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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
5.0L V8 Gas
|RC F Track||
5.0L V8 Gas
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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.
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.
|Lexus RC F||472 hp||16/24 mpg||$66,220|
|BMW M4 Coupe||473 hp||16/23 mpg||$74,700|
|Lexus LC Coupe||471 hp||16/25 mpg||$93,150|
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.
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