Lexus RC F review – brilliantly different from the establishment

The Lexus RC F might seem old fashioned, but its recipe still holds lots of appeal

Evo rating
from £63,240
  • A masterpiece of internal combustion under the bonnet
  • Can feel cumbersome and a little unsophisticated. Infuriating infotainment.

In objective terms, the Lexus RC F is not a class-leading sports coupe. It’s not as crisp as a BMW M4, as rounded as an Audi RS5, nor as brutally fast as a Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe. Its price-point isn’t far from its more capable rivals either, so there’s not even a serious value-for-money benefit to consider.  

And yet the Lexus RC F occupies a high place in our affections because the thrill of driving is not always about outright ability or figures on a spec sheet. The RC F is about more than that. Its desirability is derived from an increasingly rare combination of elements that really do make it a unique entity in the new car marketplace, for now. 

The wild styling helps, so too its rarity, but the Lexus RC F’s biggest asset is the jewel under its bonnet. The 4969 cubic centimetres of naturally aspirated Japanese V8 that not only dominates the RC F, but in 2023 defines it in a way that appeals to us more than acceleration times or, heaven forbid, mpg figures. The RC F isn't perfect, but remains a V8-powered sports coupe that pulls on the heartstrings like few others. 

> All-new BMW M4 Competition revealed – next generation super coupe debuts

Lexus RC F: in detail

  • Performance and 0-60 time – The later RC F dropped a couple tenths in the 0-62 charge over early models with a more competitive 4.3sec time
  • Engine and gearbox – As crisp as a frosty morning, and with bite to match, the 470bhp V8 is a stirring, wonderful piece of exotica every time you press the start button
  • Ride and handling – The RC F shows moments of brilliance, once you’ve adapted to its ways and found the best setting  
  • MPG and running costs – With a 5-litre V8 and rear-wheel drive the RC F is going to accumulate a big fuel and tyre bills 
  • Interior and tech – Let down by a consistently horrible infotainment system, actual interior quality is superb 
  • Design – Irksome to some, distinctive to others, the update has sharpened what needed sharpening without losing any of the model’s distinctiveness

Prices, specs and rivals

A basic RC F costs from £73,820 – like all its rivals a hefty jump over prices from just a two years ago. For that price, kit levels are strong though, with highlights including 19-inch wheels, six-piston Brembo front brakes, adaptive dampers, LED lights all around, heated and cooled Nappa leather and Alcantara interior trim, and a retractable rear wing. The RC F Carbon costs an extra £7000 and features a roof skin, bonnet and rear spoiler made from – you guessed it – carbonfibre.

New for the 2019 model year was the Track Edition, which might cost a further £10k at a pretty serious £90,570, but adds an aggressive fixed rear wing, more boisterous interior trim, forged BBS alloy wheels, a torque-vectoring rear differential (TVD) and carbon-ceramic brakes. Lexus only brought a limited number to the UK, but if you missed out (or if that wing is a little strong for you) there is an optional Track Pack available on the rest of the range that adds the forged wheels, carbon-ceramics and TVD for £9750.

Most of the Lexus’s main rivals are from Germany, yet the class is not quite as clear-cut as it was at the time of the RC F’s launch back in 2014. The BMW M4 Competition is more expensive at £81,145 basic, but remains the class leader in terms of its dynamic excellence and engagement. It’s more aggressive than the RC F – the twin-turbocharged straight-six might only be 33bhp up on the Lexus’s V8, but is rabidly fast by comparison, with much more torque and a killer top end. 

Audi’s RS5 is more of a rounded sporting GT than an out-and-out sports coupe, with huge amounts of four-wheel-drive traction and a powerful, smooth and torquey twin-turbo V6 engine with 444bhp. The chassis is deftly balanced and capable of inhaling the worst British B-roads thanks to some well judged damping, but the RS5 is perhaps not as immediately exciting as its rivals, the Lexus included. At £71,715, it’s price rise hasn't been quite as big as many of its rivals including the Lexus, making it the least expensive in this fast four-seater coupe class. Up the spec to the Carbon Black or Vorsprung models, though, and things get very expensive. 

If muscle and brawn are more your style then the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe could be right up your street. It is on borrowed time with the new C63 S E Performance saloon already having been revealed, but Mercedes won't be replacing the C-class coupe like-for-like, so we'll have to wait for the new CLE coupe to replace the current V8-powered C63 S. Like the Lexus, the AMG has a V8, but adds two turbochargers nestled between the banks of cylinders, adding both power and torque. In ‘S’ form, the AMG peaks at 503bhp, with 516lb ft of torque, so although it isn’t much lighter than the RC F at 1725kg, it hits 62mph in just 3.9sec, 0.4sec faster. You pay for such pace, though: the last C63 S models are all fully-specced models and will set you back a little over £92k.

Finally, it may not be a coupe, but don’t discount the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. It matches the Mercedes for power and acceleration, the BMW for precision and agility, and beats everything in terms of fun and on-road pace. And it’s competitively priced, too, at around £71k.

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