In the decades since Colin Chapman, automotive icon and founder of Lotus Cars, uttered the now famed words “simplify, then add lightness,” his quote has transcended the Lotus brand and is now a mantra that track-day enthusiasts and professional race teams alike adhere to religiously. It’s also why the 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji Speedway Edition seems so confusing, as we discovered recently while behind the wheel at Monticello Raceway in New York.
The Lexus model variant has hints of the IMSA GT3 class car in its design, nearly as much horsepower and bears the name of one of the fastest racetracks in the world. But weigh it on a scale and all the motorsport references account for nothing.
It should be noted that the RC F Fuji Edition carries a base price of $98,225, putting it in the same territory as a Porsche 911 but with significantly less performance in hand. Going by the spec sheet alone, the special RC F actually finds fairer competition from the $38,695 Camaro SS.
The naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 churns out 472 hp at 7,100 rpm and 395 ft lbs of torque at 4,800 rpm. The eight-speed automatic, with paddle shifters, does a decent job of quickly working through the gears and sending all that power to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited-slip differential as well. And when the Lexus puts all of that to use, it can complete the sprint from zero-to-60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat. For those keeping score, the Camaro SS does it in 3.9 seconds.
Pricing issues aside, the RC F is as competent as many modern sports cars. It’s balanced through the corners and each of the drive modes presents a surprisingly different attitude and character. The Sport+ mode gives the most aggressive throttle and the stiffest suspension, making the RC F feel like a genuine performer. But, in our opinion, it’s no track car and certainly not one befitting of the Fuji Speedway name.
At 3,839 pounds, the Fuji Speedway edition is 140 pounds lighter than the standard RC F, so technically it is a lightweight model. But calling the nearly four-ton sports car a track special is a stretch. The vented carbon-ceramic brakes at each corner do their best, in tandem with the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, but when there’s that much weight to slow down, it borders on abuse when you do have to lean on them.
The culprit could be the plush cabin, lined with leather and full of Lexus’ suite of electronics and user interface. It’s a pleasant place to spend a few spirited hours of driving, but, again, the antithesis of a track car. If Lexus wanted a true track example, only the bare essentials should remain.
On the other hand, as a high-end GT car, the RC F Fuji Speedway ticks a lot of boxes. It has useable power, an eye-catching design and a sonorous engine note. On track, however, it misses the mark. Lexus knows how to build a proper track car. It has enthusiasts and engineers on staff that know what a track car should be. The fact that the RC F Fuji Speedway Edition is far from one is, well, the most confusing part.