by Adam Lynton
While it may not strictly be what Lexus had in mind when naming the RC, "Radical Coupe" is exactly what the RC is meant to exemplify for the Lexus RC F as a pinnacle performance model for the brand. But with a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, the 2019 Lexus RC F doesn't really provide such radical performance, with class rivals such as the 2019 BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 all delivering sub-four-second 0-60 mph times. Nevertheless, there's a character to the RC F of great appeal and enjoyment, with a booming 467-horsepower V8 engine under the hood, rear-wheel drive, and striking looks. It offers a lower cost of entry into the luxury sport coupe arena and delivers the luxury and refinement expected from anything bearing the Lexus badge. Unfortunately, Lexus continues to utilize its arduous Remote Touch Interface and ignores the inclusion of appreciable modern connectivity tech. So then, is the RC F a genuine M4 rival, or is it radically soft in comparison?
The 2019 Lexus RC F is still part of the first generation and receives only mild adjustments and additional optional tweaks for 2019. The original chrome lug nuts have been changed to black and a Tenth Anniversary Special Edition Package has been added to the optional packages list which is available for 240 vehicles for the US market only. It is included to celebrate the tenth anniversary of "F" performance and accoutres the RC F with bespoke interior and exterior styling. Other adjustments include revisions to the suspension tuning and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa functionality.
Based on the already aggressive RC coupe, the RC F dials up the machismo further with an assortment of styling enhancements. Riding on 19-inch split-seven-spoke forged alloy wheels, it features a speed-activated rear wing, dual-polished stainless-steel exhaust with premium tips integrated into the bumper, and "F" badging on the bulging front fenders. It's fitted with LED headlamps, daytime running lights, and taillights, housed within aggressively restyled bumpers. Available for 2019 as part of the 10th Anniversary package are blue Brembo brakes and black 19-inch BBS alloy wheels, while the available carbon-fiber roof adds further aggression overall.
Weight and size have a considerable impact on performance and are important factors for the class that the RC F occupies. Unfortunately, the RC F doesn't represent lightweight performance, hampered gravely by its hefty curb weight of 3,958 pounds. Overall dimensions include a body stretching 185.2 inches in length, 72.6 inches wide, and 54.7 inches tall. The wheelbase measures 107.5 inches, and the RC F boasts 5.1 inches of ground clearance. For comparison, the 2019 BMW M4 weighs just 3,625 lbs, 333 lbs lighter than the RC F, resulting in it being half a second faster to the 60 mph mark.
There is a color palette of eight exterior colors available for the RC F, with the seven basic offerings remaining identical to last year's palette, including Caviar, Nebula Gray Pearl, Atomic Silver, and Ultra White which are available at cost, while Flare Yellow, Infrared, and Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 are available at an additional cost of $595. For 2019 a new addition forms part of the 10th Anniversary Edition package and marks the first time Lexus has offered a matte paint option. As part of the package, buyers can equip Nebula Gray in a matte finish. We feel it's worthwhile spending the additional $595 on either the Infrared or the Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 finishes if not opting for the 10th Anniversary package. Both just look phenomenal, complementing the RC F's sporty character and accentuating the exterior chrome and black accents.
The RC F is the standalone performance-focused model perched atop the Lexus RC range, equipped to deliver performance befitting the 'F' badge. It does this, but in competitive terms against direct class rivals, it falters. 0-60 mph takes around 4.4 seconds, with 467 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque driving the RC F forward courtesy of a 5.0-liter V8. But the 2019 BMW M4 comes in half a second quicker, as do the Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS5. Pedal to the metal, the RC F can reach top speeds of up to 168 mph while the BMW M4 pushes those limits to around 174 mph. Of course, rivals rely on forced induction, whereas the RC F is the last of a dying breed, naturally aspirated and large in displacement. Where it conforms to the norm, however, is that it's a rear-wheel-drive coupe with power routed through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Only the Audi RS5 in this segment offers anything but RWD, with signature quattro all-wheel-drive the only option from the German marque.
