by Ian Wright
For some performance coupe aficionados, the 2019 Lexus RC F didn't quite get the balance right between consummate luxury and high-end performance. Lexus has rectified this with the 2020 model year, adding a slew of performance-focused enhancements should do much to appease hardcore driving enthusiasts.
Coming into 2020, Lexus attempts to refine the now six-year-old luxury sports coupe through weight reduction while maintaining the RC F's baseline build and ride quality. Weight reduction isn't the whole story, though, and the 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine has been dialed-up to produce 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque, increases of five and six respectively. The carried-over eight-speed automatic transmission keeps its place driving the rear wheels. The enhanced powertrain and reduced weight results in improved speed and handling, and the new-for-2020 RC F Track model finally manages to breach the four-second 0-60 mph barrier, taking the RC F to BMW M4 territory. Have the improvements been enough, or is the now seven-year-old coupe pushing its luck against the more accomplished competition?
The Lexus RC F advances into 2020 with a range of performance-focused enhancements to improve the base model and the addition of a new derivative, the RC F Track Edition, of which only 50 units are available in the US. The adjustments have been focused on reducing overall weight, with alterations including a pared-down intake manifold and a smaller air conditioning compressor under the hood, the use of hollow half shafts in the rear diff, and the use of aluminum for the toe control brackets and upper suspension support brackets. The powertrain has been refined with stiffer engine mounts, and a revised intake system improves throttle response and increases power and torque outputs by five and six increments, respectively. An electronic launch control feature has been included now, too, while the bodywork has been restyled minimally to accompany the increase in performance.
Slight adjustments to styling for 2020 see the RC F look refined, while the new Track Edition adds a dose of track-focused aggression. Both the RC F and Track Edition are fitted with Bi-LED headlamps and daytime running lights and receive stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The RC F's rubber is mounted on 19-inch split-seven-spoke alloy wheels while the Track Edition receives 19-inch ultra-lightweight forged alloy wheels with red brake calipers. The RC F features a color-keyed front spoiler, rear diffuser, and speed-activated rear wing while the Track Edition receives a carbon fiber hood, roof, front spoiler, rocker-panel splitters, rear diffuser, and fixed rear wing and features titanium mufflers.
Both the Lexus RC F and Track Edition boast identical dimensions, spanning a length of 185.4 inches, and a width of 72.6 inches, while both stand 54.7 inches in height. They both retain last year's wheelbase of 107.5 inches and are low to the ground with 5.1 inches of ground clearance. Lexus' weight reduction strategy has decreased the RC F's weight by a reported 55 pounds relative to the 2019 model, to 3,902 pounds. With the use of carbon fiber materials, weight is further decreased in the RC F Track Edition which presents a curb weight of 3,781 pounds, a reduction of 176 lbs from last year's RC F.
The RC F's total color range includes seven options, although there are limitations based on specification. There are three basic exterior color options available for the RC F including Ultra White, Atomic Silver, and Caviar, although only the white is available on both the regular RC F and the Track Edition. Optioning the RC F with the optional Premium Package gives it access to the Infrared and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 exterior color options while Flare Yellow is optional with the inclusion of the optional Performance Package. The RC F Track Edition can be coated in either Ultra White or, for an additional $3,100, in Matte Nebula Gray, the same shade as last year's 10th Anniversary Edition models. The RC F looks most striking in the Infrared paint whilst the Track Edition's bespoke Matte Nebula Gray is the finer pick and well worth the additional charge to pair with the exposed carbon bodywork.
The 2020 enhancements have improved performance specs from the RC F slightly, taking the standard RC F from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, around 0.2 seconds quicker than the previous model year, primarily due to the inclusion of launch control and reduced weight. But if performance is your utmost priority, the RC F Track Edition proves even quicker, arriving at the 60 mph mark in just 3.96 seconds. This finally places it in the sub-four-second bracket with rivals like the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S. Thank the weight loss and the increase in power for the Track Edition's additional liveliness, while its retention of rear-wheel-drive is still geared towards the purists as opposed to the Audi RS5's all-wheel-drive reliance. Unfortunately, regardless of the weight shaving strategy and general performance enhancements, the weight of the RC F remains a hinder to its capability, with even the Track Edition being around 160 lbs heavier than BMW's own track-focused M4 CS.
