It’s been 5 years already since Lexus added this coupe to its lineup, giving shoppers a small taste of the LFA life for a tenth of the price. But until now, I’ve only experienced the V8-powered F model.
So this week I’m in the RC 350; a less ambitious yet still fun-to-drive sports model very much cast in the Lexus mold.
The term ‘coupe’ is thrown about quite casually these days, but if you still define it as a 2-door sports car, the consumer offerings quickly dwindle.
And if you want one with all-wheel drive and a non-turbocharged V6 you can stop right here. The RC was last refreshed for the 2019 model year and carries over here largely unchanged, with a starting MSRP of $42,320.
When you’re considering the RC it’s crucial to know the differences in trim levels because the mechanical specs are quite different. So first, there’s the 300 RWD, powered by a turbo-4 and a manual-like, quick-shifting 8-speed auto. The 350 RWD drops in a V6 making it the fastest RC in the lineup. But once you add AWD, things change.
The 300 AWD gets a vastly detuned V6 while this 350 AWD runs with a 311 horsepower version of that engine. But with all-wheel drive comes more weight, a slower, traditional 6-speed auto, and the absence of some key chassis components.
This here is the 350 F SPORT AWD, the top model within the non V8-powered RC lineup, fitted with a 3.5-liter V6 producing 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque working through a 6-speed auto, delivering quick enough mid-range acceleration but a less than blistering 0-to-60mph time of 6 seconds flat. Power transfer is biased 80% to the rear wheels and can be evenly split 50:50 as needed. At 3,900 pounds it isn’t exactly lightweight but that’s about the same as its closest competitor, the Infiniti Q60.
However, a peek over at Audi’s lineup reveals a substantially quicker, more fuel-efficient S5 for about the same price. Nevertheless, the RC possesses that unique blend of Lexus luxury in its ride quality with a spirited character that’ll have you seeking the long way home. Coupe owners, obviously, crave fun and driving precision and the RC provides that without any white knuckle drama as it sticks to the road with all-wheel drive grip and the benefit of the F SPORT-tuned Adaptive Variable Suspension. Dial into the highest Sport S + drive mode and gear shifts happen faster, the steering is firmer, and the suspension less yielding. But to get the most out of the experience, use the paddle shifters otherwise the 6-speed can feel tardy. And even though from out here the RC doesn’t sound like much, Lexus has created a convincing soundtrack for those inside…it really works quite well. All-season tires make sense on this trim I suppose, but a more aggressive set of rubber would help scrub out some of this understeer as you attack a corner.
Lexus keeps its sports cars within very defined boundaries meaning that the brand’s luxury ethos is never sacrificed for performance. For example, this car rides like an absolute dream; everyday usable and long trip comfortable.
You hear F SPORT and you might think hardcore but it’s not that at all and even less so when equipped with all-wheel drive. It feels safe and predictable but still lots of fun in a Lexus defined way. The rigid body contributes a great deal to that.
Optional items like rear wheel steering, variable gear ratio steering, and a limited slip differential are all reserved for the rear-wheel drive model, however. But for year-round driving in places where the snow flies, this RC specification which includes a snow driving mode will certainly keep you going.
I love the yellow accents in this here I think it’s my favorite F SPORT touch. And the seats are sports car perfection blending supreme everyday comfort with strong bolstering. They’re not too easy to get in and out of but the driving position is stellar.
The cabin is sweet despite the archaic infotainment system but at least this one uses the preferred touchpad and not the dreaded mouse.
The F SPORT treatment bundles lots of goodies such as the LFA-inspired instrumentation, the bolstered heated and ventilated seats, 19” wheels, and unique front and rear styling among a number of other safety and convenience features. My tester adds the fast response heater and water-repellent front door glass of the All-Weather Package, triple beam LED headlamps, the big Mark Levinson audio and navigation package, parking sensors, a moonroof, and heated steering wheel for a total of $57,785. Gas mileage checks in at 21mpg in mixed driving on premium. Even 5 years in and the RC is still a looker but not so much in this attention-robbing Nebula Gray. A more flamboyant Flare Yellow or Infrared would be the way to go for me.
The cabin looks and feels good even if it’s not on the cutting edge of modern but just remember; this is a 2+ 2 so even though there’s motorized assistance to the back with memory return of the front seat, the rear seats are really just placeholders.
As is typical with long Lexus lifecycles, the RC isn’t expected to be reimagined until 2024 so you can buy now without fear of missing out on what’s next.