The Powerhouse Lexus RC-F Sports Coupe Review

Powerhouse Lexus RC-F RallyWays Review

Above and beyond the Lexus F-Sport badge there is the distinguished F vehicle blue badging. This is a spot reserved exclusively for Lexus’ top performance vehicles. At the moment, that prestigious badge is fitted to only a handful Lexus cars – At the moment, the incredible Lexus LFA supercar, the IS-F, soon the GS-F and then the star of this review, the outstanding Lexus RC-F.

What we have here is a very impressive car. You know the type. One of those cars that you already know you’re going to love even before you drive it. This is the 2015 Lexus RC-F. The most interesting bit about it was I wasn’t ready for what I was about to behold. The beans must be spilled early on – I liked this car way more than I was expecting I would like it. And as I said, I was already expecting to love it.

Lexus RC-F Review Preview – Who’s it for?

Lexus RC F Grille

We need to begin by having me point out that I’m not the target market for a $75,000 luxury sports coupe. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Being able to afford it or not is not the determining factor either. The determining factor is based on where you are likely to spend your money. This is where it gets interesting. In typical journalistic fashion, the cat comes out of the bag at the very beginning of the article and the rest is all based on the details.

After I was done with the long drive of the Lexus RC-F I has just one thing on my mind… Like I said, I’m not the target market… But I kept thinking, “Wow, I really loved this car. I could actually enjoy driving one of these every day.” There are a number of cars in this same segment that I would never give second thought to. The RC-F is not one of those cars.

The target market driver for the Lexus RC-F to me seems to be: A sophisticated driver who enjoys the sports car experience yet desires the embellishments and comforts of a European luxury car. This is the uncompromising guy who actually loves cars, wants a very special performance car to drive daily, but does not want all the compromises that come with the sports car territory. This driver is also very good at thinking for himself and opts for the bona fide alternative to the German luxury sports coupe. This driver also appreciates Japanese ingenuity and build quality.

Digging Deeper. What’s the Lexus RC-F all about?

Lexus RC-F in the Mountains

There are of course many differences between the Lexus RC-F and the IS-F you’ve come to know and love. Aside from the very important specification differences, there is paramount superficial difference impossible to ignore. The aesthetic designers of the Lexus RC-F took the essence of the IS-F and turned up the boldness. You can think of the Lexus IS-F as a very fine latte that’s easy to drink and enjoy. The RC-F is a double shot of ristretto served extra hot and with no milk. It is smooth and flavorful, yet possessing the character and eccentricity of an acquired taste that is not for the meek.

He who opts for the RC-F knows full well the level of his commitment. While some journalists have referred to the styling as not all that pretty, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is not your typical Lexus. Imagining the Lexus LFA does not exist, the RCF procures the most outstanding styling of any other Lexus ever made. Most of the time, Lexus plays is safe and makes cars for people that want a good machine, that’s reliable and luxurious, yet does not look out of place in a insurance agent convention’s parking lot. The RC-F shows up at the same convention and says, “ I don’t care if you think I make too much money. I work for myself.”

But enough of over-inflating the RCF’s styling. At the end of the day, you either like it or you think it’s too shouty. You admit it’s impressive, but are afraid to show up in it to your office in fear your coworkers might think you don’t deserve such a thing.

This Particular Ultra White RC F

Lexus RC F Headlight Shot

Let’s look a bit more at the particular car I have in my hands here. This is an Ultra White 2015 Lexus RC F Certified Pre-Owned from Lexus El Cajon in San Diego California. I like driving new pre-owned cars. They have the life and flair of a brand new car, but the break-in has been taken care of already. Thank to this, I can truly drive the car rather than spend the whole time watching my revs.

This car is a 5.0 liter V8 beast with 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft of torque which can sprint to 60 MPH in 4.4 seconds. The top track speed is 167 MPH and it can do all this in the most comfortable and supportive seats I’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy.

There is a theme going on of using a particular shade of royal blue throughout the car to identify it as an F vehicle. If you are a Lexus follower, you’ve figured out by now that Lexus reserves the simple F nomenclature for their souped up, top-of-the-line performance models. Don’t be confused with the F-Sport models. The singular “F” vehicles go above and beyond the F-Sport cars. In fact, the prestigious F vehicles are just a select few: The Lexus LFA, the RCF, the IS F, and coming soon, the GS-F that’s it, for now.

