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2018 Lexus RC F Review

2018 Lexus RC F Review
The 2018 Lexus RC F lures drivers in with rumbling V-8 power and grip, but the big leagues are a few hundred pounds away.

The Lexus RC F doesn't have a high-performance sheen built up over decades. Rivals like the BMW M4 have considerable laurels to rest on, in that regard. But the RC F comes the closest yet of any Lexus to nailing the elusive German recipe for track and street two-door performance.

We rate the RC F a 6.6, giving it points for its sleek design, engaging handling, powerful engine, and supportive front seats.

The Lexus RC puts slits and vents and mesh all over the ordinary RC coupe’s handsome shape. Some of those details work better than others. All work more in tune with its mission than the plainer interior, and its occasional gaping misfits around its infotainment controller and center stack.

The RC F’s hardware and firmware get massive upgrades over the standard RC models. The 467-hp V-8 alone catapults it into the big leagues, but adaptive dampers and a torque-vectoring rear differential and semi-exotic tires cement its place. The V-8 wail suits the well-damped handling perfectly, but the RC F needs to lose some weight before it can make the earth shudder like a Cadillac ATS-V.

The RC F gives up nothing in the way of Lexus-style passenger comfort–in front, that is. The back seats are typical sport coupe, almost unusable for adults. The RC is well-equipped, but its mouse-style infotainment controller is a letdown.

Plenty of active safety features and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS provide a measure of confidence. Other luxury touches include a high-watt audio system, brightly colored leather trim, and a now-standard set of advanced safety tech including forward-collision warnings.

Rivals for the RC F includes the BMW M4, Audi S5, Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe, and Cadillac ATS-V.

For 2018, the RC F gets a 10.25-inch navigation screen.

The standard Lexus RC is covered separately.

The Lexus RC F pulls its sheet metal out of the heavy-metal drawer, but its cabin’s plain-white undies.

Lexus improves the RC coupe’s look with slits, vents, mesh textures, and lots of lines. The end product is an exciting shape that can be exhausting to some eyeballs.

The RC F earns a 7 for style, gaining a couple of points for exterior design. 

With roots in the old SC two-doors and IS coupes and convertibles, the RC F bears its strongest resemblance to the current Toyota 86. The traditional coupe outline goes full-in on drama with overstated details: a thousand tiny Fs make up its mesh grille. Stacked exhaust outlets tag-team with finned vents. A rear wing pops up at 50 mph, a visual exclamation point for the RC F’s jolting performance.

The cockpit could use some of the same electricity. It’s a horizontally themed environment with a few adventurous lines and colors. The console fumbles the integration of the infotainment controller, and the misaligned look of the center stack. Nothing to hate here, but nothing to lust after, either.

Hefty curb weight dulls some of the joy of the Lexus RC F’s rorty V-8 and engaging handling.

Lexus reboots the humble RC coupe with a big V-8 and a Thai-style hardware massage to create the RC F.

The big-league performance injection gives the coupe steroidal specs, but as pro juicers know, the downside’s a lot of extra weight.

We give the RC F a 9 for performance, adding points for its transmission, ride and handling, and for its sonorous V-8.

A 5.0-liter V-8 pours out a hearty, sonorous 467 horsepower. With a beautiful V-8 wail on full bore, the RC F jets to 60 mph in about 4.4 seconds. Top speed’s set at 170 mph. Rival coupes can drop times a half-second lower, mostly because the RC F carries a few hundred extra pounds. That big engine giveth, and taketh away.

The 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic does what it can to overcome. It’s staged well, and has driving modes that tune shifts to the situation (Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+). A Manual mode lets it hold second through eighth gears, sharpens shifts, and runs all the way to redline, where it’ll stay until it’s told to do otherwise.

The RC F comes with a standard Torsen limited-slip differential, Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, and reprogrammed stability control with a track-god "all-off" mode. An optional torque-vectoring differential uses electric motors to control clutch packs that move power right to left across the rear, based on yaw sensor and steering input. It’s designed to help the RC F cut corners tighter, and has three modes of its own: Standard, Slalom or Track. Slalom is for autocrossing, and dials up lots of darty output. Track’s a cleaner interface for hard and fast driving.

