehow managed, in 2023, to keep a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine on sale, jumping through increasingly fire-tinged rings to keep its mini-muscle car on sale. Bravo.
So what does it go up against?
Well, it’s a powerful, mid-sized rear-drive coupe that’s ostensibly a rival for cars such as the BMW M4, the Mercedes-AMG C63, the Audi RS5 and perhaps even four-door stuff like the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio. Each of those is an incredibly tough nut to crack, but they’ve also all been hit by the downsizing, turbocharging and overcomplicating bugs in recent years.
The RC F then, trades on its nuance: a naturally-aspirated V8 in a world of forced induction, and a proudly Japanese identity and approach to everything – from the styling to user interface – in the face of what some might call homogeneity.
What does that mean for the rest of the RC F?
There’s an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the middle, drive to the rear (itself now under threat for cars like these) and a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds that no longer seems very quick. A raft of revisions arrived back in 2019, including a refreshed face, the addition of launch control, a limited slip diff, the option of carbon fibre composite body panels and a full-on Track Edition that comes with less weight, carbon ceramic brakes and a massive rear wing.
The suspension was tweaked in 2019 too: excellently nerdy stuff like hollow half-shafts in place of solid ones, aluminium parts to save weight, stiffer suspension arm bushings and steering rack mounts, and stronger engine mounts.
So, I can buy different versions?
You can. There are three iterations of RC F that you can buy in the UK: the standard car, the RC F Carbon (carbon fibre roof, bonnet), and the aforementioned RC F Track Edition (Brembo brakes, a torque vectoring diff, BBS alloys, fixed rear wing, red Alcantara and other CF parts). Prices range from £76,560 for the standard car to over £93,000 for the Track Edition. More on that over on the Buying tab of this review.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
In isolation, the RC F is a good car. It steers, rides and handles with assuredness – if not the fizz that some others manage. It offers decent bang for your buck too and represents a very particular way of thinking about the whole rear-drive-powerful-coupe thing.
Stuff like the M4 and even the old C63 have moved the game on in leaps and bounds, and have continued to set new benchmarks. For this kind of money, you can’t discount them, and in that company the Lexus struggles to compete dynamically.
But it’s got heart, the RC F, and not just in the 5.0-litre V8 sense. The interior is a tactile place to sit, and the sound of that engine is intoxicating. It’s a top-notch Japanese muscle car, and there’s a lot to be said for that.