Mounted under the hood of the RC F is a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine mustering 467 hp and 389 lb-ft, with gears swapped by an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V8 engine is a potent unit, but it's heavy, and due to natural aspiration, is down on torque compared to smaller, turbocharged rivals. The figures it produces are also hampered by the RC F's hefty weight. But what it has going for it is a brawny V8 rumble, aided by active sound control activating at around 3,500 rpm.
Tthe engine delivers ample power in all driving situations, about town or on the highway, but accessing the full extent of the RC F's performance requires drivers to seek out higher revs. Acceleration is potent despite the figures suggesting otherwise, and the transmission slips up the gears snappily as you go. Shifts are precise and smooth and the transmission overall is quite adept at doing its job, even if it is a little slower than dual-clutch alternatives used by some rivals. Fortunately, immediate throttle response helps deliver power efficiently, minimizing the need for an ultra-snappy gearbox.
The RC F may not be a sterling contender performance-wise, but it does manage to deliver to a good balance between a luxurious ride and sporty levels of engagement, more so than rivals that favor handling over comfort. On flat well-kept roads, the RC F remains smooth and settled and handles respectfully around turns and with maneuvering around traffic. Even over some broken pavement, there's a sense of refinement that competitors lack, particularly up to about eight-tenths of its potential. However, road imperfections and undulations have a tendency to upset the RC F considerably when attacking corners at speed, and the heavy body elicits a sense of heaving mid-corner when encountering sudden changes of camber. The tail end can be somewhat loose around sharp turns taken at speed, which might find favor with drivers who enjoy such antics but isn't quite so endearing for those looking for easy speed. The Torsen limited-slip rear differential and F-Adaptive Variable Suspension seem to have benefitted the RC F with improved ride quality overall but haven't enhanced handling dynamics at the limit.
Steering in the RC F is adequately weighted and sharply responsive but could do with some fine-tuning for better precision. The steering wheel proves inept at communicating road feel and tire position which can be unsettling at higher speeds. Brake feel, however, is fairly impressive, although pedal input is light and takes some getting used to, which results in initially jerky braking. The Brembo stoppers are strong though and provide consistent stopping power and inspire confidence, only running out of efficacy after prolonged track usage where the RC F's weight results in overuse.
While the sound might be a plus-point of the naturally aspirated V8, it's large-displacement does it disservice at the pumps, where it performs worse than most rivals in the segment. Driven tentatively, the EPA estimates that the RC F should deliver 16/25/19 mpg on city/highway/combined driving cycles. The BMW M4 proves slightly more efficient with EPA estimates of 18/25/20 mpg respectively, while the RS5 manages 18/27/21 mpg. With a gas tank capacity of 17.4 gallons and a premium gasoline requirement, a full tank should enable the RCF to achieve a total range of about 331 miles.
Lexus is renowned for its top-tier craftsmanship and adoption of premium materials, and the RC F is no exception. All the main touchpoints are soft to the touch and build quality seems high in general, while the comfortable seats are supportive, plush, and richly upholstered. The cabin is soundly built to the finest detail and an abundance of sound deadening isolates exterior noise with great efficacy. Overall ergonomics are impressive for the most part, the positioning and reach of the controls to the driver's benefit, while the adjustability of the steering wheel and driver's seat allow for flexibility in terms of drivers of all shapes and sizes getting comfortable. Cabin space is adequate for front passengers, but as a coupe, the rear seat space is limited, while in terms of storage, practicality is severely limited.
The two-door luxury sports coupe seats a total of four occupants. The front seats are spacious and comfortably padded and are adequately supportive by virtue of the enhanced bolsters. The rear seats are confined and are not suitable for tall adults, but are also comfortably padded and contoured, seeming more GT than a sports coupe. Head and legroom are ample in the front cabin but get a lot tighter in the rear. The RC F is easy to live with as ingress and egress are effortless thanks to large doors and a comfortable seating position, and access to the rear seats is made tolerable thanks to the highly adjustable front seats. The driver's seat is positioned nicely and seats the driver within easy reach of the controls and with ample all-round visibility.
