2015 Lexus RC 350Mon, 08 Sep 2014 11:57:00 EST
Luxury coupes like this new, 2015 Lexus RC 350 have got, to my mind, a more challenging mission than their all-out-performance variants; in this case, the recently reviewed RC F.
That's not to say that I think actual owners and shoppers of cars like the RC F, BMW M4 and Cadillac CTS-V Coupe only care about output figures and lap times. In fact I'd say that those are outliers in terms of how they get used most often. But the story that we reviewers tell – and that shoppers in the ego-boosted segment tell themselves before they pull the trigger – have a lot to do with what the car is capable of on the edge of its envelope.
Mainstream coupes can't rely on that kind of irrational pull, however, at least outside of the emotional world of styling persuasion. For a buyer to drop more than $40,000 on the RC 350, he or she will want tons of features, comfort, good looks, and, yes, a dash of sportiness to spice of the pot. Reason and desire seem a lot more balanced here. That's great news for Lexus, with its history of creating sensible luxury cars and a pretty composed luxury coupe in this new RC.
- Because of my argument outlined above, and because it's getting increasingly expensive to buy in the coupe segment, good looks and a sense of specialness really matter here. Above you see the basic iteration of the RC 350 with a slightly mellower appearance than the go-faster RC F. The design is still more divisive than the slightly more conservative sheetmetal on the BMW 4 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the grille is less gaping and the bodywork much cleaner for its lack of vents. You'll have to decide for yourself if its L-Finesse styling language speaks to you, but I believe that it offers a fresher look than its core competition.
- The functional highlights of the interior here are super comfortable seats that can easily be adjusted for a variety of human shapes and sizes, with both heating and ventilation standard. I had no issue finding a seating position that allowed for good forward visibility, with the steering wheel at just the right height and controls that fell right to hand.
- The new Lexus touchpad isn't my favorite infotainment interface, primarily because it recognizes 'zones' rather than giving a one-to-one relationship between touch and screen position, but it is an improvement over the Remote Touch mouse controller that preceded it.
- Getting out of the cabin and on to the road, the first thing to note is the very familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine. As it does under the hoods of the IS 350 and GS 350, the smooth six makes 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, by way of an eight-speed automatic transmission for the rear-drive car, or a six-speed gearbox for the all-wheel-drive version.
- Driving the RC 350 on the long, sweeping road course at the Monticello Motor Club didn't show this engine/transmission combination in the best light, but that's most likely because I was doing it in such close proximity to the RC F. In a near-limit environment, the RC feels a bit pushed and prodded while cornering, with its engine struggling a little to pull it out of the hole with alacrity.
- It's a good thing, then, that I got seat time in the car on some of the really excellent public roads that surround the track. Here, while I was driving sportily but not in track-attack kind of mode, the Lexus coupe actually felt pretty punchy and quick. It was easy to keep the V6 in its mid-range sweet spot, especially with the drive mode set to Sport, where throttle response is good and acceleration feels quit strong for a car this heavy.
- On those same curvy streets, I found a lot to like about the ride and handling balance struck by Lexus' chassis and suspension teams. The ride quality is pretty silky, with harshness largely dialed out, and yet the car is willing and able to transition fluidly from one sweeping corner to the next. Noise, vibration and harshness are all in close check, too, with the exhaust really only intruding when I floored the throttle (and then with a reasonably pleasant growl).
- As you might guess, Lexus has hit its targets with the practical stuff, as well. The RC starts at $42,790, which is less expensive than rear-drive, six-cylinder coupes like the BMW 435i, the Mercedes C350 and the Cadillac ATS. The Audi A5 does undercut it will a starting sticker of $40k, and with all-wheel drive in the bargain, but its 2.0T engine is well down on power.
- The RC 350 is also in the mix in terms of fuel economy, with ratings of 19 city, 28 highway, and 22 combined, though it's not a leader. The smaller-engined Audi gets 29 mpg highway according to the EPA, and the 4 Series gets top marks for both city driving (22 mpg) and combined rating (25 mpg).
But really, this car and this segment are all about passing the eye test. Those that dig the left-of-center looks of the RC 350 will find more than enough to like about the driving experience. Those that encamp with the negative reactors to this strong design language will probably cross it off the list without turning a wheel. We eat with our eyes first, after all, even when the meal costs forty grand.
- 3.5L V6
- 306 HP / 277 LB-FT
- 8-Speed Auto
- 0-60 Time:
- 5.8 Seconds
- Top Speed:
- 143 MPH (est)
- Rear-Wheel Drive
- Curb Weight:
- 3,748 LBS
- 10.4 CU-FT
- 19 CIty / 28 HWY
- Base Price:
By Seyth Miersma
See also: Lexus GS F coming in 2016 with 500 hp, 2015 Lexus GS 450h also getting F Sport treatment, 2015 Lexus RC F.