Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 30, 2021
The Lexus RC F has been flying under the radar ever since it was launched back in 2015, living in the shadow of quicker, more resolute, and more impressive two-door sports cars like the BMW M4 Competition, Audi RS5, and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. The last time we drove the RC F, we called it a strong package with a spectacular V8 engine whose unique sound and character let it stand out in a field muddied by soulless turbochargers.
In an effort to keep the RC F relevant, Lexus have unveiled a new Track Package that adds a host of performance goodies to shave weight and lap times, and increase its overall appeal. It costs an eye-watering $35,000, or the price of a brand new Volkswagen Golf GTI, and adds a full carbon fibre body kit with a blacked out carbon fibre hood and roof, a fixed carbon fibre rear spoiler for improved aerodynamics, a titanium muffler with blue stainless steel tips for better airflow, and Brembo carbon ceramic brakes for more stopping power. The Track Edition also receives new, lightweight BBS alloy wheels that should look familiar to those following the RC F GT3 in endurance racing, or those who play too much Assetto Corsa Competizione.
The interior receives a red and black Alcantara design with leather accents. To save weight and lower the center of gravity, Lexus removed the sunroof, power telescoping steering column, rain sensing wipers, and heated and ventilated seats. There’s even a carbon fibre partition behind the rear seats. Combined with a lighter intake manifold, suspension components, and chassis parts, the RC F Track Edition saves about 80 kg compared to the standard model.
That about sums up the changes, and those keeping track (no pun intended) will notice that Lexus pretty much left the powertrain untouched. That means the same 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 pushing out 472 horsepower at a blistering 7,100 rpm, but the same 395 lb-ft of torque - no turbos remember? Lexus runs that through an 8-speed automatic exclusively to the 19-inch rear wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber, with active torque vectoring, an adaptive suspension, and a limited slip differential ensuring maximum grip levels and cornering speeds.
What kind of buyer are they aiming at with this RC F Track Edition? Lexus clearly have the German breed of sport coupes in mind, and even the new Chevrolet C8 Corvette Stingray and upcoming Lotus Emira are fair play, but $120,000 is a ton of coin for a track day special, especially when you consider the fact that it costs more than a Porsche 911 Carrera, Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 (though good luck trying to get your hands on one of those for MSRP), and nearly as much as the even more outdated Nissan GT-R. In fact, what Lexus has done here reminds us of what BMW did with their six-figure, water-injected, and not so successful M4 GTS.
But there is merit behind the upgrades, enough to warrant a closer look at what is essentially Lexus’ most hardcore road car. Torque from the naturally aspirated V8 may be low but there are other inherent benefits to this engine setup, like its linear and predictable engine map that leaves little ambiguity under your right foot. Lexus says the RC F Track Edition will launch from 0-96 km/h in 3.96 seconds and it feels every bit as powerful. The carbon ceramic brakes will bring you back to sane speeds with their race-car bite and linear pedal travel that feels pretty much perfect. They do not squeal or whine when not up to operating temperatures either.
The steering is improved and the RC F turns with more verve and vigour than before. Rotating the wheel feels heavier but more organic this time around, and they seemed to have tuned the gearbox to provide snappier and quicker shifts, but the transitions between them are slightly rougher, especially when rowing manually. The ride in the Track Edition is considerably stiffer and more taxing, and you will feel every bump and crevice on the road. However, the more fluid body control and the ability to stay wonderfully flat around corners at speed is worth it.
Do we feel the improved aerodynamics and reduced weight? Kind of. The standard RC F was quite a heavily-set object already, weighing more than the rivaling M4, so any shaved weight should provide some meaningful changes out on the open road. Rear end traction is better and there is less wheel spin in the first three gears when matting the gas pedal. The stickier Michelin tires help the RC F stay glued to the road and even though the rear still loves to kick out with just the tiniest whiff of throttle and steering lock, you can easily dance on the edge of adhesion with more confidence than before.
But as a track car, we wish Lexus made it more extreme. Lighten the car with some Gorilla Glass instead of heavy windshields, get rid of the rear seats, put some fire extinguishers and a roll cage, and replace the door handles with fabric pull straps. Get rid of some cabin insulation, lower the ride height, and lay some tribute to the successful RC F GT3 race car with a new steering wheel and lighter bucket seats. If you want people to take this car seriously and buy one for track use, and you’re only going to sell a handful of these worldwide, why not make more of a statement? No one is going to be buying one of these to take on a cross-country road trip.
We get why Lexus charges $120,000 for one of these, though. Carbon fibre isn’t cheap, especially when it covers so much surface area on the RC F. German automakers typically charge at least $10,000 for a set of carbon ceramic brakes too, so there’s that. Doesn’t seem cheap to manufacture that beautiful red coloured weave into the door panel’s carbon fibre either. On a side note, we did discover that the RC F was weirdly fuel efficient, so there’s some money to be saved. Cruising around town and the highway with a judicious right foot and light throttle application averaged us an impressive 10.3 L/100km. For a naturally aspirated V8 coupe, that’s incredible, and really boils down to the engine utilizing a more efficient Atkinson cycle at low speeds, and switching to an Otto cycle for more performance.
With the help of the new titanium muffler and connecting pipes, Lexus have tuned the RC F to provide a more linear sound over its entire rev range, and while the end result is a deliciously melodic noise, it still rings in the shadow of the more thrilling LC 500 soundtrack - there are few things more exhilarating in life than letting the LC’s tach needle bounce off its stratospheric limiter. The RC F is slightly louder than before, coming alive when you have the gas pedal firmly pressed to the floor, but it should be that loud all the time, not just when you’re gunning it into unholy speeds. Reminds us of the similarly silent, titanium exhaust in the Nissan GT-R NISMO.
The RC F has always looked like a mix of Japanese Gundam and German war machine, and the Track Edition adds even more racing flair. It’s as close as you will ever get to a factory-built RC F GT3, and we absolutely adore those blue, stacked quad tailpipes. Furthermore, lift up the front hood and you’re treated to a beautifully arranged engine bay with blue-painted intake manifolds. Most engines nowadays are covered up by ugly plastic covers but Lexus continues to display them like a museum. And there’s just so much gorgeous carbon fibre covering the hood, roof, and rear spoiler - we’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the best looking sports cars in its price bracket, though the beaver-teeth offerings from BMW aren’t setting the bar very high. Of note, there are only three paint colours available with the Track Edition: black, white, and grey, with the interior only available in one spec: black and red.
But the colour scheme does little to liven up the aging interior. The layout is tight, cramped, heavily reliant on buttons and dials, and there’s barely any room to store your phone and small items aside from the two cupholders in the center. We won’t dive into our frustrations with the trackpad system as you can read about that in our other Lexus reviews, but at least the seats are mighty supportive for that trip down to the track.
The Lexus RC F Track Edition brings meaningful and palatable changes to an otherwise impressive sports car but its sonically pleasing V8, playful rear end, and army of carbon fibre additions do not make the large entrance fee very justifiable to any serious motorsport enthusiast. It is an appealing alternative for those who want something Japanese and from the far left-field, but it’s a tough one for us to recommend when there are just so many other more engaging, cheaper, and just as characterful choices in the homogeneously turbocharged pool of six-figure sports cars.
Model: 2021 Lexus RC F Track Edition
Paint Type: Cloudburst Grey
Base Price: $85,450
Price as Tested: $120,450
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,710 / 1,845 / 1,390
Curb weight (kg): 1,770
Engine: 5.0-litre V8
Horsepower: 472 hp @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 395 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 14.4 / 9.6 / 12.2
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.3
Tires: 255/35R19 front; 275/35R19 rear; Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S