The term “coupe” has been spoofed in recent years for some four-door sedans and even crossovers, but there are still true two-doors out there. The Lexus RC is one of them, and it certainly looks the part with its low proportions and racy, exuberant styling. The F Sport package for the RC350 model additionally brings dark gray trim, a unique grille design, 19-inch wheels and, in the case of our test car, an optional rear spoiler. It’s an outgoing look, but not as dramatic as the jaw-dropping Lexus LC. And in the case of the RC350 F Sport AWD tested here, it arguably exaggerates the performance it packs.
The RC is from 2014 and the age of the car is evident in several respects. A series of updates arrived with the 2019 model year, and the RC rolls into 2022 unchanged from last year. Surprisingly, given this shrinking segment, Lexus still offers a wide range of RC models. They range from the turbocharged, rear-drive four-cylinder RC300 to the V-8-powered RC F, which in Fuji Speedway Edition form can reach six figures. At the heart of the range, you will find a 3.5-liter V6 engine developing 260 horsepower (RC300 AWD) and 311 horsepower (RC350). Lexus never offered a manual in this car. Instead, there’s an eight-speed automatic in rear-drive models, while the all-wheel-drive versions of the RC300 and RC350 have just six forward gears.
The naturally aspirated V6 sets a slightly nostalgic tone of an era before turbocharging and electric assist. This bent-six sounds great, and there’s certainly something to be said for the progressive throttle response of a naturally aspirated engine. Still, with 280 pound-feet of torque arriving at 4,800 rpm, the beefy 3.5-liter doesn’t have the easy thrust of a low-rpm turbo engine. On the track, that translates to a 60mph time of 5.6 seconds, far behind its turbocharged six-cylinder German rivals: the Audi S5 at 4.2 seconds and the BMW M440i xDrive at a searing 3.8 ( despite the BMW matching the RC’s 3986-pound curb weight exactly). The RC350’s straight-line acceleration puts it even behind four-cylinder versions of the Audi and BMW, with the latest 430i xDrive model we tested hitting 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and a 2018 model A5. in 4.9 seconds. Likewise, the RC350’s quarter-mile run of 14.1 seconds at 100 mph would have had it staring at the taillights of the M440i (12.3 at 112 mph) or the S5 (12.8 at 107 mph) .
Predictably with just six forward gears and 3.5 liters of displacement, the all-wheel-drive RC350 doesn’t win awards with its fuel economy either. EPA estimates are a profoundly poor city/highway of 19/26 mpg, compared to 21/30 mpg for the Audi S5 and 22/31 mpg for the BMW M440i xDrive. We averaged 19 mpg.
Despite its disappointing thrust, the RC350 doesn’t feel sluggish on the street, in part because we spent so much time in Sport+ mode. It’s common for the sportiest powertrain mode to lock out the transmission’s highest gears, but the RC350 can be driven in Sport+ without buzzing at high revs on the highway, the major effect on the powertrain being the automatic braking downshifts.
In fact, the RC’s drive modes only chip away at the edges of the car’s dynamic personality. The steering claims to have two different levels of assist, but we had a hard time feeling the difference. With no wild swings in effort or speed, instead there’s a natural buildup of strength as you lean into a curve and a solid sense of centering as the road straightens. The RC’s natural steering feel is significantly better than the artificiality of the M440i’s variable-ratio steering or the S5’s optional dynamic steering. On both twisty lanes, the RC is relaxed and smooth, but push it harder, like we did in the skid, and it exhibits good understeer. (The rear-drive F Sport gets a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, but the AWD version doesn’t.) It ultimately posted an average grip of 0.86g, and stops from 70mph required a reasonable 162 feet.
The F Sport has adaptive variable suspension, but we found little difference between its standard and stiffer settings. One advantage is that while the firmer settings of its German competitors often provide a painful ride on anything other than freshly laid tarmac, the RC is pleasantly unnerved by bumps and bumps in the road. Although the F Sport has a firmer tune than the base car, it’s the rare sports coupe that still offers a smooth ride in its sporty frame, making it tolerable even on rough pavement than a sudden thaw. of February brings to the northeast.
F Sport-specific front seats improve the RC’s comfort quotient. Their deeply curved seatbacks offer both plenty of lateral support and a layer of plush softness. The driving position is decent, although a wide transmission tunnel bulges out under the driver’s right calf, which might bother some. The cabin’s many padded surfaces offer a Lexus-like level of plushness, even if the design is more pedestrian than some. While the front seats are very comfortable, the rear seats are cramped, even for anything other than a quick jaunt through town. Think of the rear quarters of the RC more as a place to throw a backpack or a shopping bag.
While screen instrumentation is now standard, the RC has a hybrid cluster design with a tachometer rendered on a round LCD display that also contains a digital speed display. That screen lives in a physical dial that’s central in the display and surrounded by fuel and temperature gauges; alternatively, the dial can move slightly to the right, leaving room for an information screen to the left. The dial plus screen layout is both modern, easy to read and more interesting than a simple flat screen. The tachometer display varies slightly depending on the riding mode; it also turns orange when the engine speed reaches 5000 rpm, a nice flourish.
After much criticism, Lexus started moving away from its touchscreen infotainment interface, but the RC still has it. The good news is that you don’t need to use it as much. There are physical knobs and buttons for most audio functions and for climate controls, as well as additional buttons on the steering wheel. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also included. The Mark Levinson Audio Package with Navigation ($2725) upgrades the display from a rather puny 7.0-inch to a modern-sized 10.3-inch unit.
Typical of coupes, rear visibility isn’t great; Good thing a full range of driver aids are standard, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Our test car was also equipped with triple-beam LED headlights ($1,160), which do a fantastic job of lighting up the night and observing turns on dark two-lane roads.
The aforementioned options, along with a handful of others, put our RC350 F Sport AWD test car’s total at $59,995, up from a starting price of $52,555. You’d pay more for an all-wheel-drive six-cylinder coupe from any German automaker: about $4,000 more for an Audi S5, $7,000 more for a BMW M440i xDrive, and $9,000 more for a Mercedes. C43. Only the Infiniti Q60 is cheaper.
Although its new competitors outperform the RC350 F Sport in several objective measures, the Lexus is not without its charms. It’s a grand touring car that, despite its appearance, emphasizes comfort more than outright performance. And like with a well-worn pair of jeans, sometimes there’s appeal in the not-so-new.
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