There’s nothing worse than watching a manufacturer attempt to build a sports car from a compromised platform. Fortunately for Lexus (and the few lucky buyers who will secure one), the 2019 Lexus RC F Track Edition is starting from an already properly sorted base.
The RC, and further the RC F, are both beautifully executed sports coupes that put a satisfied smile on your dial across a broad range of disciplines.
Lexus continues to impress with its future direction, too. It wasn’t so long ago you’d never have been able to comprehend Lexus delivering proper sports sedans and coupes to market, and yet that’s exactly what it’s doing in 2019.
Rewind back to the original LS, a brilliant large luxury sedan in its day, mind you, but it was hardly sporty. All that has changed now, though.
Now, we know the most common ‘F’ word in the Aussie lexicon, but here it almost certainly stands for ‘fast’. Or perhaps ‘fearsome’.
You might utter the other F-word when you stand on the right pedal, though, that’s for sure. Or when you realise that it costs $165,690 before on-road costs. Not that expensive for this much exclusivity in real terms.
There’s a bellowing and free-revving 5.0-litre V8 engine under the aggressively swooping bonnet that hammers out 351kW and 530Nm.
There’s a sharp-shifting eight-speed auto mated to that sensational naturally aspirated powerplant, and it sits on more rigid engine mounts compared to the previous model.
We had a radio caller to one of our shows not so long ago asking for some advice on a second-hand IS-F, and it’s easy to forget that it was Lexus’s first foray into proper performance around a decade ago. When you look at this RC F, it’s genuinely impressive how far Lexus has come in that time.
That car has held up really well, too, even with the marching of time, indicating the kind of life-long quality you can expect from the brand if you look after it.
Back to the Track Edition. The 0–100km/h sprint is faster, too – 3.96 seconds thank you very much – and if you’re wondering whether the engine delivers the kind of throttle response only a naturally aspirated engine can, you’d be right.
While it can’t match the relentless urge of a boosted engine, it has a seamless, smooth and linear power delivery unlike any engine featuring forced induction. It feels that quick, too, in real terms.
There’s plenty of performance tech on hand – beyond more rigid engine mounts – including revised suspension components, new half shafts, a new intake manifold and a lighter air-conditioning compressor. Small gains, yes, but things like the hollow half shafts and AC compressor diet help to shave 80kg off the bottom line (and 25kg off the unsparing weight).
Further, it's the first Lexus since the LF-A to feature launch control, and that rear wing generates 26kg of downforce at speed too.
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres fitted to our test vehicle are formidable – quiet and supple on poor surfaces, but biting hard when you start to wind the wick up. Lexus reckons they improve lateral grip, and you’ll find that hard to prove on the road to be honest, so competent is the chassis and suspension package.
There’s also a titanium exhaust system, carbon-ceramic brake rotors from Brembo, and forged 19-inch BBS lightweight wheels.
One thing I’d like to address early on here is the styling. Lexus doesn’t always hit the nail on the head, and in fact some aspects of Lexus design genuinely annoy neutral buyers.
I’m not sure Lexus styling is ever a complete deal-breaker, but it might just be the case for some. It isn’t for me, even though it can polarise. Forget that with the RC F, though. There’s something about the formidable nature of its styling that just works.
The aggressive front end, low splitter and lashings of carbon fibre all look sensational. Even the rear wing, something I’d delete from nearly any car I actually wanted to buy, looks right at home festooned on the rump of the RC F.
It just looks tough as nails from any angle, and everyone I spoke to during my week behind the wheel loved it.
At launch, Lexus told us it was unlikely more than 10 would ever make it to Australia, so it’s pretty bloody exclusive as well. In that sense, street presence is assured, then. And you know you won’t pass another 50 in traffic on your way to work either, making the buying decision even more compelling if you can get your hands on one.
The best part of the whole shebang, though, is the requisite Lexus build quality and bulletproof reliability that come despite the exclusivity. You just know you’ll own this thing for years and never have a problem with it.
You will have seen our track-focused launch review a few months back, but I was mightily impressed after living with the Track Edition for a week in the usual cut and thrust of day-to-day traffic.
Without doubt, that’s the single most noticeable change that has come to powerful, sports-focused, performance cars in the last two decades. They are now liveable and useable as daily drivers. Once upon a time that was certainly not the case. Its 351kW is near enough to 471hp in the old money, so there’s a surfeit of power on tap when you need it.
The ride is typical of Lexus – smooth, solid, insulated and comfortable. Despite being performance-focused and undoubtedly firm, the RC F Track Edition is never, ever uncomfortable and just irons out nasty surfaces without any ruffled feathers. It doesn’t crash through potholes and imperfections either. It just gets on with the job of keeping you comfortable.
That Lexus has delivered such a beautiful blend of outright performance and comfort is to be commended, too. Plenty of track-focused cars are way too harsh for the street. Yep, you live with it, but it doesn’t mean you have to. None of the performance ability has come at the expense of day-to-day user-friendliness, in other words.
There are almost no compromises to be made here. The engine, which revs hard when you push it, is benign at city speeds, the gearbox smooth and unobtrusive, and the whole drive experience comfortable and effortless.
Yes, the infotainment is annoying and it's fiddly to use, but I actually think that’s less of an issue in this segment than it is in, say, the large luxury barge segments that demand more finesse. You’re buying the Track Edition for reasons other than streaming your Spotify playlist, let's put it that way.
There’s no mistaking the cockpit of the RC F Track Edition either. Swathes of red leather and Alcantara with matching red carpet remind you of the sporting intent.
I love the seats, as I do all Lexus pews, and I also love that hard-to-define sense of quality that every Lexus cabin exudes.
Seventeen speakers for the dash to the racetrack sir/madam? Yes please. Forget the second row, though. Pretend it doesn’t exist. It would be a form of torture to make anyone ride back there.
The question to be answered here is this: can you now consider a Lexus like the RC F Track Edition as an alternative to the BMW and Mercedes-Benz protagonists that it never quite matched up to? I would say that not only can you, but it might in fact be even better.
Lexus is serious about performance, and this is a serious sports coupe. It deserves to be in the same echelon as a C63 Coupe or an M4 – it’s that simple.