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2016 Lexus RC F: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2016

The 2016 Lexus RC F leaves no doubt that Lexus wants a piece of the BMW M3. Well, make that the M4, since the 2-door M3 now has its own name. In any case, the hopped-up BMW coupe has long been the standard-bearer among high-performance premium compacts, and Lexus has never had a comparable coupe of its own. But with the introduction of the 2-door, 4-seat RC F (the first two letters stand for "radical coupe"), Lexus shows that it's no longer satisfied with playing second fiddle.

The fiddler that the RC F replaces is the IS F, a V8-powered version of the previous-generation IS sedan. Offered only with four doors, the IS F certainly had the muscle to compete, but it didn't win much ground on BMW's playing field. The engine wasn't the problem, though, so the RC F basically uses the same unit: a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 467 horsepower, a useful 51 hp more than before. Pretty much everything else is new, however, from the avant-garde exterior styling to the significantly nicer cabin with up-to-date technology features.

With 54 percent of its weight in the front, the RC F will never be the best-handling car in a class known for 50/50 distributions or better; the laws of physics simply won't permit it. But if you like the idea of a refined Lexus sport coupe with unprecedented attitude, the RC F just might beat out its illustrious rivals for a spot in your driveway.

What's New for 2016?

The RC F is largely unchanged for 2016 -- though it adds Lexus' Enform Service Connect feature, which allows drivers to perform certain functions from a smartphone.

What We Like

Impressive build; high-quality materials; head-turning style; quiet, refined ride; satisfying V8 power with a soundtrack to match

What We Don't

Doesn't accelerate as quickly or handle as sharply as some competitors; no manual transmission offered; nearly useless rear seats

How Much?

$63,800

Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel-drive RC F gets its moxie from a 5.0-liter V8 rated at 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting, providing manual control via paddle shifters at your fingertips.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the RC F should return fuel economy figures of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

The 4-seat RC F ($63,800) comes in a single trim level with loads of standard equipment. Highlights include LED running lights, 19-inch staggered-width alloy wheels with performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, an F-spec body kit, auto-dimming mirrors, dual trapezoidal exhaust outlets, synthetic leather (NuLuxe) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 10-way power driver's seat, driver memory settings, an 8-way power passenger seat, a twin-screen LCD driver information center, a 7-in central infotainment screen with a touchpad interface, a rearview camera and a 10-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, HD Radio and satellite radio. For 2016, Lexus adds Enform Service Connect, which connects aspects of the car's controls to the driver's smartphone.

Options include LED headlights, a sunroof, parking sensors, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a Performance package (including a carbon-fiber roof, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler and a torque-vectoring differential for improved cornering) and a Premium package (including an adaptive rear spoiler, heated and ventilated front seats and carbon-fiber interior trim).

Springing for the optional navigation system also brings dynamic grid lines for the rearview camera, upgraded Bluetooth, the Lexus Enform App Suite (including Yelp, Facebook and Pandora integration), dual USB audio inputs and voice controls.

Audiophiles can add a Mark Levinson audio system to the navigation system, which boasts 17 speakers and 835 watts of total power.

Safety

The 2016 Lexus RC F comes standard with stability control, anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). Also included is Safety Connect emergency support with automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location, enhanced roadside assistance and an SOS button.

The Premium package adds a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, while optional adaptive cruise control includes a pre-collision system with the ability to brake the car automatically if a collision is deemed imminent.

In crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Lexus RC its coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation after the coupe earned excellent scores in each category.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we were duly impressed by the RC F's rich materials and seemingly flawless build quality. The latest Lexus interiors, notably those in the GS and IS sedans, have been a big step forward for the brand, and the RC F clearly continues this trend. The standard sport seats offer firm, comprehensive support, whether you're road tripping or attacking apexes at track day, while the thorough noise insulation yields a remarkably quiet cruise. As long as you're not trying to use the tiny rear seats for human occupants, there's plenty of luxury on tap when you spend time in an RC F.

On the technology front, the RC F's high-resolution central display screen looks great, but the computerlike touchpad interface is a mixed bag. Will you get used to it over time? Probably, but it'll never be as intuitive to operate as the more common knob-based interfaces, let alone a simple touchscreen. Lexus tried to reinvent the proverbial wheel here, and while the RC F's setup is more user-friendly than earlier iterations, we still think it's a weak spot in an otherwise ergonomic cabin. On the bright side, the rakishly slanted central control panel makes you feel like you're piloting a spaceship, and the sporty gauges add to the high-performance flavor.

On the road, the RC F is certainly a capable car, highlighted by its naturally aspirated V8 engine, which revs in a more linear and thrilling fashion than today's popular turbocharged motors. It sounds great, too; we found ourselves downshifting and accelerating over and over again, just to feel that thrust and hear that noise. On the other hand, the lack of turbocharging means that the RC F doesn't have as much low-end torque, so it feels a bit soft off the line. The power really comes on when you're merging onto the highway or passing other cars at speed.

In corners, the RC F remains flat and composed most of the time, and the steering is tight and responsive. If you try to find the car's limits at the track, though, you might be disappointed with the understeer that awaits, even with the optional torque-vectoring differential specified. The RC F is nose-heavy on the scales, and Lexus hasn't fully negated that disadvantage with the latest technology, but the ride is smooth and supple by class standards, a trait that should prove rewarding over time in ordinary driving scenarios.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW M4 -- The pricier M4 has a firmer ride, and its 6-cylinder engine lacks the RC F's intoxicating V8 baritone. On the flip side, its twin turbochargers give it a decided edge in acceleration, and it's a better handler, too.

2017 Ford Mustang GT -- The much cheaper Mustang GT gained some serious refinement with its latest redesign, and the GT model's fire-breathing V8 makes for a fair fight with the RC F.

2017 Chevrolet Corvette -- How important is the RC F's cramped back seat? If you can live without it, the 2-seat C7 Corvette is otherwise a superior performance car in every respect, and it's pretty luxurious, too.

Used Porsche 911 -- If you're willing to leave behind the realm of new cars and consider a used model, a Porsche 911 is a good bet. It doesn't have the RC F's grunt, but it carves corners better than basically anything else -- and, of course, it's a Porsche.

Autotrader's Advice

The RC F likely won't blow your socks off relative to the rivals we've mentioned, but it's a well-rounded effort with styling like no other. Try one out: It might feel just right.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Lexus RC F: New Car Review - Autotrader