Sport coupes, unfortunately, are quickly becoming a rarity in the automotive world.
In the face of overwhelming demand for crossovers and SUVs, manufacturers are experiencing decreasing demand for both coupes and sedans.
Lexus can certainly hold its own in the crossover market, but it's refreshing to see the company offer two excellent coupes. The new LC supercar ranges north of $100,000, and the RC exists in several trim packages starting at just under $40,000.
The 2018 RC F was full of surprises, mostly pleasant ones.
"The RC F is not a typical light-on-its-feet Japanese sports car. It's solid and fast, and it won't be what you're expecting", said Joseph Belmonte, sales manager at Larry H. Miller Lexus in Murray, Utah.
He was correct on every point.
Like all Lexus models these days, any talk of the exterior styling must begin with the front grill. Lexus grills are big and bold and, in my opinion, a good move on the part of the auto maker. If I'm being honest, Lexus' past styling choices were boring.
That is certainly not the case any longer, and Lexus is appealing to younger buyers as a result.
The entire front end of the RC F is menacing. The grill is shaped like a bowtie standing on end, and it pushes both forward and outward as it moves down. It becomes widest at the bottom of the front fascia. The grill is trimmed in chrome, and there's no mistaking a Lexus approaching on the roadway.
The top of the bowtie doesn't end with the grill. Style lines in the hood push to the rear, ending at the rearview mirrors. The unique xenon headlights have three separate lenses extending to the widest part of the car.
From the back, the look is somewhat less menacing as the rear deck lid peaks high in the middle and cascades down each side. A pronounced cutout helps set apart the shape of the bumper below the taillights. The taillights appear to extend past the car and balance the dual exhaust outlets on either side below the bumper.
As large as the front end appears, the rear of the car seems to sit low and narrow. The RC F is attractive all around, but least so from behind. The 19-inch alloy wheels drew compliments from almost every passenger.
Lexus carries the aggressive styling to the interior. The most prominent feature is the dash, which appears to be three levels high.
The steering wheel and passenger-side glove box make up the lower level. An attractive rounded center section houses an analog clock and vents, and the touchscreen in the center sits on a third level above — elevated and framed by aluminum trim.
The combination of rectangular and rounded elements, with both metal and carbon fiber trim, is attractive and sporty.
The center console is well-organized, and the physical buttons that control the temperature of the leather seats mean the driver doesn't have to turn the function on again after every short trip.
The one minor disappointment was the instrument cluster. The cluster is inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar of past years but seems more at home in an SUV.
The center dial is prominent and contains the tachometer and a digital speedometer. A smaller dial to the left controls the analog speedo, and an overly large electronic panel to the left of the tach displays variable driver information.
The instrument cluster is easy to read and functional but disappoints visually in a sports car, especially compared to the rest of the dash and center console.
The RC F boasts a 2+2 layout, and the rear seats are obviously smaller and practical for children or adults on short trips. The front seats are a miracle of engineering. Lexus is to be commended for managing sporty fit and support with comfort in a way that is truly rare.
The seats look like they belong on the racetrack but were very comfortable on long canyon drives.
All RC models include the Lexus Safety System+ which provides for emergency braking, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane departure warnings, steering assist and adaptive cruise control. The F model I drove also had blind spot monitoring.
The RC F has manual shift mode and paddle shifters, and an excellent Mark Levinson audio system.
There is so much to love about the RC F except for one glaring disappointment: the Lexus infotainment and navigation system is still a work in progress. This shouldn't come as a surprise to Lexus drivers.
Over the past couple of years, Lexus has experimented with both a joystick-like knob to control the system and a trackpad. I've used both and neither are easy to use compared to a simple dial used by most luxury brands.
The RC F uses the trackpad, and it is touchy and overly sensitive, causing more mistakes than necessary. An articulated dial allows for better control when keeping eyes on the road than the distracting trackpad.
The menu layouts require too many steps, and the screen is too cluttered with data. The voice controls are too precise in their required commands.
Many luxury brands have struggled with the complexity of these systems initially, but Lexus now has serious catching up to do.
Belmonte promised me surprises, and most of them came while behind the wheel of the RC F.
The car is a very large and heavy coupe. On one occasion, I could see the RC from a third floor window while parked next to a late model Chevrolet Corvette. Granted, the Lexus is a 2+2 and the Corvette a two-seater, but it was still shocking to see the two cars side-by-side and watch the RC dwarf the Corvette.
The RC is a combination of the Lexus IS and GS sedans instead of a completely original platform. As a result, the RC is heavy for its size, weighing in at nearly 3,960 pounds. For comparison, a 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS weighs about the same.
The RC F is not a light and nimble sports car. In fact, it feels more like driving an American muscle car like a Camaro or Ford Mustang. While not a bad thing, it's a surprise to find muscle cars coming from the land of the rising sun.
On the plus side, the RC F combines a five-liter V8, 467 horsepower engine with an eight-speed transmission that moves this car along. The car accelerated quickly and was easy handle. The steering was precise, but braking was a bit of a disappointment. Fade was a factor on longer canyon drives.
I question whether the base four and six cylinder models can overcome the weight of this car and do it justice. The RC F features a torque vectoring rear differential, which allows for a little fun when cornering hard. Understeer was minimal and easy to correct, and the naturally-aspirated engine means little-to-no lag when accelerating.
The RC F is quick, stable and sounds great — although Lexus engineers could allow a little more exhaust note to reach the quiet cabin.
The Lexus RC F is a beautiful car inside and out. It accelerates quickly, handles well and is a joy to drive. The Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the steering and suspension make for a confidence-inspiring car that loves canyon corners despite its weight.
This car makes the transition from highway cruiser to canyon carver very well. The surprisingly comfortable seats may just hold up on a long road trip.
Fortunately for the RC, the driving experience makes up for the infotainment system, which is about as user-friendly as an abacas.
Vehicle type: 2+2, four-passenger sports coupe
Wheelbase: 107.5 inches
Engine: five-liter DOHC V8 with variable valve timing
Transmission: eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters
Power: 467 horsepower, 389 pound-feet of torque
Performance: zero-60 mph 4.4 seconds, top speed 170 mph
Fuel Mileage: EPA estimated city/highway 16/25 miles per gallon
Warranty: 48 months/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper; 72 months/70,000 miles powertrain; 48 months roadside protection
Price as tested: $73,215