Behind the wheel: 2016 Lexus RC F Sport Coupe
If you’re looking for a serious, rear-wheel-drive, V8 sports coupe, with Japanese reliability and Lexus style, the 2016 Lexus RC F is the perfect car. This writer spent a week in the new 467 HP velvet monster and took it on a road trip from Los Angeles to the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa, just outside Palm Springs.
With an impeccably crafted interior that beautifully straddles the line between performance and luxury, the car is a pleasure to drive. The responsive 8-speed Sport Direct-Shift Transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters can be manually dominated for performance driving or just left alone for comfortable cruising. That’s the major takeaway from spending a week in the RC F, it has that elusive Jekyll and Hyde personality that offers a true extreme at both ends. In the Eco mode, the car can approach 30 MPG with careful, controlled comfortable driving. In the Sport S+ mode you get exhilarating track-ready performance with a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 168 MPH.
The drive to and weekend getaway in Palm Springs offered a nice mix of driving situations, from bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway on a Friday afternoon, to around-town driving in Palm Springs. The return trip at night, offered nice stretches of empty freeway to explore the more performance aspects of the car, as did a brief detour to some of the area’s deserted desert roads. The luxurious interior and comfortable ride provided the perfect transportation for some nice dinners in Rancho Mirage and shopping excursions were easily handled by the large sport-back and trunk space. Visibility is great in the car and it was certainly easy to maneuver in parking lots and curbside parking as well. A very positive reception by the resort’s valet staff confirmed the car’s coolness factor and popularity with gearheads.
Part of the automaker’s now legendary F Sport series, the RC F two-door sport coupe is about as close to the legendary Lexus LFA supercar as most buyers can get. With aggressive yet attractive exterior styling, the car is still a relatively rare sight on U.S. roads, adding to the ownership exclusivity. While the subtle RC F badging lets other drivers know this is a serious sports car, they will probably discover it from the throaty exhaust sound and the sight of the rear end disappearing into the distance as the car enjoys getting real close to its 7,300 RPM redline.
Inside, it’s a beautiful, luxurious sports car experience with some of the coolest looking sports seats available in any car. And while looking cool, the seats are both supportive during spirited driving and comfortable for long-distance cruising, a combination hard to find in most racing-inspired sports seats.
The front-mounted, 5.0L, 32 valve, V8 dual-overhead cam engine has both direct and port injection and variable valve timing. Especially in the two Sport modes, the naturally-aspirated engine provides a smooth, constant reserve of power. The power, 467 HP and 389 LB FT of torque, is never brutal and that’s where you are reminded you’re in a Lexus, not a V12 Aston-Martin or supercharged Jaguar F-Type R. Stopping is accomplished by Brembo-sourced brakes with huge, 14.9 inch slotted front rotors with six-piston, opposed calipers and 13.5 slotted rotors in the rear, both with high-friction pads. Everything is perfectly applied to the road via a very sensitive 8-speed automatic transmission with AI Shift Control. It has laser-fast shifts and cool technology like a g-force sensor that holds the lower gear when going into a curve. There’s even an optional Torque Vectoring Differential that sends power to the rear wheels individually to help rotate the car in the direction of the turn.
The car has a wonderful balance and road feel, due in part of the incredible Lexus (and Toyota) race-proven technology that goes into the suspension and frame. Composites and carbon fiber are used on the body panels and other parts to increase strength and reduce weight. The thick steering wheel is very responsive and even the pedals are race-ready, metal with rubber inserts. Sitting in the high-backed F Spec sport seats and looking at the race-inspired digital gauges, it’s a wonderful, immersive experience that you should find in a high performance sport coupe. In the sport modes, the combination of the large engine and track-ready transmission provide an excellent driving experience and skilled drivers can really get a lot of the car and suspension with amazing performance in both straight and slalom situations. This driver would like to see a super-version, perhaps with power approaching the track-only GT3 RC F which has 540 HP from a tuned version of the same V8. A similar boost in the torque to closer to 500 LB FT (from the 389 LB FT it currently produces) would also bring the car more in line with some of its much higher priced two-seat sport coupe competitors.
The RC F has a list price of $62,805. The test car had the $1,500, 19-inch hand-polished 20-spoke forged alloy wheels, the $1,160 premium triple beam LED headlamps, the $800 leather-trimmed seats (well worth the price) and the $1,530 navigation, camera and Enform (Lexus’ infotainment system) subscription. The beautiful Infrared red exterior paint added another $595 and the interior Premium Package with carbon fiber trim and the traffic and parking alerts added $3,240, with the last option being the $1,100 moonroof. A delivery, processing and handling fee of $940 brought the total to $73,670.
For that $74K, you get a front-engined serious sports coupe, with two small seats in the rear, along with bulletproof Lexus build quality, reliability and every luxury amenity available. Those shopping for a Corvette (only two seats), Jaguar (a six cylinder or a lot more money) and even Aston-Martin or Maserati ( both a lot more money) would be well-advised to drive the RC F before making a final decision.