Stick Shift: 2016 Lexus RC-F

Ever since my review of the 2015 RC, I’ve been dying to get behind the wheel of Lexus’ fire breathing V8 version, the RC-F. Having thoroughly enjoyed every mile in the late IS-F, I knew this would shape up to be a promising week. I’m pleased to say that the RC-F did not disappoint. It makes an impactful first impression.

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As you approach, it looks less like a car and more like a character from a DC comic book. It should be standing on some ledge high above a dark rainy city, wearing a mask, long cape flapping in the wind, powerful arms folded over a puffed out chest. The RC-F looks like its on a mission, and it has the superhero shape to be taken seriously.

Front and center is a gaping hourglass grill, poised to swallow anything in its path. Lines bulge and flare out in all the right places with long brake vents on all four corners. The RC-F crouches low over 19” split 10-spoke alloy wheel and glares out at the world with premium triple beam LED headlamps. My performance package included a gorgeous carbon fiber roof and rear wing, as functional for keeping the center of gravity low as they are beautiful.

The quad exhaust is still stacked like in the IS-F thankfully. The RC-F’s sharp, Japanese inspired exterior would intimidate anyone thinking of taking a ride. Lucky for us, nothing on the inside helps in any way to calm your nerves.
Open the drivers side door and your immediately greeted with blood red “F” spec sport seats with enough lateral support to squeeze you into submission and keep your keister planted firm while doing 0.95 g’s on the skidpad. Don’t mistake them for Sparco racing buckets though. These seats can be heated, cooled, power adjusted 10-ways with driver memory and even come with “F” embossed headrests.

The interior is trimmed with black suede and red stitching layered over long stretches of aluminum and panels wrapped in the same tone of deep red leather found on the seats. The Premium Package adds carbon fiber to the materials palate as well. Though it seems like a lot, each piece compliments each other, working very well to create an interior that is as aggressively styled and sporty as the exterior.
The “F” spec leather trimmed steering wheel has a thick rim, held together with white and blue stitching and filled with audio and setting controls. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifters are tucked behind for easy use and help you click through gear changes at a lighting quick pace. The steering is light and precise, offering good driver feedback. You can increase the heft considerably in Sport and Sport Plus mode, though feedback didn’t seem to improve in these more aggressive driving modes. I only wish they’d made the wheel flat bottomed.

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So as not to trade too much luxury for rip roaring performance, Lexus still sound insulted the cabin and filled every nook and cranny with a Mark Levinson speaker. 17 in total, delivering 5.1 surround sound and powered by an 835 watt amplifier. In Normal or Eco mode there’s nothing punishing about driving around town in the RC-F. Provided the roads aren’t pitted and full of pot holes. The suspension is compliant, the cabin is quite and the big V8 is on its best behavior at low rpm’s. It’s like cruising around in a base model IS.
In sport mode though the digital tachometer transforms, the suspension tightens and the steering heft shoots ups. All the work that went into developing the chassis becomes obvious after the first few sharp corners. The unibody design is incredibly stiff, the cowl doesn’t quiver or bend under load, succinctly communicating every bump and groove to the driver. Turn in is surgically precise, the cars weight feels very centralized with only the slightest whiff of body roll.
The RC-F carries itself with control and poise, even when driven near its limits. A hint of understeer means that most anyone can feel confident driving this V8 Lexus hard, without the fear of spinning wildly out of control and wrapping all that expensive carbon fiber and sheet metal around a Saguaro cactus. If you still manage to get yourself into trouble, their are plenty of computerized systems, sensors and torque vectoring rear differentials in place to help you re-find your line. Brembo sourced ventilated brakes work brilliantly despite feeling a little soft up top. They have plenty of bite with no fade. They also look amazing tucked behind those big forged wheels.
A thoroughly reworked 5.0-liter V8 accelerates the new RC-F from a dead stop to 60 mph in a mere 4.3 seconds. It spits out 467 horsepower and 389 lb-ft or twisting torque. Everything gets managed by a very smart and eager 8-speed sport direct-shift transmission. In Sport Plus mode rpm’s are held high, keeping you well within the peak power band where you can snap necks by punching the accelerator. The RC-F rarely steps in when in this mode, it lets you control which gear you’re in and when you want to change it. All within reason of course. It makes more power than the older IS-F but weighs 200 pounds more. In fact, with all the numbers crunched, the RC-F proves to be no faster or slower than the 2008 IS-F. The quarter mile is accomplished in 12.8 seconds, exactly the same as before.
The redline has been lifted by 500 rpm’s and the variable valve timing crossover still transforms the subdued V8 rumble into a guttural roar past 4000. At the end of the day though, the RC-F weighs over 4000 pounds. Its mass is its milestone. It’s the biggest thing holding it back from true greatness. The big issue preventing it from truly competing against the likes of the M4, which is 400 pounds lighter by the way.
So the RC-F is just a diet or two away from achieving true Japanese superhero status. I for one don’t mind the final result one bit. Lexus has built a car that’s an absolute blast every single time you drive it. You don’t need to fuss or think about it too much. It does as it’s told, absolutely looks the part, makes all the right noises and gives you the right amount of help. It boasts an amazing balance between power, chassis, brakes and suspension. Everything harmonizes to make you feel like you could confidently take on any race track and then comfortably commute to the dry cleaners afterwards. The 2016 RC-F is everything I hoped it would be and more.

Price as tested: $77,905.00

By: Brandon Randall

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