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2017 Lexus RC F Road Test and Review

Scott Oldham
by Scott Oldham
April 23, 2017
6 min. Reading Time
2017 Lexus RC F Quarter Hero ・  Photo by Lexus

2017 Lexus RC F Quarter Hero ・ Photo by Lexus

Seriously powerful small high performance luxury coupes can be counted on one hand. Actually I only need four fingers. There’s the BMW M4, the Mercedes C63, the Cadillac ATS-V and the subject of this review: The 2017 Lexus RC F.

Lexus lovers had been waiting for the RC F since the earth cooled and we rose from the slime. The brand’s devotees always wanted a sexy coupe with the style, power and handling to take on the best from Germany and America, but Lexus, which first appeared in 1989, had other dragons to slay.  

When the time came to finally create the RC F, Lexus engineers followed the old American muscle car playbook written by John Z. Delorean in 1964. They took their largest engine, a 467-hp 5.0-liter V8, and stuffed it into their smallest rear-wheel drive coupe. It works every time.

Let's take a closer look at the 2017 Lexus RC F.

Models and Pricing

Lexus RC F pricing starts at $65,140, including $975 for destination and handling. Standard features are light. They include a dual-zone automatic climate control system, a backup camera, rear air-conditioning vents and power front seats. Bluetooth, navigation, leather upholstery and a moonroof are all extra cost options.

Our RC F test vehicle was equipped with a few pricey option packages, which drove its sticker price up to $76,830 including destination. The Premium Package added carbon-fiber interior trim, heated and cooled front seats, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, which warns you if a vehicle approaches from either side when you’re backing out of a parking space. Despite the additional cost, I think the Navigation/Mark Levinson premium audio Package and optional leather interior are also must haves.

Under the hood is a naturally-aspirated 5.0-liter V8 making 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine Lexus uses in the GS F sedan and new LC coupe.  Every RC F has an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. No manual transmission is available. All-wheel drive is not offered.

Lexus does offer a Sport Package for $5,000 that adds a long list of features, including Lexus’ Torque Vectoring Differential with three driver-selectable modes (Standard, Slalom and Track), and a carbon fiber roof.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Don’t Confuse F with F Sport

Think of F as Lexus’ in house tuner or hot rod shop, like BMW’s M division, known for cars like the M3 and M5, or AMG at Mercedes-Benz. F is not as well-known as those German efforts, but the engineers that develop Lexus’ high-performance models have created some noteworthy machines including the V8-powered IS F model sold from 2008-2014, the 553-hp LFA supercar (which was produced from 2010-2012), and the current GS F sedan.

High-performance F models, like the 2017 RC F, get their own powertrains, suspension and braking systems. They are standalone high-performance models tuned on the world’s racetracks and sold in small volumes to discerning enthusiast buyers that want the most power and the best handling the brand has to offer.

Do not confuse the RC F with the RC F Sport. F Sport is an optional sport package available on Lexus models, including sedans, SUVs and hybrid models. For about $4,000, an RC 200t, RC 300 or RC 350 can get the F Sport package which adds a sport-tuned suspension, aggressively bolster seats, F Sport badging and a sinister grille mesh. F Sport increases the performance of the vehicle but does not take it anywhere near the extreme capability of a full-blown F model like the RC F.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

How It Drives

Around town at half speed the RC F is compliant, comfortable and quiet. This is a coupe that can be driven every day without sacrifice but it feels sporty and responsive in the city, especially in Sport and Sport+ modes, which increase the throttle response and retunes the transmission for more aggressive shifting and gear holding. Sport+ also stiffens the suspension for increased handling, but severely compromises ride quality.

Pick up the pace and RC F's handling is more than enough for most buyers. At 4,000 lbs, this is a heavy car for its size. You can feel its high curb weight behind the wheel, but front end grip is impressive, and the car's balance is right. The steering is a bit abrupt off center, but you get used to it quickly. Steering feel is good. Its Brembo brakes can stop time, but they’re a bit grabby in town -- which can make smooth stops a challenge.

This is a quick car, and it feels better the harder you push it. At full throttle, the 2017 Lexus RC F is a thrill ride. It isn’t explosively quick, but its big V8 will press you back in your seat and hold you there. And at 3,500 rpm it begins to roar like a race car, which only adds to the rush.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Slower Than the Competition

Although undeniably quick, the RC F cannot keep up with the other cars in its class. The Lexus is heavier than the BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 and Cadillac ATS-V. And the Mercedes is far more powerful.  