The RC F's powertrain has been refined with minor tweaks and enhancements for quicker throttle response and better overall output relative to the 2019 model. Using a revised air intake, the 5.0-liter V8 engine - still gloriously naturally aspirated - receives five additional horsepower and six extra lb-ft of torque, taking total outputs to 472 hp and 395 lb-ft for the 2020 model. The engine is paired with the same eight-speed automatic transmission as last year.
With these refinements made, Lexus claims the RC F Track Edition boasts the best power-to-weight ratio among its competitors. Still, with no turbocharger bolstering mid-range torque, the V8's potency is only unveiled when the revs start to climb towards redline. It's an aural delight going in search of the power, the exhaust note unhindered by the addition of turbos. There's a lack of punch at low engine speeds, but there's a lot of delight to be had keeping it in the peak-power range on the back roads.
Minor revisions to the eight-speed auto 'box have improved drivability, with gear selection coming smoothly promptly, and both upshifts and downshifts handled swiftly. It still lacks the sharp snap of a dual-clutch offering, but it's not the worst out there by any margin. In daily traffic, the auto rarely misses a beat and is happy to figure out what you want it to do and be in the right gear at the right time.
The easy to engage launch control will bring a smile to the face, even if it's not the quickest car off the line. Engaging Sport or Sport+ mode changes the RC F's demeanor drastically, sharpening up the throttle response and cranking the transmission's aggression. Without using the paddles, the transmission holds the gears well, but the crisp response makes the paddles a delight to use.
The RC F never struggled with ride comfort - it was something it had in abundance. However, it couldn't match its rivals' athleticism at ten-tenths, and for 2020 Lexus has sought to rectify this. With revised adaptive variable suspension and stickier summer tires for 2020, the Lexus RC F retains its high quality of daily comfort but now exercises higher ability levels when pushed hard. Finesse in the suspension brings neutrality to the handling that allows greater composure at its limits, but, if prompted, the RC F can still oversteer at a whim. Understeer has also been mitigated, inspiring more confidence to push through and out of a corner. Enhanced aerodynamics, particularly on the Track Edition, also improve grip, but the difference is quite negligible anywhere but on the race track.
The adaptive variable suspension effectively handles bigger bumps and keeps the RC F appreciably composed overall. The ride is still more on the firm side, but road imperfections are smoothed out enough to keep it comfortable on long drives.
The newfound lightness has improved the RC F's overall feel, but it still doesn't feel as nimble as some of its rivals. The enhancements make it sharper and more performance-focused than ever before, but there's still the impression that this is a GT car, and its competitors are better performance coupes. The RC F shines as a car to simply enjoy, whether it's a weekend road trip or a thrash through the countryside late at night.
Gas mileage estimates from the RC F are relatively average for a high-performance coupe. The naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 has no turbos to fall back on in the pursuit of economy, but a taller final ratio on the eight-speed automatic improves gas mileage a little over the outgoing model. Both RC F models receive EPA estimates of 16/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined. With a gas tank capacity of 17.4 gallons, the RC F can achieve a total range of around 331 miles with mixed driving styles. For comparison, the 2019 BMW M4 comes out slightly more fuel-efficient earning EPA estimates of 18/25/20 mpg. Our test vehicle came in at 19 mpg comfortably by the end of the week we had with it, and after a mix of freeway, city and, most impressively, after a lot of heavy-footed back road driving.
The RC F is finely built and cohesive in design, with exemplary fit and finish and a high number of soft-touch materials on all major touchpoints. Ergonomics are typically Lexus, that is to say, everything falls to hand with the exception of a confusing infotainment setup, while the seats are supportive of a wide range of body types and suitable for long-distance travel in relative comfort. A good range of adjustability ensures most drivers will find an optimal seating position, with an abundance of room upfront. The same can't be said of the rear, though, where the sloping roofline and confined space isn't suited to adults. The Track Edition sacrifices some interior refinement and is a little noisier than the standard model, but it's all in the pursuit of performance.
The RC F accommodates a maximum of four occupants, two highly supportive sport bucket seats are fitted in the front cabin, while the rear bench is raised in the center for lateral support. The seating throughout the cabin is highly comfortable and supportive enough with adjustability suitable for optimal comfort and sporty driving. Headroom and legroom are adequate in the front seats at least for most adults, but that room is gravely diminished in the rear of the cabin, although seating remains plush and supportive. Thanks to the moderately high seating position relative to other sports coupes in general, ingress and egress are made easy to live with on a daily basis. Forward visibility is sufficient while rearward visibility is hampered by the thick rear roof pillars, resulting in substantial blind spots.
