Engine: 3.5-liter V6 with 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, six-speed automatic with all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: Up to 28 MPG highway
Pricing: Rear-wheel drive RC 350 F Sports start at $48,800 including $925 in delivery fees
Things don’t always go according to plan.
For example, the week that I booked with the Lexus RC 350 was the same week that Mike Schlee planned to spend in an entirely different Lexus product, but something happened along the way and it wasn’t available. Instead, he wound up with – you guessed it – an RC 350 as well.
This double-booking doesn’t happen often, but from time to time it gives us a unique opportunity to get two points of view about a particular product. So, how did we like – or dislike – this stylish new coupe?
Believe it or not the Lexus RC is something of a Frankenstein, from a structural standpoint at least. The car’s architecture mixes bits from the brand’s IS convertible, GS four-door and new IS sedan to create something that’s more than the sum of its seemingly mismatched parts.
In spite of its shared mechanical pieces, the RC is dressed to the nines. Its bodywork is unlike anything else in Lexus’ stable. Up front it wears a massive, almost three-dimensional version of the brand’s hourglass-shaped spindle grille. The body is adorned with swoops, fins and all kinds of surface details. Add it up and the RC is a vehicle you cannot ignore, though it may be hard to love.
As Mike pointed out it’s nice to see some differentiation in the luxury coupe segment, a space where many rivals are almost carbon-copies of their sedan counterparts. The Audi A5 and BMW 4 series for instance are both spitting images of their four-door stable-mates. As for the RC’s styling, I find it distinctive though a bit over the top. Mike thinks it looks good, but to each his own.
The model I evaluated was slathered in rich crimson paint Lexus calls “Infrared.” It’s bright, bold and beautiful, but not quite a pretty as the color Mike’s test model was dressed in. His car featured a gorgeous hue called “Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0.” That’s kind of a clunky name for a stunning color, though both are a $595 option.
Another standout hue in the RC 350 F Sport’s palette is called “Molten Pearl.” Don’t think this color is some fancy variation of white, oh no. It’s an arresting orange that brings to mind an irradiated tangerine; it looks particularly striking on the ultra-aggressive RC F.
Putting the “F” in “Sport”
Differentiating F Sport models from standard RC 350s is a host of equipment, though the first thing you’ll notice is the styling. These cars get mesh grille-inserts, new bumpers and 19-inch wheels. Other hardware upgrades include sport seats, an adaptive suspension system and aluminum pedal covers, among many other enhancements.
Lexus F Sport vehicles are meant to span the gap between their regular models and their full-on F cars, which are for dedicated enthusiasts. They deliver sportier driving dynamics and more aggressive looks without sucking your bank account quite as dry.
While we were more or less in agreement about the RC’s exterior – it’s a pretty attractive car – things get a little heated when we move inside. Mike took quite a shine to the RC’s cabin, calling it “proper luxury.” He also said, “The design, layout and mix of materials all reek of high class and make occupants certain this is not an ordinary ride.”
Mr. Schlee has pretty a strong opinion about this car’s interior, though unfortunately he’s more wrong than the Chicago Tribune when it published the famous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” following the 1948 presidential election. By comparison I found the cockpit overly busy with too many weird-looking surfaces, materials that aren’t that premium as well as various strange and unnecessary design flourishes. Comparing the RC’s interior to the Audi S5’s cabin makes it look like something pulled out of a Toyota Camry, not a luxury vehicle … but that’s just my opinion. In typical Lexus fashion the build quality was impeccable; however I did experience one irritating problem.
Regrettably, a light frost one night rendered the power windows inoperable and no amount of scraping or poking at the weatherstripping would get them to budge. Only after the interior warmed up did the windows roll down. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to go through a bank drive-through when the side glass won’t drop? I had to park and actually walk into the building. The humanity!
One area where we agree is the amount of headroom available to people seated in the RC’s front seats; it’s surprisingly generous. Mike and I are both reasonably tall individuals and neither of us had any complaints about noggin space. The buckets are damn comfortable as well, sporty yet livable.
