TTAC: 2020 Lexus RC F and RC F Track Edition: Driving Machines for a Dwindling Market

January 16th, 2019 by

Image: Toyota

Toyota’s Lexus Division made 2018 all about the sedan, hoping to remind the buying public that forgoing cargo space is still possible in this day and age. This year, or at least at this Detroit show, Lexus is all about the two-doors, with a drop-top LC “concept” available for perusal, as well as a brace of production RC coupes — now mildly made over for the 2020 model year.

The fact the brand still offers two models featuring a trunk and two side doors is worthy of note in this crossover-and-truck-hungry era. With the new RC and long-awaited Toyota Supra both appearing at the North American International Auto Show, the automaker is striking flint against a heap of steel, hoping to rekindle a dying flame.

The Lexus RC is among the last of the plush, powerful personal luxury coupes — a segment whose denizens plied America’s highways by the gigaton in the 1970s. In RC F guise, a brawny 5.0-liter V8 resides under the hood, and its relative uniqueness in the segment is something Lexus is proud enough to make mention of. The drive wheels are those found in the rear. And now there’s a little more “sport” to go with the sportier variant of division’s relatively attainable — yet increasingly unpopular — coupe.

 

For 2020, the RC F receives subtle improvements in both appearance and driving dynamics. A revised front and rear fascia might not stand out from across the street, but the changes are there. No longer is there a spear below the headlamps — it’s now incorporated into the lamp itself in the form of an LED running light. The black mesh filling the world-swallowing spindle grille now stops short of touching the lower lip.

While these changes fall into the superficial category, actual power gains and weight loss are not. The LC F’s naturally aspirated 5.0L gains 5 horsepower and 6 lb-ft, putting the coupe’s new output at 472 hp and 395 lb-ft. Lexus credits new intake routing, as well as a lower engine speed trigger for the secondary intake opening. Boosting the model’s performance is a higher final drive ratio for the eight-speed automatic (3.13, versus 2019’s 2.93).

Standard launch control for 2020 helps the car’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber gain as much purchase as possible. Those tires, by the way, carry an RC F-specific tread pattern that Lexus claims reduces understeer, which is an unsexy trait no one wants.

Here and there, Lexus shaved off whatever weight it could, moving from solid half shafts to hollow ones, switching to aluminum for certain suspension brackets, and paring an unspecified amount of mass from the engine’s intake manifold. There’s also a smaller air conditioning compressor.

Elsewhere, Lexus clamped down in the hopes of boosting refinement. The car’s rear suspension arm and steering rack mounts contain firmer bushings, while the engine mounts underwent a similar swap.

All of these changes carry over to the new, limited edition RC F Track Edition. While the hardly subtle Track Edition doesn’t gain any newfound power, it takes the lightweighting and handling file and runs with it. Up front, a carbon fiber splitter increases downforce, while a mighty carbon fiber wing offers more of a downward shove than the active spoiler found on the lesser coupe. 58 pounds more, Lexus claims.

Image: Toyota

On the Track Edition, the goal of Lexus engineers was to reduce unsprung weight wherever possible, resulting in carbon ceramic brake rotors, lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels, a carbon fiber hood and roof, and titanium muffler and tailpipes. All told, the Track Edition upgrades and those found on the RC F slim the sportier car’s curb weight by 176 pounds.

With launch control engaged, Lexus claims drivers can make the dash to 60 mph in as little as 3.96 seconds. Be of no doubt that engineers couldn’t go home until a sub four-second 0-60 figure was achieved.

Inside, red is the color of the day. Much like the quite dissimilar ES F Sport I drove a few weeks back, red leather and trim is what Lexus uses to tell occupants they’re special. For the limited few signing up for a Track Edition, an available exclusive exterior shade will telegraph their uniqueness to passers-by (assuming they can’t spot the wing). Matte Nebula Gray is that color.

Image: Toyota

As titanium and carbon fiber are not exactly bargain bin materials, expect a considerable price hike for the ultimate RC. What’ll it cost you? Who knows. Pricing isn’t available until closer to the duo’s second-quarter 2019 on-sale date.

Lexus unveiled the new RC Fs at a time when coupes are becoming an increasingly scarce breed. After going on sale in late 2015, buyers made the following year, 2015, the RC’s best sales year to date. By 2017, U.S. volume was half of 2015’s, and 2018 didn’t bring about any change to the RC’s downward  sales trajectory. Maybe the hottest RC F will also be the last?

[Images: Toyota]

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