Lexus’ compact sports coupe is quicker and more performance-oriented than before
Lexus’ bread and butter has always been soft, comfortable vehicles like the RX crossover and ES sedan. Yet, starting with the launch of its LFA supercar, RC and LC coupes, and F subbrand, it started to look like Lexus was pivoting to become more of a sports-luxury brand.
Today, Lexus is at a crossroads. The new 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition seems like a not-so-subtle hint at where Lexus is going in the future.
“The purpose of the RC F Track Edition is to show clearly what the Lexus behavior and taste is,” Lexus executive general manager Koji Sato told us ahead of the car’s official reveal. “Everyone knows that BMW is the ‘Ultimate Driving Experience,’ so the RC F Track Edition technology [shows what we can do.]”
Developed at the Nürburgring and racetracks all over Japan (including the F subbrand’s namesake Fuji Speedway), the RC F Track Edition is designed for the moneyed weekend warriors among us. Each of the fewer than 100 RC F Track Editions Lexus plans on selling per year will be kitted out with a massaged 5.0-liter V-8 boasting a revised intake box that adds 5 horsepower to the base engine, for a total of 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. The transmission remains an eight-speed automatic, but its final drive has been made shorter, changing from 2.93:1 to 3.13:1. Lexus says the Track Edition will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.96 seconds, improving on the RC F’s 4.5 second to 60 mph time.
Accompanying that extra few horsepower is the modest diet imposed by Sato-san and his team. Utilizing lessons learned in the RC F GT3 race car, and of course, from the LFA, this limited-run RC features carbon-fiber bits designed to reduce the RC’s hefty curb weight, lower its center of gravity, and improve downforce. The Lexus team invested in a carbon-fiber front splitter, hood, roof, rear diffuser, and fixed rear wing, the latter of which features the “F” logo woven into the wing itself. Rounding out the weight-reduction retreatment is a titanium exhaust system, hollow halfshafts, a revised intake manifold, unspecified aluminum suspension components, a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer rear partition brace, and even a smaller A/C compressor.
The result of all that hard work is only a claimed 180-pound (82-kg) reduction versus the RC F—which weighs in at just over 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg). The diet is admittedly minor, says Sato, but even “one gram lighter is better,” he said, adding that the team didn’t want to reduce the Track Edition’s comfort level by going through more extreme measures like ripping out sound deadening or removing the rear seat.
More important than the diet, says Sato, is the back-to-basics approach the Lexus team took as it looked at the fundamentals of driving pleasure. Stickier Michelin Pilot 4S tires on lightweight 19-inch forged BBS wheels, plus stiffer engine mounts and rear suspension and steering bushings should reduce understeer and improve turn-in feel. Rounding out the package are Brembo calipers and carbon-ceramic brake rotors, backed up by a revised brake pedal ratio said to improve both precision and feel.
The biggest news, though, is beyond the RC F Track Edition. Says Sato, “Once we launch the F model, you are going to see some [increased] activity; we are engaged in performance improvement activity.” Our bet? Keep an eye out for an LC F.
The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition is expected to go on sale in four different colors, including the Track Edition–exclusive Matte Nebula Gray, this year. Fewer than 100 examples will be available per year. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but expect it to cost a fair bit more than the standard $65,000 USD RC F model.