As for the aft accommodations Michael said he was able to fit two adult passengers back there for a 30 minute trip, supposedly to a “family dinner,” though I suspect that’s little more than a misleading euphemism for a bro’s night out at the gentlemen’s club. Surprisingly he and his passengers are still on speaking terms, which means this Lexus does offer decently spacious quarters considering the fact that it is a coupe.
By comparison I did not force any unwitting friends or family members into the confines of the RC’s rear; I didn’t even try to coax anyone with teriyaki flavored beef jerky or other tasty treats so you’ll have to take Mike’s word on this one. Curiously only two people can sit back there. In lieu of a third perch there’s a shallow bin between the two outer seats. This means there’s no fold-down arm rest, which is unfortunate.
For Tech’s Sake!
As with just about every modern luxury vehicle, the RC 350 F Sport is loaded with technology. One of the most visible is its digital instrument cluster, which was inspired by the brand’s LFA supercar. It’s reconfigurable in many ways and features a large, analogue tachometer that actually slides left to right changing how the gauges look. This feature, which is standard in F Sport models, feels modern and looks impressive.
The RC is also features Lexus’ latest infotainment system. Instead of a touchscreen or even a console-mounted control knob engineers borrowed something from the computer industry. Their Remote Touchpad looks like it was pulled right off of a modern laptop. This input features a large clickable area and unique haptic feedback that’s supposed to help guide your fingers.
This system looks like a great way of interacting with all of the RC’s complex infotainment and navigation controls. Unfortunately my experience was quite the opposite. At times it was challenging to get the cursor exactly where I wanted it, especially while driving. I’d over shoot my intended target and end up clicking on something else when all I wanted to do was see what radio station was playing.
SEE ALSO: How Harman Engineers Better Sound
Conceivably with practice Lexus’ Remote Touchpad would become more intuitive but that never happened during my time with the RC. At least the car’s Mark Levinson sound system delivers an impressive listening experience. Mike is particularly fond of it.
Drop ‘er in Drive
If you think Lexus vehicles are as anodyne as the artwork hanging in a dentist’s waiting room it’s high time you learned about gingivitis and took the RC for a spin. In keeping with their pledge to build more exciting vehicles this coupe delivers plenty of driver engagement.
The steering feel and chassis tuning make this car feel quite responsive if not overly athletic. It’s definitely more of a relaxed cruiser than a track-day weapon. Reinforcing this observation, the cabin remains impressively silent, even at extra-legal velocities.
All RC F Sport models are powered by a refined and responsive 3.5-liter V6. This engine should be familiar to Toyota Avalon and Sienna drivers. Augmented with the brand’s D-4S fuel delivery system, which features both port- and direct-injection the Lexus version of this bent-six cranks out 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
Given its relatively modest output figures the RC 350’s acceleration is surprisingly brisk. The model I tested was rear-wheel drive, meaning it featured an eight-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox was quick-witted and always shifted smoothly, making the most of the engine’s available torque.
Smartly, Lexus also offers the RC with all-wheel drive. This broadens the car’s appeal to motorists living in more inclement regions, though it comes at a price, specifically two forward gears. Models so equipped only have a six-speed automatic transmission.
By now you may be asking yourself, “How much does this car cost?” The base price for a standard RC 350 is a little less than $44,000, including $925 in delivery fees. If you fancy a more aggressive looking F Sport model, they start around 49 big ones, again with destination charges included.
The Infrared-colored test car I evaluated drove off the assembly line in Japan with a price tag of $53,415. That inflated figure includes a few extras like adaptive cruise control ($500), parking assist ($500) and $2,610 for a navigation and premium sound system.
As for the other numbers new-car shoppers care about, fuel economy, the RC 350 F Sport shouldn’t disappoint. Rear-wheel drive versions sticker at 19 MPG city and 28 highway, figures that result in a combined score of 22 MPG. Not surprisingly, all-wheel-drive variants are slightly less efficient.
The 2015 RC 350 F Sport is proof that Lexus can build exciting products. It’s quick, nice to drive and is surprisingly spacious for a coupe. You may love the way this car looks or you could be completely turned off by its aggressive styling but either way you’re guaranteed to notice it and tha-drivet’s a lot more than can be said about the brand’s CT 200h hybrid for instance. If you like what you see it’s a competent rival to the Audi A5 and Infiniti Q60.