The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition marks the fourth version of Lexus’ performance coupe that I’ve tested, and it’s also the most special. Lexus updated the RC F for 2020 and, in doing so, tossed in a limited-run, sharpened version of the car called the Track Edition. Although the name sounds somewhat run of the mill, it’s a rare bird indeed: Lexus will build a very limited number of these with only around 100 making it to the U.S. And only one — a prototype — spent the week with me.
If you think of the Track Edition as the ultimate version of the RC, this is about as performance-focused as it gets without gutting the interior, throwing in a roll cage and turning it into a track-only racecar. After a week, I have an interesting relationship with the RC F Track Edition.
That’s because I’ve always harbored high hopes for the RC. Since it debuted, I found myself enamored with its look and feel. The problem has always been that it’s a bit of a drag to drive. The RC 300 F Sport that I tested earlier this year left me wanting; the RC F that I tested previously was good but didn’t wow me enough.
That brings us to this: the end of the line. If I can’t love a limited-edition, matte-wrapped performance version of the RC, then perhaps it’s just not meant to be.
What Makes It a Track Edition?
The easiest way to pick out an RC F Track Edition is the large carbon fiber wing bolted on the trunk. Lexus could have also called it the Carbon Fiber Edition, because the lightweight stuff is everywhere: the hood and roof, all over the interior (where it has an attractive red hue) and the front and rear splitters. Those changes combine with carbon-ceramic brakes, ultra-lightweight 19-inch BBS alloy wheels and a titanium muffler to shave 121 pounds off the regular RC F.
The engine carries over from the standard RC F: a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 with 472 horsepower and 395 pounds-feet of torque. Power hits the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The regular RC F has an optional torque-vectoring differential, but the Track Edition doesn’t get that — just a Torsen limited-slip differential that leaves the back end feeling a mite twitchy.
Predictably, this is the quickest and most capable RC I’ve tested. The weight savings plus an electronic launch-control system lower the zero-to-60 mph time to 3.96 seconds versus the regular RC F’s 4.2 seconds, Lexus says. Driving the Track Edition took a bit of time to get used to, however: Many modern performance cars employ turbochargers and superchargers, so to drive a big, naturally aspirated engine feels like a throwback. There’s less burst of initial acceleration, but once the engine revs up and starts to sing, it’s an invigorating experience. The engine is a highlight — much like it was in the previous RC F I tested — once you figure out how to keep it in its power band.
The transmission helps out once it’s in its most aggressive drive mode, called Sport Plus. It holds lower gears plenty long enough for the engine to do its thing, though I used the paddle shifters a few times on trickier roads to keep the V-8 firmly in its power band. Though the transmission is good, it still feels a cut below the best transmissions in the class — think Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch automatic and BMW’s eight-speed auto, both benchmarks.
As mentioned above, the Track Edition curiously eschews the standard RC F’s torque-vectoring differential for a simpler limited-slip, which introduces some tail happiness that I started to notice on my second hard stint in the car. Unless you’re a professional high-performance driver, it’s best to keep the electronic stability system on if you want to keep the nose from switching ends. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires provide plenty of grip, but when they give up, the back end starts to move and things can get hairy pretty fast.
I still don’t love the RC F’s steering. It lacks much weightiness or feedback — fine for normal driving, but with this much power to the rear wheels, a bit more feedback would be welcome. There’s more initial bite at the front end for the updated car, which dials back much understeer; that’s a welcome change.
Adaptive shock absorbers are standard, and a big difference exists in how they behave in each drive mode. In the Normal mode, the shocks are what you’d expect in a Lexus: soft, absorbing road imperfections and rolling along with nary a sound. Toss it into Sport Plus, however, and the ride gets much firmer. This is really what you want out of an adaptive suspension, to tell clearly the difference between drive modes and pick the right setting for your situation. Kudos to Lexus for building in enough pliability for day-to-day usage or stiffness for a winding road or racetrack.
Wait, How Much?
The Track Edition is by far my favorite version of the RC. It’s the sharpest car to drive, looks the part and has a big V-8. Toss those ingredients together, and you can get me to show up pretty much anywhere. There is one big problem though for the Track Edition, aside from its scant availability: the price.
The 2020 RC F Track Edition starts at $97,675 including destination, or $31,900 more than the standard RC F. That’s a tough pill to swallow even when you factor in the car’s exclusivity. It lacks enough performance boost to justify the added cost. If you’re going to raise the price by nearly 50 percent, it needs more changes — and moderately quicker acceleration plus more carbon fiber won’t cut it.
And while the Track Edition might be the best RC for me, it still isn’t quite enough to get me to really fall in love with the car. There are things that I like about it, to be sure, but I didn’t come out feeling wowed — and that’s what it would take to get me on board with the Track Edition and its price tag. Love still has to wait, it seems.
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