The twin-turbo inline six-cylinder in the M4 makes 425 hp (444 hp with the Competition Package), the Mercedes twin-turbo V8 is packing 503 hp and the twin-turbo V6 in the Caddy is pumping out 464 hp. RC F's 467-hp V8 just doesn’t have the power to compete -- not when the car weighs hundreds of pounds more than the others. A supercharger or a pair of turbos should be on this car’s to-do list. Either that, or a diet.

As a result, the Lexus is the slowest car in the class. But when you consider that the RC F rockets to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and covers the quarter mile is just 12.8 seconds, does it really matter?

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Looks Like a Supercar

During our week driving the RC F around Los Angeles, bystanders confused it for the $500,000 Lexus LFA supercar on four separate occasions. That's right -- it happened four times. This is cool-looking car that looks more expensive than it is.

Personally I think the RC F is the best-looking Lexus coupe ever, although it’s about to be unseated by the new LC 500. It’s essentially a two-door coupe version of the Lexus IS sedan, but the RC F doesn’t look like an IS with its rear doors lopped-off. It stands on its own, and it turns heads on the street.

The lowered ride height and the huge vents cut into its front fenders add just the right amount of attitude and visual punch without coming off as cartoonish. I’m also a big fan of its reverse hood scoop, its four exhaust pipes, which are uniquely stacked instead of side by side, and the understated rear spoiler, which deploys itself at speed for additional aerodynamic stability.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Interior Pros and Cons

With the exception of its high-back sport seats, which look like they were plucked from a race car, the interior of the RC F is right out of the IS sedan. This is not a bad thing. Beautiful materials, dynamic design and high build quality are everywhere. Everything feels expensive and the traditional analog clock in the center of the dash works perfectly in contrast with our test vehicle’s stark carbon fiber and piano black trim and large 10.3-inch screen. I’m also a fan of the gauge cluster with its large center mounted tachometer.

The heated and cooled front seats were extremely comfortable, even on a 250-mile run up the California coast. The driver’s seat is also height adjustable for shorter drivers. In combination with the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, it’s easy to find the perfect driving position. Four fit comfortably, as long as those in the rear seat aren’t giants. Six-footers are the max. And rear-seat access is excellent.

Misses include a foot operated parking brake, which feels old-fashioned, and Lexus’ Remote Touchpad infotainment interface can be frustrating to use. Also disappointing is the RC F’s missing onboard WiFi, which is standard on the Cadillac ATS-V, and absent Apple Carplay, which is ubiquitous at this point.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Cargo and Cupholders

Trunk space is tight, even for this class. The 2017 Lexus RC F offers 10.1 cubic feet of trunk space, which is less than the BMW, Mercedes and the Cadillac. And its rear seat does not fold to expand that capacity. There is a pass-through for long thin items like skis, however.

Storage inside the Lexus’ interior is sufficient and well thought out. The center console bin is large enough and felt lined and the door pockets are sizable. The two front-seat cupholders are not huge, but they’re well placed so tall drinks don’t interfere with any of the switchgear. The two rear-seat cupholders are part of a fixed center console.

Fuel economy is good of the class. The RC F is rated 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. I averaged 20.3 mpg in a week of spirited mixed driving around Los Angeles, and 24 mpg during the run up the coast.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Advanced Safety Systems

Most active tech-based safety systems are optional on the 2017 Lexus RC F, including Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Also optional is a Pre-Collision System, which warns if vehicles are in your path. Should it determine an imminent frontal collision, it will automatically begin braking before impact to lessen the severity of the crash. The system is packaged with radar cruise control and they’re a good value for $500. Lane departure warning and lane keep assist are not offered.

With the Lexus Enform Remote mobile app, which is complimentary for the first year, you can use your phone to remotely start the engine, lock and unlock doors, check your fuel level, and find your vehicle in a parking lot. You can also receive instant alerts if a preset speed or mile limit is exceeded, a feature surely appreciated by parents of teenagers.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus

Final Thoughts

If you’re an enthusiast looking for a small high-performance luxury coupe, the 2017 Lexus RC F is a solid overall choice.

It performs well, it’s comfortable and it’s fun to drive. It may not match the horsepower or performance of its rivals, but the RC F makes up for it with supercar looks, a beautifully appointed interior and Lexus’ legendary reputation for reliability.

 Photo by Lexus

Photo by Lexus


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