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2015 Lexus RC 350: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2014

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 is an all-new addition to the Lexus portfolio. The premium compact coupe takes some of its underpinnings from the IS sedan, but behind its Lexus hallmark spindle grille is a design of its own, signifying that the RC is not merely an IS without the rear passenger doors.

It is still undoubtedly a Lexus, and there's an air of refinement throughout the model. The steering wheel has a large chromed L in its center, as if Lexus would like to be more assertive these days. Look past the two-o'clock position of the wheel and there's an engine on/off button set into the instrument cowling. Front seats are comfortable and have an emphasis on support rather than cushioning -- an attribute that becomes more apparent in the sport seats that come with the F Sport trim level.

Think of this car as having two-plus-two seating rather than being a proper 4-seater. The rear seats can accommodate children, but no adult would want to spend much time back there.

What's New for 2015?

Everything. The 2015 Lexus RC 350 is a fresh model.

What We Like

Typical Lexus high-grade build quality; classy analog clock in the center console; quiet cabin; the ability to enhance a comfortable ride with cornering abilities

What We Don't

Center screen is set so far back/down that the bottom row of information could be obscured by the center console's lip; all-wheel-drive hardware (optional) means extra weight and less space in the front footwells and extra weight; somewhat anesthetized driving experience

How Much?

$43,715-$48,800

Fuel Economy

Propulsion happens with 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque delivered by a 3.5-liter V6. Rear-wheel drive is the default setup, but all-wheel drive is also an option. If turning just the rear axle, the transmission is an 8-speed automatic, while all-wheel-drive models come with a 6-speed automatic.

Lexus says that the RC 350 gets 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined for rear-drive variants, and then 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy and 21 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

There's a regular RC 350 and an RC 350 F Sport. There's also an RC F, the RC 350's high-performance sibling.

The RC 350 version ($43,715) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting with puddle lamps, climate control, a 7-in screen, 256-watt/10-speaker audio, rearview camera, Bluetooth and a voice-activated infotainment system. All-wheel-drive models also have heated front seats.

The RC 350 F Sport version brings adaptive variable suspension with a sport-plus mode (for extra stiffness), sport front seats, aluminum pedals, 19-in alloys, high-friction brake pads, thin-film transistor instrumentation, variable-gear-ratio steering and 4-wheel steering. Buying an F Sport model means paying an extra $3,580 (all-wheel drive) or $3,985 (rear-wheel drive), plus another $1,100 for the required moonroof.

Safety

There's a comprehensive complement of airbags, including knee bags for the front occupants, and the braking system has electronic assistance. There's also the Toyota/Lexus/Scion Smart Stop Technology feature: If a driver inadvertently presses both pedals at once, the brake becomes the overriding function.

Behind the Wheel

A rigid body means a finer state of tune for the suspension. Finding the balance between a comfortable ride quality and not wallowing around corners is hard to achieve, but Lexus has done it here. The RC 350 absorbs surface imperfections, but remains composed on sweeping freeway ramps as well as tighter corners.

The steering feels substantial and precise but still lacks information about how the front tires are behaving, which is an issue with most electric power steering systems.

Both provide the opportunity to get more involved with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Shift action is mechanically perfect, which is the quality level expected in premium cars -- and certainly from Lexus.

Progress is about average for the class. For rear-drive versions, 0-to-60 miles per hour is polished off in 5.8 seconds before going hitting a top speed of 143 mph; all-wheel-drive cars are a tad slower. In a rear-drive F Sport model, whose rear-steer function brings maneuvering benefits at high and low speeds, the thrill factor goes up a notch or two.

But all-wheel drive and the extra weight of its necessary hardware is a downer. It takes a heavier foot on the gas and more aggressive behavior with the gears to get things moving, which isn't as much fun as when the engine seems effortless.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Audi A5 2.0T -- The Audi A5 is little low on power (220 hp) but comes with the option of an all-wheel-drive setup. There's also no shortage of Audi design fans.

2015 BMW 435i -- The BMW 435i is the big player in this class and is absolutely worth test driving to experience its poise and pace. It's obvious that not many other manufacturers can make a car this thrilling.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe -- There's a depth to the quality of engineering in Mercedes-Benz vehicles that becomes apparent as soon as the door thunks shut, the engine fires up and the car gets rolling. Continuous improvement over 100-plus years will do that.

AutoTrader's Advice

Unless all-wheel drive is an absolute necessity, go with the rear-drive F Sport version. It feels the most agile and lively, and being a bit sporty is the whole point of a coupe.

Find a Lexus RC 350 for sale

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Used 2015 Lexus RC Models AWD
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Certified 2015 Lexus RC Models AWD
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Certified 2015 Lexus RC Models AWD
Certified 2015 Lexus RC Models
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Lexus RC 350: New Car Review - Autotrader