For our cash and time, the stock Torsen differential does a fine job, and it’s 70 pounds lighter than the vectoring diff. The Torsen limited-slip setup maintains so much control over the rear end the lure of steering by your right foot with the torque-vectoring differential isn't as strong, especially since it exaggerates the RC F's less manic body control.
Doing a fine job keeping the RC F happy on streets and on timed circuits is a double-wishbone suspension at all four corners. It’s augmented with solenoid-activated adaptive dampers and ball-jointed stabilizer bars. The stabilizer bars, bushings, and lower control arms are upgraded from the RC 350, and so are the 19-inch wheels and Brembo brakes (15 inches in front, 13.6 inches at the rear).

All told, the RC F feels settled, with good electric steering build-up making up for a lack of feedback. It’s akin to the latest BMW M4, another very good companion for big fast tracks that can feel imperfect and digital on tightly composed road courses.

Comfort & Quality
The Lexus RC F coddles and swaddles its front passengers, and sentences two more to teensy back buckets.

Lexus constructs the RC F with a fine eye for detail, but the space for people and their belongings still is classic 2+2, which is shorthand for “limited.”

It’s worth a point above average for its front seats and its interior quality, but we dock a couple of points for that rear seat.

At 3 inches shorter than the related IS sedan, the Lexus RC F is more than an inch wider. It’s sized in lockstep with rivals like the Audi A5, Cadillac ATS, and BMW 4-Series.

Like those competitors, the RC F lavishes its available space on the front passengers. The seats themselves are stitched to remind us of human muscles, and they’re shaped and sized to carry large adults. Their supple, wide cushions can support big bodies and small ones, too, and the adjustable steering makes sure all will find a good driving position.

The back seats barely hold medium-sized passengers, and in the interest of body stiffness, they don't fold to expand access to the trunk.

Trunk space is rated at 10.1 cubic feet. That’s on the small side, but it can just barely swallow a couple of golf bags.

The scores aren’t all in, but the Lexus RC F has earned great crash-test scores so far.

Only one of the crash-test agencies has rated the Lexus RC F, but it’s enough to give it a high score of 8 on our scale.

The NHTSA hasn’t yet tested the coupe, but the IIHS has. It finds the RC F a “Good” performer in all its tests, and given its “Acceptable” headlights and standard advanced safety features, it earns a Top Safety Pick+ award.

That standard equipment now includes a bundle of gear dubbed Lexus Safety System+. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control all come on every RC F as of the 2018 model year.

All RC F coupes have a rearview camera. It improves on otherwise dismal outward vision. Blind-spot monitors are bundled as an option with premium audio.

Infotainment is a big letdown, but the Lexus RC F has extensive tech and a brilliant high-end audio system.

The 2018 Lexus RC F shares most of its features with lesser RC coupes. For a complete rundown, see our 2018 Lexus RC review.

It covers the usual bases and has Lexus’ sterling service reputation, without adding too much in the way of custom touches or killer apps–and it loses ground for its infotainment system. We give the RC F a 7 for features.

On the standard-features list for the RC F are leather upholstery, automatic climate control, and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

On the infotainment front, the RC has standard satellite radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, USB connectivity. An optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system has brilliant sound, and comes bundled with blind-spot monitors, cooled seats, and navigation.

The RC F’s navigation system gets a wider 10.25-inch screen this year. It still operates through the kludgy Lexus Enform system. Its mouse-like controller, backup touchpad, and multi-layered interface compile into one of the most distracting systems of its kind. Lexus has steered completely clear of the streamlined Android Auto and Apple CarPlay interfaces, to our chagrin.

Fuel Economy
The RC F’s gas mileage is on par for its class, at 19 mpg combined.

The EPA rates the RC F at 16 mpg city, 25 highway, 19 combined—about average in the V-8 performance coupe class.

Other coupes manage better mileage—but perhaps not better performance.


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