The Lexus RC F Fuji Speedway Edition looks like a race car stripped of its numbers and sponsorship decals. It’s powered by a 472-hp V-8 that rumbles under a vented hood made of exposed carbon fiber. It has a carbon-fiber wing stuck to its rear deck, fat tires inside its flared fenders, and big carbon-ceramic brakes behind its forged 19-inch alloy wheels. It drives with sweet, balanced precision and roars to a 7300-rpm redline. Did we mention it’s named for a famous Japanese racing circuit? What’s not to love?
For one thing, the price.
This version of Lexus’s muscle coupe costs a hundred grand. Technically, its base price is $98,225. But add a few options like our test car had —navigation, LED headlamps, Mark Levinson audio system, parking assist, and illuminated door sills—and the as-tested sticker comes to $103,350. Hundred-grand cars, such as other premium-priced consumer goods, take us to a psychological tipping point of elevated expectations. The Fuji ultimately can’t meet them because its price-value equation is upside down. It costs almost as much as a base Porsche 911 ($100,550) but performs like a Chevrolet Camaro SS ($38,695).
The Fuji Speedway Edition is a new name in the RC lineup for 2021, but it’s not a new model. Its setup was introduced in 2020 as the Track Edition variant of the V-8-powered, rear-wheel-drive RC F, the performance version of the standard RC coupe. The Track’s upgrades carry over into the Fuji unchanged, including its carbon-fiber hood, roof, and rear wing; carbon-ceramic brakes; and 19-inch BBS wheels—all of which contribute to the Fuji weighing 178 pounds less than the last standard RC F we tested. In addition, the valving of its adaptive dampers is firmed up, and the Fuji forgoes the optional torque-vectoring differential of regular RC Fs and instead uses a Torsen limited-slip unit.
A car pumped up with this kind of top-shelf equipment ought to deliver good straight-line performance, and the Fuji Speedway Edition does. It launches to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat and discharges the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 115 mph. It stops from 70 mph in a reasonable, if not stellar, 162 feet. Its skidpad grip, however, isn’t remotely up to track-car expectations. At 0.94 g it barely out-stuck our long-term Nissan Altima, which pulled 0.93 g on its all-season tires. As we said of the Track Edition, the Fuji would benefit from even-stickier shoes than its Michelin Pilot Sport 4S’s, tires that we generally think highly of.
Rubber aside, good performance isn’t enough in this price class. Compare the Fuji’s test results to those of both the aforementioned base 911 and the Camaro SS, the sticker-price bookends in this discussion. The similarly priced Porsche puts the Fuji away with a 60-mph time of 3.2 seconds, a quarter-mile blast of 11.5 seconds at 120 mph, and 1.08 g of skidpad adhesion. The Camaro with its 10-speed automatic transmission bests the Fuji’s 60-mph dash by a tenth of a second, beats it in the quarter-mile with a 12.2 second, 118-mph pass, and puts a 0.96-g hold on the tarmac. What’s more, there is a host of muscle coupes, sports sedans, and sports cars priced halfway between the low-end Camaro SS and the $100K Lexus that trounce the Fuji’s performance, a list that includes the Ford Mustang GT500, Toyota Supra 3.0, Mercedes-AMG C63, and Chevy’s Camaro ZL1 1LE and Corvette Stingray Z51, among others.
If it were somehow possible to overlook the RC F Fuji’s price-value problem, it would be easy to rank the racy-looking Lexus highly among performance coupes. Its personality translates to aggression tempered with refinement. Pedal it softly around town and the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 whispers like a luxury car’s engine should. Stand on the throttle and it’s a lion roaring in your ear. The eight-speed automatic always shifts smoothly, though never race-car quick. The Fuji’s steering is both precise and reassuringly progressive. Its handling is sure-footed; when sweeping around on-ramps it’s as stable and balanced as a ballerina. Switch off the stability control and it’ll dance on its rear tires, allowing you to exit slow corners in easily controlled tail-out slides. And we wish all cars this track capable rode with such suppleness and finesse. In daily use it feels not at all like a track-attack weapon but rather a sweetly responsive, high-performance luxury sports coupe.
That sense is reinforced by its posh interior, which is stitched in leather and Alcantara and trimmed in red-accented carbon fiber. The handsome gauge cluster features a large, centrally located tachometer. Deeply pocketed front buckets strike a near-perfect balance between superb lateral support and road-trip comfort. There’s even enough room in back to fit two average-size adults for short trips.
Lexus knows the Fuji is a hard sell. It’s offering only 60 examples in the United States for the 2021 model year, so exclusivity is a given. There’s also an extra enticement to buy in the form of a special MSTR Fuji Speedway Edition watch that comes with each car. But rarity and cool watches can’t change the RC F Fuji’s cost-benefit imbalance. For those who are thoroughly smitten with its aggressive good looks, we recommend saving a bundle and going for a standard RC F, which performed virtually as well in our testing and carries a far more palatable $67,000 base price. For anyone else looking for a ground-based two-door missile, there are other, far worthier choices—for a hundred grand and a lot less.
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