The 2021 Lexus RC F Track Edition is an extremely niche car.
The market may prefer spacious, winter-ready crossovers, but here we have two doors, a low-slung shape, and sticky summer tires. Turbos and electricity? Try a naturally aspirated V8. Instead of a touchscreen, it’s got a weird laptop-style touchpad – take it or leave it.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being different, of course, but there is something wrong with being, well, worse. And, unfortunately, this RC F does quite a bit worse than it probably should given its premise and $120,000-plus asking price.
I was never really a fan of how the Lexus RC F looked, Track Edition or otherwise; and, no, it has nothing to do with the once-controversial spindle grille. Its proportions are weirdly less handsome than that of, say, the BMW M4, its swollen hood and fenders come off as ungainly rather than aggressive, and its headlights kind of make the car look cross-eyed.
In any case, I hope you like carbon fibre, because the RC F Track Edition is loaded with black woven parts. The big rear spoiler, front lip, side skirts, and hood are all made of the stuff and, as a bit of an easter egg, the underside of said hood is made of chopped carbon, resembling the rear wing of a Lamborghini Huracán Performante.
Inside, you’ll find the same interior used in the RC and IS for many years now, although this Track Edition exclusively features red leather and synthetic suede on the seats, centre console, instrument hood, door cards, and steering wheel.
Lexus Canada’s literature for this car a little optimistically describes it as “flying on four wheels,” and while the RC F’s 472-hp 5.0L V8 makes this an objectively quick car, Lexus F cars have never been class-leading when it comes to outright pace. Natural aspiration means a dearth of torque at low revs, and since the Track Edition features no powertrain-related changes, this remains true here as well.
In my mind, the real appeal of an F-branded Lexus has always been the noise, and in that respect the RC F (mostly) delivers. The 5.0L is the same engine found in the company’s fantastic LC 500 and the new IS 500 F Sport Performance, as well as the dearly departed GS F and IS F sedans. On throttle, the engine lets out a sonorously mechanical, blood-curdling cry. In the flagship LC, it’s savagely melodic, but because the RC F uses a different titanium exhaust, it’s more brutish-sounding and, ultimately, not as evocative in this application. Even so, the aural aspects of this V8 Lexus remain one of its biggest strengths and a key differentiator in a segment mostly dominated by turbocharged six-cylinders.
Driving Feel: 7/10
As part of the Track Edition, Lexus has fitted the RC F with carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes, a carbon aero kit, and lightweight 19-inch wheels. It has also cut a total of 80 kg (176 lb) of weight by replacing select body panels with carbon fibre, and removing the heated and ventilated seat functions. Given this premise, you might expect the RC F Track Edition to be an unrelenting, hardcore on-road racer, but in reality, it isn’t that. Driven casually, all of its inputs are still Lexus-smooth and easy almost to the point where it may as well be an RC 300 around town. It just doesn’t feel as special as it probably ought to given its race-car-like exterior design. It may look like – and be called – a track special, but from behind the wheel it doesn’t really drive like one.
Granted, it is decently capable and enjoyable when driven aggressively. A standard limited-slip differential, adaptive suspension, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires help it boast a good amount of stability, grip, and corner-attacking confidence; but the RC F Track Edition doesn’t hustle nearly well enough to warrant its $122,000 asking price. The ceramic brakes are solid, but the aging eight-speed automatic transmission is quite slow-to-react by modern transmission standards. The steering and chassis do an OK job of keeping the wheels where they should be, but the latter doesn’t feel especially well-balanced, while the former is ultimately just kind of unremarkable.
As does every RC F, the Track Edition features automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and adaptive cruise control that works at speed faster than 40 km/h. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is on board, as are eight airbags, including ones dedicated to protecting front occupants’ knees. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has granted the 2021 RC full marks when it comes to crashworthiness, crash avoidance, and child seat anchors.
With the RC being a seven-year-old car now, it’s already at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to tech and creature comforts (example: this is among the most expensive cars I’ve driven to not have a head-up display), and this questionably-stripped-out Track Edition has not helped the situation.
In the alleged name of weight-saving, Lexus has removed the base RC F’s heated and ventilated seat elements and the ability to power-tilt, telescope, and heat the steering wheel. Also deleted were the sunroof, automatic rain-sensing wipers, and Lexus’s awesome 17-speaker audio system that is included with the less expensive RC F Performance package. In other words, most of the features you actually might want in a modern high-trim Lexus are gone. On the other hand, Lexus did make sure to keep the CD player intact. Less sarcastically, the usual Lexus F digital tachometer is present and remains quite cool.