The Engine Cover of a Lexus RC F

That F vehicle blue graces the RC-F’s badges, engine cover trim and even some of the interior stitching in complete disregard to the car’s exterior color or upholstery color. It’s like Lexus is saying, “the car gets blue decor pieces even if it’s starts looking like the fourth of July.” One of the guys with me on the road trip commented on how he preferred the car with black interior because black goes better with blue trim than red. That is absolutely true, but I don’t care. I love deep red seats almost as much as I love driving. In fact, put deep red seats into a Ford Pinto and it’ll be my new favorite car.

I love deep red seats almost as much as I love driving. In fact, put deep red seats into a Ford Pinto and it’ll be my new favorite car.

The RC-F Details

Lexus RC-F Digital Gauge Cluster Changes

There are a number of things that immediately strike me as impressive. First, there’s the digital gauge cluster which you can swap when switching driving modes. Then there’s the perfect mixture of leather, alcantara and carbon fiber of the interior. There is enough carbon to let you know this car is special, but not too much that it’s trying too hard to impress.

The Lexus RC-F also has the things that make all the difference but you can’t tell they are there by just looking. First, there is the torque vectoring differential. In a rear-wheel drive car this is very techie lingo for a system that makes sure power is distributed to the wheel with most grip while preventing power loss due to slip. Not that you will be lacking power when driving the switchbacks I was driving. This system is great when every little bit counts. It’s specially good when you accelerate hard out of corners, be it on dry or wet roads. The RC-F torque vectoring differential does a great job working together with the sophisticated traction control system. The traction control system keeps you out of the ditch while the torque vectoring differential helps you put power back down again when it’s time to scramble out of a corner.

Then there’s the 8-speed sport direct-shift transmission. No, it’s not a dual clutch gearbox but shifting was immediate and smooth. At no point did I feel the shifting speed was not there. Yes, my preference is towards 3 pedals and a stick, but at this point in automotive history, expecting to find a stick in a luxury sports coupe is like showing up at 5 star restaurant and expecting to get in line for a salad bar.

Then there’s the steering. The steering action in the Lexus RC-F would be best be described as a cross between a sports car and a grand tourer. Oh wait, that’s exactly what the RCF is. Never mind. The point is, the steering is precise and very reassuring. There is not a whole lot of vibration through the steering column – after all it’s a luxury car. There’s also not a ton of feedback through the wheel. The BRZ I drove the same day of course has more steering feel, they’re known for this. Somehow, you don’t want all that feel in the RC-F all the time anyway. It would be rad in these types of roads, but it might also reduce the level of comfort this car absolutely owns. All this said, the steering precision is a delight and inspires tons of confidence to drive it like a sports car.

The steering ratio is adequate for the car and there are no dead spots at center. This is still a big car, so the ratio does not feel like my Fiesta ST for example. I was still able to keep my hands locked at 9 and 3 on most corners with the exception of a few really tight switch backs where I had to shuffle my hands a little bit.

Weighty is it?

I did not prepare myself before I drove the RC-F. I did zero research and I didn’t check the spec sheet before I drove it. This was like watching a movie for which you refuse to even watch the trailer so it won’t spoil a thing.

I was aware of the Lexus RC-F. I had seen one in person before and had sat in it. I had looked around and poked at it here and there but that was pretty much it. Every time I was like, “Wow, this thing is sexy!” Next thing you know I’m driving one on the best driving roads in San Diego County.

I took over the Lexus RC-F after driving up to Julian via Sunrise Highway in the black supercharged Subaru BRZ I briefly mentioned. I hopped into the RC-F after a tasty sandwich lunch at Dudley’s and drove it all over Santa Ysabel down Mesa Grande and back up to Julian again. Interesting choice of road that was. Mesa Grande features some very narrow and tight windy roads that led to even tighter switchbacks – specially closer to the bottom as you approach Lake Henshaw.

