Lexus’s answer to vehicles such as the Audi RS 5, BMW M4, and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S has been revamped and updated, so now it’s hungrier than ever. But are the changes good enough to obscure those rivals from consumers?

2020 Lexus RC F: What is it?

The 2020 Lexus RC F is a high-performance coupe, based on the Lexus RC coupe. It competes in the mid-size premium coupe segment against the aforementioned rivals, and in F form as we have here it features a bespoke and powerful V8 motor with a comprehensive rear-wheel drive system. It’s a product of Lexus’s F division, which was first set up back in 2008 with the release of the IS F. Today, the F brand offers the RC F and the GS F, with rumours of an ‘LC F’ being on the way (although not confirmed by Lexus).

Two variants are on sale in Australia. You can go for the base model, which is a luxury-oriented performance sports car, and the Track Edition. As you can probably imagine, the Track Edition is set up more for driving enthusiasts and offers a more hardcore experience. For the launch of the 2020, it’s the first time Lexus introduced a ‘track’ anything in its Aussie showroom.

No matter which version you go for, both versions come with a belting, thumping, and metallically-organismic 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine. It’s not the most powerful engine in this class, producing 351kW and 530Nm, but it doesn’t matter. The aural pleasure it provides more than makes up for any deficit in the output wars.

In Australia the 2020 Lexus RC F is priced from $133,771 for the normal version, and then from $165,690 for the Track Edition (both before on-road costs).

2020 Lexus RC F: What does it come with?

Lexus is one of the rare premium brands that doesn’t bombard its customers with optional extras. Basically, you buy the car and you get the entire package. Well, this is almost the case with the 2020 RC F. Buyers can upgrade to three different options only, called Enhancement Packs. Number 1 pack adds polished wheels and a sunroof for $5000. Number 2 adds painted wheels and a sunroof for $5000. And then number 3 adds carbon fibre interior parts, a sports exhaust, composite brakes, and the polished wheels and sunroof for a more substantial $29,161.

But you don’t need to option up to any of these, really. The standard package is very well equipped as it is. You get Lexus’s latest high-res media screen, although it is controlled by the clumsy touch pad system on the centre console. It’s great that there is a controller of some sort on the console to reduce distraction, but we think Lexus really needs to have rethink of this touch pad as it can be frustrating to use. Especially when you need to make small jumps within the screen options. The digital instrument cluster is a work of Japanese art, presenting precise data in a range of layouts dependant on the driving mode.

Front passengers get a pair of lovely sports seats that wrap you perfectly, with good cushioning to support those long exciting journeys. They offer power adjustment and heating, with a power-adjustable steering column for the driver. The driving position is spot-on, too. You can go for a low and racy layout or raise the controls right up for a better view if you prefer.

Rear seat accommodation is impressive for a coupe, with dedicated climate vents, cup holders, and a centre console. Unfortunately there are only two seats in the back, but the legroom and headroom they provide is well up to the class standards. They are slightly reclined for more comfort, and there’s an arm rest that flips down from the centre.

You could use the RC F as a daily driver, there’s no question about that. It feels roomy and convenient inside, with lots of storage and cup holders and so on. There’s also USB ports to keep your devices charged, and full Bluetooth connectivity. Lexus is only just starting to roll out Apple CarPlay on some models, but it hasn’t been fitted to this test model. Digital radio, dual-zone climate control, and GPS sat-nav are also standard. And there’s a 366-litre boot at your disposal.

Lexus is on top of safety with all of its vehicles, and most models are rated five stars by ANCAP. Although, the RC hasn’t been rated. Given it is loosely based on the IS sedan (rear end) and GS sedan (front end), both of which have been given five stars, we’d suggest the safety of the RC is up to the standard. It comes with all of the latest  gear, like autonomous emergency braking (low and high speed), pedestrian detection and avoidance, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert with a rear camera.

2020 Lexus RC F: Fun factor

From this engine alone, the fun factor is quite high. It’s a proper, high-tech, naturally aspirated quad-cam V8 and it produces one of the best soundtracks you’ll hear from a modern, mainstream vehicle. There’s no bi-modal exhaust or annoying in-car sound enhancement through the speakers. You just get a very clear and metallic V8 snarl that turns into a belting bark as you climb the revs. It is very addictive and a lot of fun.

Power from the V8 is thumping yet progressive. It builds power and speed as fast as the engine revs climb (obviously, like most cars, but in a very linear way). In the first few gears this is an exhilarating experience. First gear, actually, does seem a bit long, but following initial launch the acceleration is relentless. The eight-speed auto is fantastic, swapping cogs extremely quickly and smoothly. This is a combo you don’t usually get with a dual-clutch auto. Lexus has introduced a launch control system for the 2020 model, which helped us clock a 0-100km/h run in just 4.8 seconds.

Around corners it isn’t as sharp as most of the rivals. It has a lot of talent in that it is very stable and comfortable while tackling bends, but in a sports car buyers might, traditionally, want something tighter and more edgy. It’s also quite heavy, with a kerb weight of 1845kg. And it doesn’t do a great job of hiding that. Maybe Lexus hasn’t tried to hide it? After all, the weight does help with the feeling of solidity and security on the road.

The RC F uses a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential to distribute the power between both rear wheels. This means you can enjoy a spot of drifting, but for us it’s the weight that makes it a little uneasy and somewhat unpredictable at the very limit. Using momentum to pitch the front end into a corner does improve the enjoyment, but the rear end is quite solid and sure-footed. That is unless you apply a boot-full of throttle with the stability control off.

For us, it is the magnificent engine that provides the most joy. It sounds so good. And instead of treating it like a BMW M4 and expecting it to behave like one, we think it’s best to rely on Lexus’s outstanding reputation for luxury. It might not be as quick as some rivals, but it is more comfortable and sounds a lot better in our opinion.

2020 Lexus RC F: Should you buy one?

The potential problem with the RC F is that it doesn’t feel like it was built as an outright sports car; the key German rivals are sharper, faster and more agile. But in that sense if you are after more of an everyday sports car that is very, very comfortable, and filled with high-tech gadgets and pampering features, the RC F is an appealing machine. It might even be a better daily driver than those key competitors.

How does it rate against rivals?
  • Practicality
  • Engine and gearbox
  • Cornering talent
  • Engine sound
  • Value for money

Final word

It is a Lexus at the end of the day, and that means it should, first and foremost, be a luxury car. And it is. It feels luxurious when you sit in it and it drives like an ultra-smooth luxury car, gliding around corners. It just so happens to have a hammering V8 engine and solid rear-wheel drive handling.

I like to think that I'm a car fanatic, but more of a driving fanatic. There's nothing better than getting out onto the open road, almost regardless of the car, and enjoying dancing with the controls and gathering up the moving scenery. If I'm not driving I'm either at the gym or sinking a few beers with friends.