User Friendliness: 6/10
This will likely come off as one of the first-worldliest of first-world problems, but because the RC F Track Edition’s carbon side skirts protrude laterally and are fairly sharp, it can really dig into your Achilles, causing quite a bit of pain climbing out of it if you’re not careful. Ask me how I know.
Another day-to-day gripe with the RC F would be the one that persists with pretty much every Lexus made over the past decade: the infotainment system. The company’s overhauled 2022 NX crossover debuts a brand-new touchscreen-based system that I can indeed confirm is a vast improvement over this and will eventually be applied across the Lexus lineup. In the meantime, this RC is unfortunately saddled with the ever-frustrating touchpad. It’s annoying to use even when the car isn’t moving, and borderline dangerous when it is, the RC’s controller has seemingly been positioned for drivers with the arms of a T-Rex.
As a 2+2, life in the RC F’s front quarters are about as roomy as any other comparably-sized vehicle, while the 286-L trunk is big enough for a few carry-ons. Tilting a front seat forward and awkwardly climbing into the back seat, legroom is actually OK provided both you and the person in front are both of average height (although rear-seat headroom is certifiably tight).
While the RC F Track Edition’s relative tameness is a bit of a letdown when it comes to driving feel, it’s a boon in the comfort department. Because while the ride is understandably more jiggly than the average Lexus over big bumps and potholes, it’s still totally livable in its normal setting. Crank it up to sport+, however, and the adaptive suspension gets appropriately stiff. The seats, meanwhile, are big, comfy, and expertly sculpted to fit the human body.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
A big, naturally aspirated V8 combined with the word “track” is never going to be a champion of fuel efficiency. Hence, the RC F Track Edition is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) for 14.4 L/100 km in the city, 9.6 on the highway, and 12.2 combined, while 91-octane is required. After about 470 km of testing, the car’s trip computer showed 13.7 L/100 km.
The regular 2021 Lexus RC F starts at a semi-reasonable $85,450, plus a non-negotiable freight fee of $2,095, but the Track Package is a $35,000 (!) extra. As a result, the RC F Track Edition you see here costs $122,645 before tax and, to put it bluntly, may be one of the worst values in the luxury performance car market today.
V8 engine note aside, the RC F isn’t remarkably quick, isn’t especially outstanding to drive, and is missing a laundry list of creature comforts that a $60,000 Lexus really ought to have, let alone one that commands double that figure. A loaded-up BMW M4 Competition, for example, can be had for about $110,000, while a Performance Pack-equipped LC 500 costs about $106,000. And both are vastly superior cars, with the M4 in particular providing an all-around superior drive and way more tech, while the LC is a significantly better-looking, better-sounding, better equipped, and more emotional interpretation of the V8 Lexus coupe formula.
However, an argument could definitely be made for the RC F Track Edition as a collector’s item. Remember when I called the RC F Track Edition a niche car? Well, here’s the most telling fact about it: only four 2021 Track Editions will be available in Canada. Not 14, not 40, not 44. Four. Including the press unit you see here. So, really, there are only three of these to choose from, if you’d like one that hasn’t been farted in by yours truly.
Taken purely at face value, the 2021 Lexus RC F Track Edition is a perplexing proposition, because if you’d like to spend six figures on a two-door, four-seat Lexus with a V8, the LC 500 is a vastly superior car. Hell, even if money wasn’t a factor, I’d take the IS 500 sedan over this RC F which, after having sampled one briefly, sounds just as good, looks better, is way more practical, and – despite not being quite as hardcore – has a more balanced and satisfying chassis.
That IS 500, by the way, will cost just $72,900 before destination. And, like the aforementioned LC and BMW M4, the IS 500 is a comparatively common, non-special edition model you don’t have to be literal blood relatives with your local Lexus dealer principal to get your hands on. But if you’re a hardcore Lexus fan with more money than you know what to do with, the RC F Track Edition would definitely be a cool and extremely rare addition to your collection. They may not even operate in the same universe, but no other Lexus coupe can honestly say it’s less common than the legendary LFA.
|Peak Horsepower||472 hp @ 7,100 rpm|
|Peak Torque||395 lb-ft @ 4,800–5,600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||14.4 / 9.6 / 12.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||286 L|
|Model Tested||2021 Lexus RC F Track Edition|
|Price as Tested||$122,645|
$35,000 – Track Package, $35,000