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Coupes

Coupe Love Affair with the 2020 Lexus RC F

by Jason Fogelson

Looking back on my history of car ownership, I realize I have ping-ponged between trucks/SUVs and coupes. I’ve owned very few sedans, and I haven’t kept them for long. I’m definitely in touch with why I love trucks and SUVs – it’s the utility. It’s the belt and suspenders part of my personality, the part that wants to be ready for anything, anytime. My love of coupes, though, has demanded more introspection. 

Luckily, I got a chance to spend a week behind the wheel of a 2020 Lexus RC F 2-Door Coupe recently, and I think I figured it out.

Let’s jump right in. 

RC F has great lines, with a sporty, elegant profile and an assertive stance, and the car is poised like a sprinter in the starting blocks. The wheel arches are filled with staggered width 19-inch wheels. Up front, the big, open “spindle” grille serves as a gaping mouth, while the bi-LED headlamps underlined by LED DRL. The roofline is fast, with a quick finish to a short decklid, housing a speed-activated rear wing which (thankfully, for the shy driver) defaults to a flush docked position. Quad chrome tips poke out of the lower rear fascia, ready to burble exhaust notes. 

Much of the front fascia seems devoted to aerodynamics and managing air flow. There are no external bumpers, per se, though you can see the structure behind the grille. I’d be really careful parking the RC F – a low-speed collision with a pole or garage wall could result in a very costly repair. The rear fascia is a little less detailed, and appears a little less fragile.

Coupe critics complain about coupe doors, which are generally six or more inches longer than sedan doors on comparably sized vehicles. You need more space to open coupe doors fully. Coupe doors are bigger and heavier than sedan doors, which puts more stress on hinges. Despite their greater length, coupe doors still require second-row passengers to squeeze in past the door frame and front seat. 

While I confirm the coupe critics’ complaints, I counter with compliments. 

A bigger front door makes it easier for the driver and front-seat passenger to enter and exit the vehicle. The weight of RC F’s doors is manageable and well-balanced, and there’s no obvious strain on the hinges. Getting in and out of the second row is mildly inconvenient, but at six-feet two-inches tall with creaky joints and size 14 barges for feet, I had no problem getting in and out without an assist (or a crane). Headroom was fine, though I could have used more legroom for a long ride. I rarely carry second-row passengers – maybe two or three times a year, at most — so the tradeoffs would be worth it to me. Call me a selfish aesthete, but the ease of entry and exit along with a gorgeous, genuine coupe silhouette make the two-door my car of choice.

Inside, RC F also hits the mark. It has a crisply tailored cockpit, with a beautifully trimmed dashboard and center console. I particularly like the perfectly aligned HVAC vents, which combine looks, function and location to break up the visual field of the dashboard. My test RC F came with an expensive ($11,400) yet stunning Performance Package, which included a host of carbon fiber trim and aero pieces on the exterior and interior, and after some heavy math (seven years of ownership = 2,555 days x $4.46/day = $11,400 more or less = less than $5/day to have the cool carbon fiber = sold?), I think I’d order that feature. 

Another option that required no math for me was the $2,725 Navigation System with Mark Levinson Audio. The 17-speaker, 835-watt sound system is one of the best car audio systems I’ve ever heard. I’m not a fan of the remote touchpad in the center console, which I can only ever get good results from when the RC F is at a complete stop. I suspect that time and practice would improve my interactions, but a week wasn’t long enough to make me a competent operator.

The biggest joy of the RC F, though, is the driving experience. A 472-hp, 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine lurks beneath the long hood, ready to pump 395 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain comes as a pleasant surprise in the tidy RC F, as it sounds and feels like it belongs in a muscle car, not a Japanese luxury coupe. Which is not to imply that it’s unruly or sloppy – I’d have to describe it as lusty. That’s a compliment.

Driving around in the RC F is a blast. It corners like a shark, accelerates like a charging bull, and romps like a stallion. I had to keep a close eye on the speedometer, because RC F can cruise smoothly at deceptive speeds. 

There are other performance luxury coupes on the market that match up well with the Lexus RC F. The Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe, BMW M4 Coupe, Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 and Audi RS 5 Coupe are good examples. I’d also include non-luxury Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, lusty V8 muscle cars, in my coupe comparison. 

The 2020 Lexus RC F starts at $64,900 ($89,654 as tested). 

