Lexus has caught flack for a while now for marketing cars designed for women, and the brand has been working to revitalize its image as a higher-performance luxury car for years. Its polarizing hourglass-shaped grille hasn’t helped in the slightest. But with sporty coupes like the 2021 Lexus RC F Fuji edition, you might find yourself convinced that Lexus can be one hell of a fun brand.
Seriously. This is one of those cars you’re going to want to go out and test ASAP. You might just find yourself falling in love.
Full disclosure: Lexus brought its RC F Fuji to the Texas Auto Writers Association Spring Roundup, where I had the chance to take it for a spin.
The Lexus RC F Fuji is the performance edition of Lexus’ already powerful sport coupe. It is, basically, a race car that you can drive on the road, which makes sense, since it’s named for the iconic Fuji Speedway. It’s the brand’s effort to appeal to a wider audience, and one great way to do that is with a limited-release version of an already fun performance car.
- Base price for the Lexus RC F Fuji: $98,225
- V-8 engine
- 8-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel shift paddles
- Horsepower: 472
- Torque: 395 lb-ft
- Rear wheel drive
- EPA rated fuel economy of 16 mpg city, 24 mph highway, 19 mpg combined
- Technically seats four, but you’d be hard pressed to sandwich a full-sized adult in the rear seats
- 19-inch forged alloy wheels
- Carbon-ceramic brakes
- Carbon fiber hood, roof, and rear wing
- Michelin Pilot 4S tires
- 0-60 in four seconds
I want to preface my driving impressions by making a quick note here. As an industry that tests a lot of luxury sports cars, car journalists can get really picky about the nuances of a drive. So, you’re probably going to see other publications that note the RC F Fuji’s handling is subpar to some of its direct competitors.
That note, in and of itself, isn’t wrong. But I want to cut Lexus a little slack here and say that you’re probably not going to notice any significant faults in the drive itself if you’re not actively testing every single car in the segment. Nor are you likely to be massively disappointed, because the Lexus RC F Fuji is so fun. It’s like a track day car that you get to take on the road. It has zip. It’s nimble, kind of like a ballerina, and easy to maneuver. It has some serious get-up-and-go, even if it isn’t as fast off the line as its direct competition. It handles beautifully because the balance is just exceptional, and you can turn off the stability control if you want to have some fun.
It falls short of its competitors when it comes to hard numbers. It does. But there’s certainly a subjective quality to the way you experience a car on the road, and there’s nothing about the Lexus RC F Fuji that isn’t fun. It has race track performance, but if you’re taking it for a daily spin, you’d be mistaken for thinking you’re behind the wheel of a luxury sedan. It’s a car that can do both with an equal amount of ease, and I’ll be honest: I kind of preferred it to something like the BMW M3 or M4.
Yes, those two cars are quick and responsive, but I’m not a race car driver. I don’t shell out tons of money for track days. I don’t need a car that, on paper, is the fastest, sharpest, and most responsive model on the market. I want something that will be comfortable for a long trip from San Antonio to Dallas but that I can throw around some back roads with ease. And the Lexus RC F Fuji does all that beautifully. In many ways, this is a car whose other features determine its value, because the drive is great—it’s just great for the type of person that doesn’t need the top-of-the-line sports car.
Now I want to move into the good stuff about this car, because there is plenty—although a lot of it does come in the form of looks. I’m never going to judge anyone who makes a purchase that places aesthetics just above performance, because there is absolutely value in looking (and feeling) like a badass. And the Lexus RC F Fuji is absolutely one of those cars that may just sway you because it looks like it belongs on a race track. It’s one of the few cars whose rear wing actually looks like it belongs rather than seeming like a tacky addition, and its carbon fiber-look hood is absolutely delicious. It has sharp lines and an aggressive appearance that’s absolutely tantalizing. And while I’ll hear arguments against the grille on some models, it does look nice on the RC F Fuji. It fits the sharp look of the whole car.
Open up the driver’s side door, and you’ll be greeted with a truly stunning red interior that is, apparently, just as polarizing as the grille. If it were up to me, everything I ever sit on would be bright red velvet or suede, and that is exactly what the RC F Fuji provides. The bucket seats are comfortable, but only if you’re a smaller person. I’d probably hate this bad boy if I were taller or wider. If you ignore the center stack, it’s a truly delightful machine. You just feel fast, even when you’re cruising through a subdivision in normal mode.
And it also drives like a champ, which is something you’ll appreciate a lot more if you’re not trying to compare it to every single other car in its segment.
When a 2021 model year car comes with a CD player, it’s time to start worrying—especially when you’re talking about a sports car. I know there are folks out there who still hold out for the classic CD as their driving playlist, and those folks may be a big part of Lexus’ audience, but that inclusion right there was a sign to start worrying. It shows the designers weren’t exactly hip on some of the more recent design and technology trends.
And it shows in the infotainment system. Lexus has introduced a touchpad to accompany its infotainment system, and it is extremely touchy. Which is a downer, because the system itself is well-connected and great to use. The damn touchpad just makes it annoying as all get-out.
The screen itself is also deeply recessed into the dash. It’s a neat look, but it makes for a less neat driving experience for short folks like me, who will have their vision obscured. The whole center stack is outfitted in matte black with plenty of buttons, but the design itself looks a few years out of date. Which is really unfortunate, because the red leather-sided console area is a gorgeous base for your commands.
As I mentioned before, it also falls a little short on the sharpness of its drive. If you’re actively shopping across brands in this sector, there’s a good chance your money will end up somewhere else.
I liked the Lexus RC F, but I don’t know if I can say I loved it. It’s a fun drive. It’s gorgeous. It’s posh as hell. It’s also expensive and, with its current features, it can’t exactly compete with some of its direct rivals like the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-AMG C36. If someone hands you the keys to this bad boy, you’re going to be guaranteed one hell of a fun time (especially if you get a chance to let it loose on one of Texas’ 75 mph highways). But is it something I’d pay for out of my own pocket? No. Not yet. Give the RC F a makeover, and we’ll talk.