Real-World Review

2015 Lexus RC 350: Real World Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

It's been more than a decade since Lexus sold its last coupe, the sporty SC, which ended production after the 2000 model year. Now they're trying again with the 2015 Lexus RC 350, a boldly styled, rear-wheel-drive 4-seater based on the brand's IS sedan. So how is it? We've been very curious to find out, so a few of our editors took turns spending a few days behind the wheel of the RC 350 in order to see how it performs in the real world. Here's what they thought.

We Love the Styling ...

At least one opinion about the RC was unanimously shared by all of our editors: We love how it looks. One editor, Tommy, called it "sleek and racy," while our executive editor, Brian, referred to it as "un-Lexus" and "in your face." Another editor, Dwight, mentioned that he especially liked the "curvy body with a low stance," further noting that the coupe's strong point is its exterior styling.

In fact, it was hard to find a negative opinion about the styling from virtually anyone who got behind the wheel or climbed into the passenger seat. Everyone liked the look of the large, front hood, the sweeping lines and the handsome profile. The only potential downside is the front grille, which uses Lexus' new spindle design, a look we think is a little distracting to the RC's overall appearance.

... And the Performance

In another unanimous decision, everyone who drove the RC said only positive things about its performance. The RC 350 uses a 3.5-liter V6 with only 306 horsepower (a pittance compared to the 467-hp high-performance RC F), and yet we found the car to be tremendously fun in just about every situation. Each of our editors described the RC with remarks such as "athletic," "great steering and handling," "quick," "fast" and "excellent around corners," praising both the car's acceleration and its handling.

Brian was the exception. At first, Brian noted that the RC "doesn't have the guts to feel special" and commented that it "doesn't blow your hair back." But when he discovered he had been using the car in its normal driving mode rather than sport mode, he changed his tune. Referring to sport mode, Brian said the feature "changes the car's behavior" and further mentioned that the sport mode allows drivers to "make the most" of the Lexus' V6 engine.

There's a lesson in here: The RC 350 somehow manages to be both an impressive sports car in sport mode and a typical, comfortable Lexus in normal mode. The Jekyll-and-Hyde personality of this car will be really good news for drivers who commute every day in traffic (Jekyll) and still want to have fun blasting through back roads on the weekends (Hyde).

Interior: Mixed Opinions

Unfortunately, our opinions weren't quite as positive about the RC's interior. Some editors liked it, including Brian, who said the interior "actually feels like a cockpit," noting that "the gauges and displays are laid out in a way that feels like their first goal is to help the driver get a job done -- driving." Other editors noted that the cabin seems high-quality and contemporary.

Not everyone liked the interior's styling. Tommy called the dashboard a "mishmash," owing to the center control stack's sharp angles and oddly segmented design, especially in a world where all other automakers are transitioning toward more of a flowing, cohesive look. Meanwhile, Dwight noted that the climate and stereo controls look cheap, though he simultaneously praised the simplicity of the dashboard. In the end, even Brian admitted that, although he likes the interior, it doesn't have "the same kind of snap" the exterior does. One common theme was that the interior has a look and feel that's a little too much like the Lexus IS 350. The IS is a decent sport sedan, but based on the RC's exterior look, we expected a little more inside.

The Little Things

We like testing cars for a week instead of just an afternoon because it allows us to notice some little things we may not have otherwise discovered. In the RC, we noticed a lot of these little things.

For instance, the seats look good and they're very comfortable, though they can be tight for some drivers. The Mark Levinson sound system is excellent, regardless of what you're listening to -- it even makes Sirius/XM satellite radio sound good. A few options seem overpriced, such as the fog lamps ($400) and a package that includes a trunk mat, cargo net and wheel locks for $260. We think the start/stop button is a little too high on the dashboard, and the knob for sport mode is inconveniently placed on the wrong side of the shifter. We found the sport mode steering to be very tight, for better or for worse. And we think the 7-inch touchscreen and accompanying touch pad can be a little complicated to use.

Our Take

We didn't have many preconceived notions about the 2015 Lexus RC 350 going into our week behind the wheel because we weren't sure what to expect. But after logging some miles in a wide variety of circumstances, we're now certain that this is an excellent car. Regardless of whether you want a sports car, a luxury car or just a handsome new coupe, the RC 350 is worth a shot on your shopping list -- because it's all three. If you're considering a BMW 4 Series, test drive the Lexus RC 350 too. We're not saying the Lexus is better overall, but we think you'll kick yourself for not giving it a try each time you see one of these slick-looking Lexus coupes on the street.

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Certified 2015 Lexus RC Models AWD
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Certified 2015 Lexus RC Models AWD
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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: Real World Review - Autotrader