The Lexus RC F is a dinosaur that just won't go extinct. A string of updates applied earlier this year kept WLTP from the door. Its maker responded to the power-sapping addition of a particulate filter by providing its coupe with a hollow drive shaft, new air intake and different final drive - all to claw back the missing margins. Where others might have thrown in the towel, Lexus has given us a quicker and more responsive atmospheric V8. Hats off.
Granted, the heavy filter has still meant that the RC F now produces 457hp and 384lb ft of torque where once it had 477hp and 391lb ft - but it's now two-tenths quicker to 62mph at 4.3 seconds, and, according to Lexus, is more energetic in the mid-range, too. Moreover, there are claims of better responsiveness from the chassis, thanks to the use of stiffer bushes in the suspension and steering, tighter engine mounts and specially adapted Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Tick the £9,750 option box for the Track Pack and you get forged 19-inch wheels, a torque vectoring rear diff and carbon-ceramic brakes for good measure.
It's a tantalising list of ingredients for a car that in pre-update form ran the lighter, sharper BMW M4 close for outright performance. When we last pitted these rivals head to head, it left the German behind for character. And not much has changed in that regard; the V8 still wraps its offbeat burble around you like an old blanket, before unfurling like a sail at a prod of the throttle.
In Normal mode, the engine is effortless and elastic but also pleasingly lazy, its power delivery growing gradually from tick over, while the eight-speed automatic works up the ratios swiftly so the rev needle of that digital instrument cluster - inspired by the LFA's - lives its life predominately between one to two thousand revs. The RC F feels big and burly, the pinches in its bonnet visible from the low-set driver's seat to permanently remind you of its power source, its 19-inch wheels trundling over drain covers and surface imperfections with a low-riding, heavyweight glower. There's toughness and quality, and no implication at all that you should be more enthusiastic with your inputs.
There's a proper performance coupe down there somewhere, though. Rotate the driving mode dial to Sport+ (beyond Sport, obviously) and the lazy facade dramatically spins away from the V8's crank at beyond 7,000rpm. The earlier surge is traded in for thuds in the back as the upshifts make themselves felt. It is free-revving and evocative and possibly unrivalled at this price. Even with cold, damp Welsh tarmac to contend with, the more sophisticated differential is up to the job of sending the crescendo south. What wheel spin there is is predictable, controllable and generally desirable. Unlike the spikier M4, you feel on top of the RC F right away.
You sense the improvements offered by those stiffer bushes, too, as the car's front axle is more adept at providing feedback; there's the unexpected sense that you're always a step ahead of where it's going to be. Over commit to a bend and before understeer can set in, you find yourself prodding at the throttle, instinctively relocating the balance. Even with seat bolstering that's far from snug (Lexus drivers aren't all skinny road testers) the RC F shrink wraps around you on this basis, underwriting everything with much improved body control and astutely weighted steering. Sure, it would be even more involving if there were three pedals in place of what is, at best, a serviceable eight-speed automatic - but there's bags of driving pleasure on offer here regardless.
The Track Pack's brakes, as you'd expect for carbon ceramics, are entirely unfazed by the UK in November, but it's best to take the tick box option with a pinch of salt. Predictably, this is no circuit special; the F in RC may very well stand for Fuji (where much of Lexus's development work is undertaken) but the car's inherited heft is inescapable, and its best showing is always at around eight-tenths of its limit. The damping wants for a second to breathe when asked for quick direction changes, meaning it never hunkers down like an M4's. It doesn't fall apart either - far from it - but it does feel most rewarding when you remain studiously below its limit, rather than on or over it.
Frankly, anyone deterred by that is unlikely to be considering the Lexus in the first place. LFA aside, the brand doesn't have the pedigree in Europe for such positioning. However, like the LFA, the latest RC F is a timely reminder of just how appealing its output can be when the manufacturer puts its mind to it. The car is still validated by the sound and fury of the V8, yet not entirely beholden to it; there's a whole package to fall in love with here if you can make your peace with things like the scattergun dashboard layout. We recommend that you give the old dinosaur a try. Ideally before its kind is gone for good.
SPECIFICATION - LEXUS RC F TRACK PACK
Engine: 4,969cc V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 457@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 384@4,800rpm
Top speed: 168mph (limited)
Price: £62,900 (£75,600 as tested including £9,750 for Track Pack, £250 for Azure Blue paint, £500 for blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, £1,000 for Mark Levinson sound system £900 for sunroof, £300 for inlay)
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