Does my preference for a coupe make me a selfish person, since I’d rather have everyday comfort and convenience as a driver than occasional comfort and convenience for my passengers? Does it make me shallow, since I value appearance over practicality? I don’t know.  I appreciate the coupe for its honesty. It’s not pretending to be a car for all people, for all purposes. And that makes sense to me. So does the RC F.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Lexus

2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though it boasts of a daunting 485-hp Hemi V8 engine, the 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack plays third fiddle in Fiat Chrysler’s muscle coupe lineup.

It sets up behind the similarly powered but better equipped and more expensive Challenger SRT 392, as well as the astounding 707 hp Hellcat, which comes with a price tag that nudges 70 grand.

Even in that company, the Scat Pack comes across in every way as a sharp car: sharp looks, sharp turn-in, handling, braking and hair-trigger throttle response. Though it can trundle along in the docile way of an economy car, that manner requires the driver to use a feather foot. Anything more aggressive and the Scat Pack snaps necks as it leaps forward.

This Challenger is a modern rendition of the muscle cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which always came with gobs of power but many shortcomings. In the words of the late race driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby, they had “great engines (but) couldn’t turn, couldn’t stop.”

2016 Dodge Challenger SXT

Not only does the Challenger Scat Pack evoke memories of those high performance Dodge cars of yore, it corrects those old inadequacies with a modern independent suspension system and sophisticated steering that together deliver sharp handling along with a choppy ride over rough roads.

Moreover, this coupe with the slick retro look comes with high performance antilock Brembo brakes that are unobtrusive in operation but haul the Challenger down from high speeds with authority but without drama.

Standard is a 6-speed manual gearbox. But the test car came with an optional ($1,400) eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode controlled by steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. In either automatic or manual mode, the eight-speed snaps off shifts up or down instantly with rev matching on downshifts. Even with the more rapid shifts at higher rpms, the automatic delivers better fuel economy than the manual when similarly driven.

2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black)

Though it’s a throwback now that manufacturers increasingly deliver cars with smaller but more powerful engines, usually turbocharged, there’s a primal satisfaction in experiencing the vibes and throaty sounds of the traditional pushrod V8 engine. The Scat Pack feels as if it were plucked from the days when the mantra was, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches.”

With its American muscle car personality, the Scat Pack nevertheless is useful as an every day commuter car. As a two door with rear wheel drive it is less convenient than a four-door sedan with front- or all-wheel drive, yet it still accommodates four adults and comes with 16 cubic feet of stash space in the trunk.

The front seats, covered in a nubby and comfortable cloth, have giant side bolsters to hold the torso in place during spirited cornering on twisting roads. Even the outboard back seats, scooped out to maximize head and knee room, would be OK for a middling road trip. Only the center rear seat, with a hard cushion and the intrusion of a big floor hump, should be avoided except in extreme circumstances.

Back seat entry and exit take a bit of effort, though the front seats easily slide forward out of the way. One silly feature: sun visors have small extensions to help block sunlight from the side, but they’re so small they don’t do the job.

Surprisingly, given the Challenger’s low down, streamlined styling, visibility from inside is good all around. Long-distance trips are hampered only by the intrusion of the rumbling V8 engine sounds, which to enthusiasts is classical muscle car music.

2016 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter
2016 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter

The Scat Pack Challenger has a starting price of $38,990, which includes a full suite of safety equipment along with the aforementioned Brembo brakes, hill start assist, a backup camera with parking assist, and pushbutton starting.

Equipment on the test car also included Chrysler’s intuitive UConnect infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity with voice command, SXM satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, fog lights and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.

Options, in addition to the eight-speed automatic transmission, include navigation and high definition (HD) radio. That brought the suggested delivered price to $41,085—not cheap but not terribly expensive either, given the level of performance.

Pony cars and muscle cars from the past are enjoying a resurgence, as witness the popularity of the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. They are somewhat more wedded to modern smaller displacement and turbocharged engines than the offerings from the Dodge boys, who cling more to the past.

2016 Dodge Challenger SXT

Specifications

  • Model: 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack two-door coupe.
  • Engine:4-liter Hemi V8, 485 hp, 475 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,240 pounds
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/25/18 mpg. Premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,990.
  • Price as tested: $41,085.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) FCA North America

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