At least this car looks cool.
The thought of spending a week with a hyper-limited, track-focused, special-edition vehicle with a big, high-revving, naturally aspirated V8 is pretty damn exciting. That’s the stuff that car enthusiasts dream about, right? Unfortunately, reality rarely lives up to our dreams, and that is certainly the case with the 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji Speedway Edition.
LikeExcellent build qualityStrong carbon-ceramic brakes
Don’t LikeLazy drivetrainRough rideToo expensive
On paper, the RC F Fuji edition seems great. It’s got tons of carbon fiber, carbon-ceramic brakes and the 5.0-liter 2UR-GSE V8 you’ll find in performance cars like the Lexus LC 500, the beloved IS F and the new IS 500. That engine produces a respectable 472 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 395 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm, but it’s here that the RC F’s bummers begin.
This engine certainly does scream in its upper registers, as evidenced by the revs at which it makes peak power. It’s here where the V8 is exciting and responsive and alive. Unfortunately, in the lower part of its rev range, the 5.0-liter V8 runs on the Atkinson cycle, the same efficiency-focused cycle that Toyota uses in its hybrids. This means the valve timing changes to focus on fuel efficiency at the expense of power, torque and responsiveness.
2021 Lexus RC F Fuji Speedway Edition: At least it sounds good
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On paper, having a more efficient car at around-town speeds sounds good, but in reality, it makes a track-focused beast like the RC F feel dead and unexciting. If this were anything but a flagship sports model, I’d be less critical, but in a car like this, with a big carbon wing, hyper-aggressive styling and a sizable price tag, it feels like a huge misstep. I want my big, naturally aspirated V8 to kick ass all the time, and this one doesn’t.
That V8 is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Unlike the engine, the transmission works well in town but lets the driver down on good canyon roads. It shifts slower than some of the ZF eight-speed ‘boxes I’ve experienced and, again, in a track-focused car, it shouldn’t be this way. At least this transmission is paired with a locking rear differential that works as advertised and is a welcome addition in the RC F.
You’ll find this 5.0-liter V8 in the LC 500 and IS 500.
The RC F Fuji’s suspension is another area that should be impressive purely based on its specs but doesn’t live up to the hype. The front double-wishbone suspension features adaptive Sachs dampers and a hollow front sway bar. The rear uses a multi-link design. The whole setup is extremely stiff and unpleasant around town yet it doesn’t do a brilliant job of controlling the RC F in high-speed driving. Further, I find it difficult to trust the car to stay planted as it moves around on fast canyon roads because it never feels truly settled. The RC F’s vague electronic power steering also does a poor job of providing driver feedback, adding to that overall lack of confidence on the road.
Arguably the best thing about the Fuji is its set of 14.9-inch Brembo carbon ceramic brakes. The RC F is a heavy car with a curb weight of 3,781 pounds (121 pounds lighter than the standard RC F), and with nearly 500 hp on tap, these unflappable brakes are a welcome addition for repeatable, confidence-inspiring stopping. Coupled with the reasonably sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, the RC F’s overall grip is good, despite the issues I have with the suspension.
The RC F’s cabin is a sea of leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber and buttons. At 6 feet, 4 inches, I’m admittedly taller than most drivers, but I struggle to get comfortable in any position. The seats are gorgeous and likely very supportive for smaller drivers, but after an hour in the canyons, I feel like they’ve been boxing my kidneys, and it’s not fun. Headroom also could be better, considering the lack of a moonroof in the carbon-roof-equipped Fuji. The BMW M4 offers more space for heads (and helmets), but at least the RC F has plenty of legroom. The whole cabin is exquisitely built with great materials, at least — a hallmark of Lexus products.
The interior is nicely appointed, but the infotainment tech is really bad.
The RC F lacks blind-spot monitoring (thanks to its carbon fiber side mirrors) and rear cross-traffic alert, but at least comes with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning and the like. But while the safety suite is only OK, the infotainment system is pretty bad. The RC F doesn’t have a touchscreen, but thankfully Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and my test vehicle is equipped with the optional Mark Levinson audio package — a mandatory add for any Lexus, as far as I’m concerned. The Lexus Enform system is problematic due to its clunky interface and laggy response, not to mention the finicky trackpad which is hard to use while driving.
The RC F Fuji Speedway Edition has a starting price of $98,275, including Lexus’ $1,075 destination fee. That’s a more-than-$30,000 premium over the standard RC F, so what, other than exclusivity and carbon ceramic brakes, is Lexus giving buyers for that money? The big aesthetic differences are the carbon fiber hood, rear wing, roof, front lip and side skirts, as well as red leather and Alcantara interior with carbon trim. There’s also a titanium exhaust system, forged BBS wheels and the aforementioned torque-vectoring rear end.
Not many of these will be sold.
But is it worth it? In short, no. The RC F Fuji Speedway Edition is not a very good car on public roads and it’s not entertaining on winding stretches of canyon roads, either. It may be good on a race track as its name would imply (though I can’t confirm that), but with its punishing ride, cramped interior and disappointing drivetrain, I can’t imagine picking this over any other sports car at this price. For the $102,510 as-tested price of this RC F, I’d rather have a base Porsche 911, which is both a better sports car and a much more livable daily driver.
For 2022, Lexus decided to extend the Fuji Speedway Edition by an additional 50 units. The company also added a new color — a lovely blue called Electric Surge — and gave the Fuji a new set of 19-inch wheels. Unfortunately, these updates do nothing to increase the appeal of this super hard sell.