This should’ve been the BRZ’s territory. However, I fully enjoyed driving the Lexus RC-F on these roads. The car is incredibly precise, easy to drive, very comfortable and confidence inducing. This is no small car but I never felt like I was driving a tank through a historic victorian village. The car felt right at home and I did not regret the move from the BRZ one bit. In fact, I was glad I was driving this. I jumped back into the BRZ for the drive back from Julian to El Cajon, but I only did it because I needed more time in that car to complete the story on it. But guess what, I was back in the RC-F before we hit the freeway.

The Subaru BRZ was cool and all, but you don’t turn down an RC-F for a BRZ no matter how supercharged the BRZ may be.

Epiphany of performance

Driving the Lexus RC-F

I am a weight-weenie. I’m the guy who’s constantly complaining about cars that are too big or too heavy or have too many toys. Here’s the most interesting bit that I discovered about the Lexus RC-F: The whole time I was clawing away at the tiny switchbacks and tight corners I had a smile on my face and I was incessantly commenting on how light the car felt on its feet. This is not the first big luxury sports car I have driven. Yet, the RC-F just felt so much nimbler than some of the other good ones I have driven.

Little did I know this car has a curb weight of 3,958 pounds. This a big boy. True, it has been proven that heavy cars can perform, just look at the Nissan GT-R. But the RC-F is a different kind of car. I would have never imagined the curb weight was nearly 4,000 lbs. The Lexus RC-F did not drive or feel like the weight would suggest.

Hah, I also HAVE to mention the brakes. The brakes on the Lexus RC-F are Brembo brakes with 15-inch rotors at the front and big six-piston calipers. The RC-F could stop better than the BRZ even if it had the BRZ strapped to its roof.

The RC-F could stop better than the BRZ even if it had the BRZ strapped to its roof.

Hands at 9 and 2, fingers on the paddles and a perfect seating position. The red leather seats in the Lexus RC-F are some of the most amazing seats ever. The infinite adjustability of the seats, the pedals and the steering wheel means that achieving an absolutely perfect seating position is very much attainable. The steering wheel comes nice and back, for a racey, elbows-bent driving position. The car’s interior feels like a very expensive glove. Even though it’s clear this is a sports-oriented luxury car, there has been zero skimping on creature comforts. This is a car an enthusiast can enjoy around a track, an executive can delight on his or her way to the office, and a family man can enjoy on a long drive with the kids. Keep in mind, the back seat is not that of a sedan. It’s still a coupe and the sloping roof also means space back there is a tad limited. However, you can still fit adults with adult legs back there.

Amazing Styling of the Lexus RC-F Red Leather Seats

Can I talk about the seats again? Have you noticed these wouldn’t be out of place in a Ferrari? Apart from the amazing comfort and support, they also feature heating AND cooling. That last bit is very important to drivers like myself. We’ll get deep into a performance drive and our adrenaline starts pumping, our heat rate goes up a fraction and we sweat a little. It pretty much becomes a sport at that point. The cooling makes it so much better. The car had no qualms at having me run the A/C while pushing it hard. The powerful and torquey V8 could care less if you run the A/C at full-low and the throttle at full-high.

After having done this drive I researched the RC-F a little bit more in order to draw some parallels between what I had experienced, the spec on paper and what others are saying. I have to say, one of the most interesting comments I found from many journalists was how in track conditions, other luxury sport coupes were better. I always find these comments funny. While it’s great to try them out on a track, it’s all irrelevant. Show of hands. How many of you are going to drive your Lexus RC-F on a race track? Seriously. Even drivers that often drive in trackdays generally choose a different car for their track days – even if they also own a luxury sports car.

The final result of what you choose should be based on how the car makes YOU feel.

Wrapping it up

Lexus RC F Enjoying the Sunset

The Lexus RC-F makes total sense. It’s a powerful and sophisticated powerhouse that looks amazing, offers great value and has more luxury toys than many more expensive cars from a few years back. Just as importantly, it wears a badge that effectively blends prestige and performance with reliability and value. This is a concoction that is often hard to achieve. Yes, I know, some of you accuse Lexus of being all too grown up and serious. The Lexus RC-F is most certainly grown up but it does have a sense of humor and passion.

Big thanks to Crowley Car Company and Lexus EL Cajon for the cars. Without them this drive would have not been possible.

Additional Photos

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