Four interior upholstery options are available for the RC F, with the base option being black NuLuxe upholstery paired with either silver performance trim or black carbon fiber trim. Leather is available in either Black, Stratus Gray, or Circuit Red, but all accented with black carbon fiber trim. If you're lucky enough to receive access to the Tenth Anniversary Special Edition Package, the RC F's interior receives Fuji Blue leather trim on the steering wheel, seats, instrument panel cowl, and shift lever, blue carbon fiber trim on the doors, blue front seat belts, a white marker stripe on the steering wheel, and an embossed headliner.
As with most two-door sport coupes, trunk and cargo space are rather limited in the RC F, however, relative to class rivals the RC F comes up short. Just 10.1 cubic feet of space is available in the trunk, that's enough room to secure a laptop case and gym bag and maybe a couple of grocery bags. The rear seats in the RC F don't fold down at all so the trunk space is not expandable, though there is a small trunk pass-through in the rear center armrest. Beneficially, the trunk is deep and the trunk lid opens decently wide.
Storage capability in the cabin is equally limited, the front cabin featuring only a moderately sized center console and glove box, narrow door side pockets, and two cupholders. There are two cupholders in the rear cabin too.
The RC F is equipped with a decent range of standard vehicle features overall, the notable comfort and convenience features include SmartAccess with push-button Start/Stop, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and sport ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat and eight-way front passenger's seat. It's also equipped with appealing LFA-inspired instrumentation including G-force display and lap timer, paddle shifters on the sport steering wheel, and a Drive Mode Select with Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom drive modes. Available options include driver's memory function, as well as a power sunroof, while assistance features comprise a rearview camera, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams, with blind-spot monitoring and park assist optionally available.
Lexus has often been criticized for a confusing infotainment system, and unfortunately, the RC F is no different. The infotainment system's Remote Touch Interface is one of the most unintuitive controllers around, making it difficult to navigate the system. The standard setup comprises a seven-inch color display and a ten-speaker premium sound system. Integrated compatibility with the Scout GPS Link with MapStream and TurnStream modes is complimentary for the first three years of ownership, subscription-free traffic and weather updates are provided via the HD radio, and Lexus' Enform Remote app and Amazon Alexa compatibility is complimentary for the first year of ownership. New for 2019 is Apple CarPlay functionality, but Android Auto is still noticeably absent. WiFi hotspot capability is included and comes with a four-GB/one-year trial. Bluetooth connectivity, Dynamic Voice Command, and Siri Eyes Free are standard, and there is a single USB port for device charging. Navigation is optionally available, as is a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
To date, there have been no major recalls commissioned for the 2019 Lexus RC F, and there have been no RC F driver complaints lodged so far. J.D. Power gave the 2019 Lexus RC F a predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five, that's usually the case with Lexus vehicles. Giving buyers further peace of mind, Lexus covers the 2019 RC F with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The NHTSA has not yet evaluated any RC F model for crashworthiness. The IIHS, through extensive crash test evaluations, scored the standard 2019 Lexus RC with overall top results of Good in all six assessment areas, scores which are applicable to the RC F.
Standard safety equipment featured in the RC F includes an integrated suite
of class-leading standard active safety equipment packaged and labeled as the 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. A rearview backup camera is also featured as standard and the airbag concealment comprises eight standard airbags, including a driver knee airbag. Intuitive Parking Assist is an available standalone option and is included in the optional Premium Package as well.
Luxury sports coupes are marketed to deliver a competent balance between luxury and performance without compromising the key aspects of either. In the case of the RC F, it delivers ample performance but lends towards comfort more than outright dynamism. Against the traditional segment rivals, it's too soft, too heavy, and simply not talented enough to stand out. But it does have a place, and when viewed more as a grand tourer, the RC F suddenly makes sense. With excellent build-quality and upscale interior, along with a comfortable ride quality, the RC F is more of a junior Lexus LC 500 than it is an M4 rival. However, it's worth noting it lacks practicality with a small trunk and limited internal storage, while the infotainment system remains a bone of contention. Rivals also offer more features, with heated and ventilated seats and a range of other conveniences absent from the RC F.
