2015 Lexus RC – Driven

2015 lexus rc – driven – DOC636521

The new 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport grabs attention like few cars at this price point do. Maybe it’s the fact that there aren’t a lot of them around, or maybe it’s the extravagant design that doesn’t mimic anything else, but my Molten Pearl orange tester was the subject of a lot of rubbernecking. The high point of the week came as I was cruising on the freeway when a brutally modified 2013 Ford Mustang SVT Shelby GT500 raced through traffic to come up on my right, hover there a moment, and rev his engine repeatedly, like a roaring gorilla. He was making eye contact, too. Without meaning to, the RC 350 F had challenged the silverback.

So is Lexus’ new sporty-aggressive coupe up to the challenge it poses to the sports and muscle cars of the world? I spent a week out in the wild with one to find out. Lexus has a mixed history with its coupes. The original SC, back in 1991, was a smooth boulevard cruiser, not quite spacious enough to be a grand tourer but a very nice car that’s aged well, if you can find one. It was followed in 2001 by the SC430, a bubble-shaped retractable hardtop that was never the challenger to the Mercedes SL that Lexus hoped it would be (though they did race the things). The RC is a jump in a different direction, with a stronger emphasis on performance. However, it’s still not a dedicated sport car. But there are worse fates than a car accidentally punching above its weight though, right? Hmm…maybe.


Lexus RC – Driven

Lexus RC – Driven

Lexus RC – Driven

I will not deny that the car looks amazing. My screaming orange test car had people stopping on the sidewalk and pointing. I wasn’t surprised that the RC 350 caught the attention of the Angry Mustang, nor of anybody else.

My screaming orange test car had people stopping on the sidewalk and pointing.

The RC 350 is a curvy, long-nosed two-door with a long, sloped hood, glass roof and muscular lines. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the 2011 Lexus LF-A supercar, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

This is thanks in no small part to the number of neatly integrated aerodynamic aids that help to shape the RC 350, including the front bumper ducts and strategically placed aero stabilizing fins. Lexus’ “spindle” grille has been used on enough vehicles that it’s starting to grow on me, and the RC 350 takes it almost from floor to ceiling.

The grille drops down until it’s a part of the front spoiler, and it creates a hood swell that blends with the arched front fenders for a very strong look. From the rear, the RC 350 combines the greenhouse silhouette of Lexus’ sedans with a ducted road-race look and pulls it off nicely.

A visual step up is offered by the F Sport, which adds 19-inch wheels and three special colors, including the Molten Pearl that graced my tester. Ultima tely the RC 350 has some of the feline qualities that make Jaguars so eye-catching, but with a distinctive Lexus twist.


Lexus RC – Driven

The seating position is low and comfortable, the cabin appropriately snug. The dash design’s got an emphasis on horizontal surfaces similar to the sedans in the Lexus family, that contrasts nicely with a very prominent center console.

It feels a bit like Lexus was trying to make a retro-modern 280Z.

It feels a bit like Lexus was trying to make a retro-modern 280Z. Wood trim and available two-toning in a choice of five colors present extremely nicely, and the RC 350 generally avoids the “black hole” school of sports-car interior design.

The instrument panel is a changeable one, similar to that of the 2014-2015 Lexus IS; when the RC 350 is shifted into “sport” mode, the central gauge slides over to become a tachometer and the backlighting turns red, for a neat ready-for-action feeling.

Of course this is a Lexus, so there’s a Mark Levinson sound system—but this time there’s a catch. The RC 350 has is the worst touchpad interface yet. Seriously, guys. The Remote Touchpad on the console combines the vagueness of a trackpad with Lexus’ weird non-linear scrolling, and adds the complexity of a sensitive click button under the pad’s surface.

It’s like trying to use a sensitive laptop trackpad while driving. This does not reduce distraction! I gave up and had to either use the manual controls, or not change radio stations/HVAC settings at all. No points, Lexus.


Lexus RC – Driven

The problem with looking this good is you’re going to attract attention, and sometimes it’s the wrong kind. Let’s get back to that angry, angry Mustang rolling up next to me on I-94. Unfortunately, he was throwing down a challenge that wasn’t necessary. Whoa, dude. Whoa.

This car rides on its own platform, but the suspension borrows its design liberally from other Lexus products.

The RC 350 is packing a 306-horsepower 3.5 liter V-6. Compared to a six hundred-plus horsepower Mustang with a modified intake and exhaust, that’s not even the same league. Optioned right, they may be priced similarly, but the RC 350 is no GT500.

It’s not intended to be. Variable valve timing and Lexus’ combination direct- and port-fuel injection system are high-tech, fuel saving technologies used on this modern engine. The eight-speed transmission is more than just a gearbox with lots of extra cogs. Lexus has gone to great lengths to make the direct-shift gearbox a high-tech marvel. It’s designed to offer the smoothness of a torque convertor with dual-clutch speed and solidity, and features driver-selectable modes.

