2015 Lexus RC 350 F SportPosted on December 31st, 2014
Sweet and salty sport coupe is a driver’s delight
By Nina Russin
The new Lexus RC sport coupe is two cars in one: a stylish and very luxurious car for daily driving, and slightly naughty sport coupe for the track. Although the RC is a new model for Lexus, the coupe’s dual purpose and stylish exterior are reminiscent of the SC convertible hardtop discontinued after the 2010 model year.
Structurally, the RC 350’s front end is based on the current GS, while the rear is based on the IS. Styling is reminiscent of the LFA supercar. The RC is available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The rear-wheel drive model tested comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The F Sport package adds adaptive variable suspension. Buyers can also opt for a dynamic handling package that adds torque vectoring.
Base price for the test car is $42,790 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options include the F Sport package that adds special wheels and unique exterior trim, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, unique instrumentation and interior trim, navigation with the Mark Levinson premium audio upgrade, intuitive park assist, dynamic radar cruise control, a moonroof and variable gear ratio steering, bringing the final MSRP to $54,720.
Test drive in southern Arizona
I spent the week of the Christmas holiday behind the wheel of the new RC, driving through the Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale metropolitan areas at a time when seasonal traffic makes all of the roads congested. Although I was unable to bend the limit of the coupe’s performance on a racetrack, I got a good sense of what it might be like for an urbanite to live with the RC 350 on a daily basis.
In true Lexus style, the RC 350 delivers all the features a buyer in the luxury segment would look for: head-turning exterior, sumptuous interior, excellent driving dynamics and a high level of standard safety features.
Lexus has never been a company to reinvent the wheel each time it introduces a new model. This writer sees that as a good thing, since it allows engineers to focus on refinement of existing powertrain components. One could argue that the new RC 350 is the best car Lexus has ever built with near-perfect front-to-rear weight balance.
The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is a powerful performer, with 306 horsepower and 277 foot-pounds of peak torque. The SC 350 has no problem sailing to the front of the pack on highway entrance ramps or passing slower vehicles at speed. The new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission includes large overdrive gears to boost fuel economy to 28 miles-per-gallon on the highway: a boon for long road trips.
Drivers can select from four driving modes that modify throttle mapping and shift points for the driver’s style: normal, eco, sport and snow. Since the F Sport model comes with summer tires, I would recommend those living in four-season climates buy a separate set of winter tires for the cold weather.
Engineers focused on enhancing torsional stiffness throughout the body for better handling and steering response, using laser screw welding, spot welding and special adhesives throughout the body. The suspension consists of a compact double wishbone setup in front and multilink in the rear with monotube shocks for high-speed performance.
The variable gear ratio steering available with the F Sport model is worth every penny of its $1900 price tag, varying the steering ratio according to vehicle speed and driving conditions. On-center steering response is outstanding.
Active safety features including blind spot monitoring, the rearview camera and intelligent cruise control make it much easier for navigate through dense traffic. The blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when cars in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The intelligent cruise control enables drivers to maintain a preset distance between the Lexus and the car in front.
A standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back to the car in the center stack screen. Intuitive park assist displays visual cues and sounds and audible alarm when the driver approaches an obstacle near the car’s perimeter.
By enhancing aerodynamics both above and below the vehicle, engineers also reduced noise intrusion into the cabin. Lexus is known for its quiet interiors: the RC 350 is no exception.
Keyless access and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Although the RC 350 is technically a five-passenger car, there is not a lot of room in the back seat. Two smaller adults will be okay around town.
Memory driver’s seat adjustments make it easy for multiple family members to share the vehicle. I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view, with plenty of lower lumbar support. The steering wheel is a nice size for smaller drivers, with redundant infotainment controls to minimize driver distraction.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight. Graphics for the navigation system are bright and easy to follow. Lexus Enform enables the driver to call for turn-by-turn directions. I have used Lexus Enform on numerous occasions when I needed directions and was not in a position to pull the car over and program the navigation system.
The trunk is on the small side, but has enough room for smaller luggage, golf bags and the weekly groceries. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items. Cyclists who need a larger cargo area would be better served with one of Lexus’ crossover vehicles.
The Lexus RC 350 comes with ten airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, Lexus Enform Safety Connect, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance, the first two scheduled maintenance procedures for free and complimentary lodging if the vehicle breaks down more than 100 miles from home.
The RC 350 is rolling into Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, beautifully engineered sport coupe that functions well as a daily commuter and can compete in weekend events at the track.
Model: RC 350 F Sport
Base price: $42,790
As tested: $54,720
Horsepower: 306 Hp @6400 rpm
Torque: 277 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 5.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy*: 19/28 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.
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