For 2019, prospective buyers can expect a starting MSRP of $64,750 for the Lexus RC F, that's excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees, and Lexus' delivery, processing, and handling fee of $995. Independent dealerships may offer dealer-specific incentives. At its price point, the Lexus RC F offers decent value for money, it's competitively priced within the market, undercutting key rivals by around $5,000.
The RC F is a standalone model presented as the high-performance variant of the Lexus RC range. It's equipped accordingly with Lexus' most powerful engine and fitted with performance-oriented equipment including a Torsen limited-slip rear differential and sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension for the express purpose of enhanced performance. Standard sports seats are power-adjustable and upholstered in leatherette with optional full-leather, while dual-zone climate control keeps occupants cool. A ten-speaker sound system is matched with a seven-inch screen with Lexus Enform app suite, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, and available navigation, as well as an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot.
5.0-liter V8 Gas
For 2019 and limited to 240 vehicles in the US, the RC F receives access to a 10th Anniversary Special Edition Package which for $9,000 equips the RC F with polished black, 19-inch BBS forged wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, blue Brembo brake calipers Matte Nebula Gray paint, Fuji Blue leather upholstery and trimming, blue carbon trim on the doors, blue front seat belts, a white center marker on the steering wheel, an embossed headliner, and "F" logo side mirror projector lamps.
The $5,500 Performance Package upgrades the RC F with a carbon-fiber roof, carbon fiber speed-activated rear wing, and a torque vectoring differential.
The Premium Package asks $3,240 for black carbon fiber interior trim, heated and ventilated front seats, Lexus Memory System for the power driver's seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, auto-dimming outside mirrors with auto tilt, rain-sensing windshield wipers and water-repellent front-door glass, and adds a blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and a parking assistant.
Lastly, $1,645 gets you the Navigation Package, while $2,725 gets you the combination Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package which includes the Navigation Packages contents of a navigation System with 10.3-in color multimedia display, Lexus' Enform Dynamic Navigation, and Lexus' Enform Destination Assist, while adding a 17-speaker premium surround sound system with an 835-watt amplifier, Clari-Fi audio processing, auto-volume technology, and machined-aluminum control knobs.
As the only RC F trim available, Lexus makes the decision for you. But we would recommend opting for a couple of packages, like the Mark Levinson sound upgrade, and the stylish carbon fiber upgrades from the Performance Package. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on a 10th Anniversary Edition, that would be the ideal pick, as it's not only exclusive but looks great inside and out.
The 2019 BMW M4 is well worth the extra $4,100 over the RC F, with superior high-performance capabilities while compromising little in the way of comfort. The BMW M4 is equipped with a turbocharged three-liter inline-six engine which develops 42 hp less than the RC F but 17 lb-ft more torque. With less weight to carry, the M4 is half a second quicker to 0-60 mph than the RC F and handles better too. It's more intuitive to drive and feels more occupant-oriented too, with more space inside, more cargo space, and a higher level of standard specification. Tech-wise the M4 also proves favorable, featuring a larger center display with a more intuitive infotainment system and superior sound system. The M4 offers a far more athletic drive and has an inclination toward outright performance, even though the soundtrack may not quite be as exciting as the RC F's burly V8. In this segment, buyers aren't looking for a GT car, which is why the M4 comes out trumps.
At around $27,550 more than the RC F the 2019 Lexus LC 500 offers a better balance between high-performance and luxury along with a finer range of superior features as standard - as you'd expect it to. It's equipped with the same V8 engine but is dialed-up to develop an extra four hp and an extra nine lb-ft, however, proves slower with more mass to move. But as a true grand tourer, the LC 500 offers almost half the trunk space capacity offered in the already limited 10.1 cu-ft of space in the RC F, in-cabin storage is even more limited and functionally impractical. As Lexus vehicles, the LC and RC share the same unintuitive infotainment system and the awkward controls and functional limitations. The LC is more refined overall and is a better performance vehicle when attacking a twisty road, but it's expensive, and the RC F gives you that GT feel with more practicality and a friendlier price, making it our pick of the two for daily use.