There are a few interior themes available for the RC F, with the most basic being the black NuLuxe leatherette upholstery paired with silver fiber trim inserts. Leather is available in two combination offerings, Circuit Red and Black, or White and Black, both of which are pairable with either the silver fiber trim or black carbon fiber. The reserve of the Track Edition is Circuit Red Alcantara upholstery, which is paired with black carbon fiber that has a red inlay. Contrast stitching on the seats was supposedly inspired by specially crafted athletic sportswear, and according to Lexus, is designed to provide greater support and grip in high-G situations.
Though storage capability is no key trait for a luxury sport coupe, the Lexus RC F still performs worse than any of its key rivals in this regard. A mere 10.1 cubic feet of trunk space is available, which should cater to a couple of small suitcases. The rear seats don't fold either, limiting the extension of the trunk to just a small available passthrough for long, slender items. Fortunately, the trunk lid opens wide and the load area is deep and flat, which makes the space more practical than it may seem.
In-cabin storage is just as limited, the door side pockets are narrow, the center console is moderately sized along with the glove box, and there are two cupholders integrated into the front center console. With the Premium Package upgrade, the rear center seat receives a small console and two cupholders.
Standard features in both the RC F and Track Edition are very sport-oriented with a fair blend of comfort and convenience including SmartAccess with push-button start/stop, drive mode select with Sport S/S+ and custom modes, and launch control which is newly featured as standard. It also features dual-zone automatic climate control and an electrochromic (auto-dimming) rear-view mirror. The more sport-oriented features include the LFA-inspired instrumentation with G-force display and lap timer, steering wheel paddle shifters, and front high back sport bucket seats with enhanced bolsters. Both models are equipped with the same advanced driver-assist features including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, while blind-spot monitoring is available as an optional extra.
It's long been a thorn in Lexus' side, but for 2020 the RC F continues with the much-loathed Lexus Enform infotainment suite, comprising a seven-inch color display and standard ten-speaker sound system. It comes installed with Lexus App Suite 2.0 and is tethered to Lexus' frustrating Remote Touchpad. The system is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay but regrettably not with Android Auto. It allows for Mobile Assistant, Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity and has WiFi hotspot capability. The Lexus Enform Remote app with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capability is included for the first year of ownership while a 4GB/one-year trial is included with the WiFi hotspot capability. At extra cost, a Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system is available, which is paired with a 10.3-inch display with built-in navigation.
Despite being on the market for seven years now, the RC F has garnered next to no negative reports for reliability concerns from owners, and reliability is considered a strong point. Only one recall has been issued in recent years for 2016-2018 models afflicted by a problematic fuel pump. Lexus vehicles generally receive above-average predicted reliability ratings from J.D. Power, but the 2020 RC F is yet to be given a rating. We expect it to carry the same exemplary scores as those before it. Lexus covers the RC F with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the 2020 model of the RC F. The 2019 model RC has, however, been evaluated by the IIHS, receiving top results of Good in six separate crash assessment areas. It also received a top rating of Superior for the effectiveness of its front crash prevention features.
Featured as standard in the RC F and Track Edition is Lexus' Safety System+ which comprises a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and intelligent high beams. Lamentably, the adaptive cruise control only works above 25 mph and is inept in stop-and-go traffic along with the lane-keeping assist system which also occasionally loses track of road lines. A rearview camera and eight airbags are also standard in the RC F models. The Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect are included for the first ten years of ownership.
Lexus has managed to identify the critical drawbacks of the 2019 RC F model and has respectably amended many of them, including the RC F's weight and handling dynamics. The 2020 RC F offers a more elegant balance between performance and luxury relative to last year's model. However, it still falls slightly short compared to rivals, if performance figures on paper matter to you. It does still have some of the inconveniences carried over from the older model, including the unintuitive infotainment system and Remote Touchpad, and subpar storage capability. What makes the RC F a great vehicle is its entry-level price compared to rivals, comfort, reliability, and a soundtrack that only the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe can rival. However, the RC F should not be discounted as it provides a grin-inducing experience when driven hard, and it begs to be driven hard. Then, there's a ride quality you can pay a lot more for elsewhere and still come up short on the daily commute.
The RC F Track Edition is a welcome high-performance derivative, but it's extremely limited, and it's expensive too, but will cater exclusively to collectors' desires. A longer production run on the Track Edition would be closer to the mark from Lexus, but not a bulls-eye.