The “manual” mode locks the torque convertor fully to provide clutch-less manual shifting in the upper seven gears. Additionally, an accelerometer detects hard acceleration or deceleration and enables the transmission to shift accordingly, such as when braking hard for a corner. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available.

This car rides on its own platform, but the suspension borrows its design liberally from other Lexus products. The dual-wishbone front suspension is similar to that of the GS, and the multi-link rear’s toe arms are influenced by those of the IS. The RC 350’s got a stiffer body structure than either of those sedans, so Lexus has dialed up the thickness of the roll bars to further enhance on-track precision.

On the F Sport, there’s an adaptive variable suspension that helps to control body lean and drive comfort. Rear steering is also available, with the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) on the rear-drive F Sport. Like similar systems from other manufacturers in the past, LDH turns the rear wheels very slightly counter to the front wheels at low speeds, boosting agility. Over 50 mph, all four wheels turn in the same direction for added stability. The RC 350 F Sport also gets larger brakes.

Driving Impression

Lexus RC – Driven

Here’s the thing about that power. Lexus has got the numbers right, but the brand continues to have a hard time producing .

The 3.5 is restrained–it doesn’t roar or snarl, and even an intake tweaked for additional sound produces little more than a genteel growl.

The RC 350 is a great handler, powerful and sporty and confident, but it’s not quite fun. There’s no engagement. This is a digital driving experience. Jump on it hard and the RC 350 rewards with a rapid-response sprint to 60 in about six seconds.

The 3.5 is restrained—it doesn’t roar or snarl, and even an intake tweaked for additional sound produces little more than a genteel growl. The dual-clutch transmission bangs off precise shifts with absolutely zero drama. Compared to the SC430 the RC is worlds sportier, but in the end it feels quick rather than fast. When the monster Mustang pulled up and issued his challenge, there wasn’t even any point in responding.

The suspension’s just a little bit too stiff to feel confident on uneven real-world pavement; the RC 350 feels like it would be a hoot on a track, though a step below the serious performers in its peer group. Smooth transitions are the RC 350’s specialty. This is a car that lies somewhere between the Nissan 370Z and the 2014 Infiniti Q60 Coupe on the real-world performance spectrum.

Some of this is due to competence: I tested an F Sport with the upgraded suspension, and the seamless rear-steering option tightens up the handling so much that there’s none of the usual drama that comes from a high-powered car. This is a good-feeling sports car, but it’s a little bit too civilized to be a brawler.


Lexus RC – Driven

The RC 350 rests neatly in the middle of the premium-coupe market, with a starting price of $42,790 for the rear-wheel drive model. Lexus offers a four-car range, with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive and standard or F Sport models. All-wheel drive starts at $45,025 for the base model and $49,075 for the F Sport. I spent time with a rear-drive RC 350 F Sport, whose MSRP of $47,875 was boosted by a navigation system, Mark Levinson sound system, radar cruise control and a parking assist, and the final price was $54,720.


2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The Genesis Coupe has quietly maneuvered itself into a position as an alternative to the Ford Mustang, and the badge it shares with Hyundai’s upmarket sedan gives it a bit of luxury cred as well. The Genesis Coupe shares very little with the sedan, and what it may lack in full-tilt luxury it makes up for with surprising performance from a torquey 3.8 liter V-6. The Genesis Coupe is one of the last relatively affordable sporty coupes that’s not a pony car.

2014 Infiniti Q60 Coupe

Infiniti Q60

Formerly known as the G37 Coupe, Infiniti’s curvy and entertaining two-door is a nigh-perfect blend of luxury materials, eye-catching styling and rewarding performance. Infiniti aimed for (and hit) a target of organic-feeling acceleration and handling that allows the Q60 Coupe to provide a plush ride as well as good times on twisty roads.

2014 BMW 4 Series

BMW 4 Series Coupe

All premium sports coupes must eventually face the BMW 4 Series; this car has earned its place as the gold standard with three decades of top-class performance. A torquey, turbocharged six-cylinder powertrain and BMW’s sophisticated suspension feel ready for the track, while the interior is handsomely styled and comfortable for up to four passengers.


Lexus RC – Driven

The RC 350 F Sport’s a delightful and enjoyable sports car, so long as you don’t go challenging any muscle Mustangs. Fortunately, that’s not what this curvy Lexus is all about. Lexus has been working on its delivery of personality with its F Sport cars, and the RC 350 F Sport falls neatly into that family. It’s gorgeous but still somewhat bland to drive; if you’ve enjoyed the IS F or any of Lexus’ other sporty models, the RC 350 F Sport will be right up your alley.


  • Beautiful design
  • Smooth, fast-shifting transmission


  • Touchpad is extremely difficult to use
  • Bland-ish driving experience

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