When you frequent certain places with a new car every week, you’re bound to be asked about it. Case in a point a few weeks ago; I was at a car wash getting one of my test cars cleaned up to do a photoshoot. As I’m paying for the wash, the car wash attendant asks me what do I do for a living. I explain that I am an automotive writer.
“Oh,” the attendant says. “I thought you worked for a dealership.”
“No no,” I said.
“A few weeks back. You brought in this car with the bright orange paint. Really stood out. Never seen one before and haven’t since.”
“Well, I haven’t seen one aside from the one I brought in,” I said jokingly.
We talked for a few more moments before I rolled in into the wash. As I was sitting there, I was racking my brain. What orange car had I brought in a few weeks back? Then it hit me. It was a Lexus. But not just any Lexus. It was their new coupe, the RC 350. Let’s see how this new coupe fares.
Lexus has been trying to make their cars look more exciting with varying results. The IS and GS have earned a fair amount of praise from us for their sharp looks. Meanwhile, the crossover and SUV lineup fall in the ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything’ category. The RC straddles the middle. The design is sleek with a low-slung front end, aggressive lines along the side, and similar rear end styling the IS sedan. Opt for the F-Sport package and the RC transforms into an assertive coupe with a body kit, mesh grille insert, vents on the bumpers, and 19-inch wheels finished in gunmetal gray. But there are two key issues in the RC’s design. First is the spindle grille which can make or break a design. In the case of the RC, it seems to break it since it happens to be the widest version available on Lexus vehicle. The grille looks like it could swallow up small children. The RC is also one of those vehicles where the color used can make or break a design. In the case of our tester’s orange color, it was a bit much and looked like a creamsicle. Go with a red or blue, and the RC looks quite sharp.
The RC is one of the first Lexus vehicles to debut the latest version of Lexus Enform that drops joystick controller for a touchpad. This fixes one of the biggest issues with the infotainment system where you had to be precise with moving the controller and selecting a function. If you weren’t, you found yourself in a completely different function from the one you wanted. Now the touchpad has an issues where there is delay from when you move your finger across the pad to the cursor moving across the screen. Aside from this, the touchpad is a noticeably better than the joystick controller.
For power, the RC 350 packs Lexus’ 3.5L V6 with 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This only comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. I adored this powertrain combination is the IS 350 F-Sport I drove last year. This still holds true for the RC as there is plenty of power throughout the rev range. The throttle response is ok when the RC is set in Normal, but it becomes noticeably better when put into Sport or Sport+. Plus, there is a noticeable growl coming out the exhaust when you have V6 in either sport mode. The eight-speed automatic delivers smooth and quick shifts. As for fuel economy, the RC 350 is rated by the EPA at 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. My week saw an average of 23.1 MPG.
Now the F-Sport package adds some goodies underneath the skin such an adaptive variable suspension system and a new variable gear system for the steering. It does make a difference in the corners as the RC is able to smoothly transition from corner to corner and show no sign body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and has an excellent feel of the road. Ride quality is mostly like a standard Lexus vehicle as harshness is dialed out for the most part. Road and wind noise are also kept in close check.
For the most, the Lexus RC 350 F-Sport has most of the components to make it a credible coupe to take on the likes of BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, and even the Cadillac ATS. But in this class, looks are the most important item. This is where the RC does stumble. The design is quite polarizing and will draw attention. But the question is whether that attention will lead to like or hate?
For me, the RC 350 F-Sport did strike a chord for me. But the orange paint could have drawn me the other way.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RC 350, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: RC 350
Engine: 3.5L 24-Valve DOHC VVT-i V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 306 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 277 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/28/22
Curb Weight: 3,748 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $42,790
As Tested Price: $54,720 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
F-Sport Package - $3,985
Navigation System/Mark Levinsion Audio System - $2,610
Variable Gear Ratio Steering - $1,900
Moonroof - $1,100
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Pre-Collison System - $500.00
Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00
Foglamps - $410.00