Prospective buyers are looking at a starting MSRP of $64,750 for the base RC F, while the RC F Track Edition will seek a hefty starting MSRP of $96,650, largely due to extensive use of carbon fiber and the fact that the Track Edition is limited to just 50 units. All stated figures are excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees, and Lexus' delivery, processing, and handling fee of $1,025. Individual dealers may offer dealer-specific incentives and pricing, so it pays to shop around.
The 2020 Lexus RC F lineup comprises two models, the base RC F, and the limited-number RC F Track Edition. Both models are equipped with the same sport-tuned underpinnings and powertrain comprising a 5.0-liter V8 producing 472 hp and 395 lb-ft.
Standard features include LED headlights, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, a Torsen limited-slip differential, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable sports seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a seven-inch infotainment system with ten speakers. The Lexus Safety System+ is also equipped.
The RC F Track Edition is limited in number to just 50 units in the US and features a carbon fiber hood, roof, front spoiler, rear diffuser, and fixed rear wing, as well as titanium mufflers, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, red carbon-fiber interior trim, red Alcantara upholstery, and a special card key, along with a number of weight-saving measures.
Optional packages available for the RC F include the Premium Package, which for $5,350 upgrades the RC F with a power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, a driver's seat memory, a rear-seat center console with cupholders and armrest with trunk pass-through, electrochromic (auto-dimming) outside mirrors with auto tilt-down in reverse, and adds a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. The $11,400 Performance Package includes the Premium Package and ups the ante with a carbon-fiber roof, front spoiler, rocker-panel splitters, rear diffuser, and speed-activated rear wing, and includes black carbon-fiber interior trim.
Available for both the RC F and RC F Track Edition is the $2,725 Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package which comprises a navigation system with 10.3-in color multimedia display with Lexus' Enform Destination Assist included for the first year of ownership, Lexus' Enform Dynamic Navigation included for up to the first three years of ownership, and dynamic voice command. It upgrades the audio system to a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with 835-watt Class-D amplifier, Clari-Fi audio processing, auto-volume technology, and machined-aluminum control knobs.
The revisions to the RC F for 2020 make it a better performer while keeping it more road-biased than track-focused. That's the right balance for the RC-F, and, mainly for that reason, we recommend the base model RC F. Even if you're lucky enough to get your hands on one of the fifty available Track Editions, the substantial price premium seems ludicrous, barring its exclusivity factor. The regular RC F is more comfortable and has greater availability to optional packages for additional refinement and on-road drivability. However, we won't blame anyone for adding the Performance Package for the carbon fiber elements, which look great and suit the cars aesthetic and performance level.
Even with the RC F's enhancements for 2020, it still fails to match up to the 2020 BMW M4 in so many key aspects. Performance-wise the M4 remains around 0.3 seconds faster to 60 mph than the 2020 RC F, and it counters the RC F Track Edition with its own limited edition M4 CS. Both the M4 and the CS perform better than the RC F on the road and track, with less weight and a greater balance between comfort and dynamic ability. On the technology front, the M4's iDrive system and general connectivity surpass the capabilities and usability of the RC F's frustrating infotainment setup. The M4, with split-folding rear seats, even offers more trunk capacity and more storage solutions than the RC F. In base format, the RC F is still nearly $5,000 cheaper than the M4, but we feel the M4 remains the better pick, offering more value and ticking all the boxes of a performance coupe.
Being that both vehicles in this comparison belong to Lexus, one can expect the key commonalities to be shared equally here. As such, Lexus's famed high reliability and respectable safety, venerable build quality, exquisite interiors, and inclination for a plush ride quality are all present in both vehicles. However, with sharing the good, comes the bad too, as both vehicles hold the unpopular Remote Touch Interface that controls the infotainment system, which in itself is not as intuitive as the systems in many other rival vehicles. The RC F does offer more trunk capacity and in-cabin storage solutions, and this year's RC F proves more potent with engine outputs now improved. The Track Edition, if you're lucky enough to even consider one, is more expensive than the LC 500 by around $4,000 so sticking to the base RC F will not only spare you of almost $30,000, but will, in this case, also get you the most value for money and a more enjoyable car to drive. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the RC F is supposed to be a performance coupe, whereas the LC is a grand tourer, which means style, pace, and comfort in abundance. If that's what you're after, the LC comes out tops.
Check out some informative Lexus RC F video reviews below.