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2015 Lexus RC 350: First Drive Review

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 enters the world of luxury compact coupes with competitors such as the 2015 BMW 435i (a coupe derivative of the famed 3 Series), the 2015 Audi A5 2.0T, the 2015 Infiniti G37 and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe. Although this set of rivals makes for a tough crowd, strong competition has never stopped Lexus. If the automaker releases a car that’s considered light on wow factor, Lexus makes up for it by inspiring customer loyalty (57.8 percent of their sales are from trade-ins — the most of any car brand in the United States) and scoring high marks in terms of customer satisfaction.

Lexus vehicles are always well-made, well-equipped and very reliable, so the RC joins a family with an impressive pedigree.

Styling & Features

The quiet cabin of the RC 350 sports aluminum and wood trims, a classy analog clock in the center console and optional leather seating. Our one complaint is that the 7-inch screen is set back and slightly recessed, so the leading edge of the dash is higher than the bottom of the screen. This could hide information along the screen’s lowest section, depending on how high the driver sits.

For the front occupants, comfort levels are ample. Sumptuous takes second place to supportive, if anything, but that’s a positive when taking a corner with gusto. There’s a slight shortage of headroom and legroom in the back seat, but hopefully more often than not, children will be sitting back there.

For a coupe, visibility is also a plus point in the RC 350, but why take a chance? Go for the blind spot monitoring system that’s available as an option.

The RC 350’s sleek exterior styling reminds us that it’s not just an IS sedan missing a couple of doors. Standard equipment includes 18-in alloy wheels and LED lighting with puddle lamps.

Specs & Driving Feel

In its (relatively) basic form, the RC 350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine developing 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Either the rear wheels are powered via an 8-speed automatic transmission or all four wheels are powered by a 6-speed automatic transmission. Drivers can let the car do the shifting or get involved and activate the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Either way, the action of going from gear to gear is consistently smooth.

Taking off from 0–60 miles per hour takes 5.8 seconds, which is about average for the class. Top speed is 143 mph, while consumption for the rear-drive model is estimated at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Lexus has made the body as rigid as possible, and from that firm foundation, the suspension can be even more finely tuned.

With all-wheel drive, the RC 350 starts to suffer from the weight of extra hardware. It takes noticeably more coaxing to get a move on, and the different mechanicals involved mean less room in the front footwells. This may not be an issue, but to have a lump of carpet-covered metal just fractions of an inch from the right foot might annoy some drivers.

Like all coupes, the RC 350 is at the sportier end of the car spectrum, but the F SPORT version of the RC 350 is even more sporty. This model is not to be confused with the RC F (tested and reviewed separately), which is the high-performance, V8-powered model of the RC.

Most of the F SPORT package is cosmetic: sport seats, aluminum pedals, 19-in alloys, a different nose and thin-film-transistor instrumentation. The adaptive variable suspension with Sport + mode is an intriguing addition. It feels more energetic than the regular RC, which struggles to make a compelling case for itself when compared to the F SPORT version. The rear-drive model also has a rear-wheel steering function for easier maneuvering at high or low speeds.

Classy Combination

The RC 350 successfully pulls off a combination of comfort and composure. Along with optional features such as navigation, park assist, Clari-Fi — a proprietary system that’s supposed to restore those sound frequencies lost by transferring a studio-quality recording into a lower-resolution MP3 file — and radar-based intelligent cruise control, standard options include exciting features such as a new Mark Levinson audio system. In the past, this was only optional. Take our advice, trust your ears and don’t be bamboozled by the quality of the RC’s sound system.

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 will be available in November 2014, starting at $42,790.

 
Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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