2021 Lexus RC F Review – The Last of its Kind?

This is my fourth drive in the Lexus RC F. For a car that’s been around since 2014, incremental update has been key to keep it fresh and it’s no surprise the number of times I have been behind the wheel – essentially after each update.

With key rivals BMW M4 and Audi RS5 already seeing all-new models and the Mercedes-AMG C 63 coupe due to be renewed early next year, Lexus is the only premium marque left soldering on with a 7-year-old flagship sports coupe.

It begs the question: is the RC F still relevant in 2021 – and beyond?

Against the competition, the RC F will have a hard time keeping up because the goal post has moved so much since its launch. The Germans have all ditched V8s for turbo sixes ages ago and all can crack the century sprint in under 4 seconds. But that’s exactly what makes the Lexus special today. Relevant or not isn’t important.

The RC F is quite possibly the last V8-powered sports car we will ever see from a luxury brand. Of course, you can buy a Mustang or Camaro with a V8, but neither has the finesse and refinement of the Lexus, not to mention quality.

The silky smooth atmospheric 5.0-litre V8 in the RC F revs up to a frenzy 7,300 rpm, bringing with it some of the most visceral roars in the automotive world. The highly addictive theatrics will have you going for it time after time. This thing on a racetrack? Marvellous.

With the RC F, it’s not a numbers game and it’s never been a numbers game. Lexus has made that clear right from the start. It develops 351kW and 530Nm of torque, good numbers but pale in comparison to today’s competition, especially in the torque department. And so, the RC F is all about driving feel and arousing the senses. That tantalising soundtrack plays a huge part, but there’s also the intangible part of the experience such as the linear power delivery all the way to red line, the precise steering and a chassis that doesn’t bite no matter how foolish you try to be.

Granted, this thing is heavy. At 1,845kg, even the muscly V8 finds there’s too much on its shoulder, which explains its 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds – fast but not explosive.

One thing that the Lexus has that many other sports cars don’t is a dual personality. Under light throttle, the RC F is discrete and muffled. This makes the RC F ultra relaxing in which to cruise around. If some of the competition are too on edge, too jarring, then the RC F is one of those few sport cars that you can use every day of the week.

The ride is very polished, yet just firm enough to maintain a nice level of road feel. The fact that it’s all achieved with passive (non-variable) dampers is a testament to Lexus’ chassis tuning expertise.

And the good thing is when it comes to cornering, the RC F doesn’t disappoint either. There’s a high level of faithfulness to driver inputs, with the front end beautifully locked down and the rest of the car confidently flat and glued to the road. It’s only at tight hairpin corners that the RC F shows signs of struggle, as it feels like it’s dragging on too much weight.

Still, the RC F is a lot of fun. The chassis moves around and you can feel its weight transfer and where the grip is. It’s such an easy car to drive. A little more power and greater reduction in weight would really enhance the way it drives.

The last facelift in 2019 has definitely given the RC F several more years of life in terms of looks. The racy makeover saw the RC F trade sculpted surfaces with rigid lines and strong creases. The result is a meaner and more focused appearance that still looks good today.

Not everyone will warm to the Lexus spindle grille, but the rest of the styling is an honest, unique and modern take on a luxury performance coupe. The air breather on the bulging bonnet is cool, the front fender vents are purposeful and the side skirts are appropriately beefy. Perhaps, the only irk – for me – is the colour coded rear diffuser. It’d be nice if it was also painted black like the one on the Track Edition.

Where the RC F’s age really shows is in the interior. Unlike the exterior, the cabin has stayed largely unchanged since 2014. And it does feel old, very old. While the half digital instrumentation display is still okay, the 10.3-inch widescreen centre display is in desperate need of an overhaul. Its graphics are dated and Lexus’ fiddly touch pad interface still operates it. And did I mention the foot-operated park brake?

Fortunately, the bits that matter to driving are all still pretty good. The steering wheel is sized just right and fits nicely to hand. The sport seats are some of the bests in the business, contouring perfectly to an average-sized adult body for supreme comfort and yet so supportive during sporty driving. They also look absolutely superb and are both heated and ventilated.

Typical of Lexus, cabin materials are of a very high standard, with the leather and Alcantara trim feeling wonderfully soft and exquisite. Fit and finish is also flawless and attention to detail is second to none.

Complete with a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio, the luxurious cabin sits four, but the rear pews are really meant for just kids, as it’s a tight squeeze for any adult back there.

Before I wrap up, here’s one other thing. The RC F asks $136,513 before on-road costs, which is – not surprisingly – around $15k less expensive than its German rivals. As a 7-year-old model, some may find the price hard to justify but no one pays retail for one of these, and with some smooth negotiation a 10-15 per cent discount is not impossible.

At the end of the day though, the RC F is one stylish and potent V8 bruiser with the badge, the noise and the lot. With the future being electric, this may be one of those cars to keep way past 2021.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

8.5/10

Performance & Handling

8.0/10

Quality

8.5/10

Economy

7.0/10

Equipment & Features

7.0/10

OUR SCORE

3.9/5

Our Score: 3.9/5

+ Plus

  • Luxury, comfort and performance all in one package
  • Tantalising V8 theatrics
  • Easy on the limit

Minus

  • Feeling its age
  • Lack of substantial updates

Overall

The combination of an appropriately old school V8, a hugely likeable charisma and an unashamedly left-field approach has allowed the Lexus RC F to age gracefully like some sort of fine wine.

From this point onward, the happening around the automotive landscape isn’t relevant anymore, as we’ll never see a substitute for the RC F’s brute V8 power and noise.

2021 Lexus RC F Pricing and Specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs)From: $136,513
Warranty4 Years/100,000 Kilometres
Warranty Customer Assistance4 Year Roadside
Country of OriginJapan
Service Intervals12 months/15,000km
Engine5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol

351kW @ 7100rpm, 530Nm @ 4800-5600rpm

Transmission8-speed automatic
DrivetrainRear-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg)192.9
0-100km/h (seconds):4.5
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km)Claimed: 11.2 / Tested: 12.5
RON Rating98
Fuel Capacity (L)66
Body2-door coupe, 2 seats
Safety8 Airbags, Seatbelt Load Limiters (front) & Pre-Tensioners (front/rear), Reverse Camera, Hill Holder, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Avoidance Control, Electronic Damper Control, Electronic Stability Control, Park Distance Control (front/rear), Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Tyre Pressure Sensors, Anti-Lock Braking System, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Stability Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm4710/1845/1390/2730
Kerb Weight (kg)1,845
Boot Space (L)366
Entertainment10.3-inch colour display with satellite navigation, 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, Bluetooth, USB/AUX, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto

Competitors:

BMW M4, Audi RS 5 Coupe, Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe

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