A few short years ago, Lexus products were well-made, comfortable and pretty reliable. However, their styling was bland and they were as fun behind the wheel as filing your tax return. If they wanted to reach a younger crowd and driving enthusiasts, Lexus needed to inject some personality into their vehicles. They didn’t have much to lose, since people who want a reliable and luxurious car for their commute likely don’t care about styling and driving feel anyway.
A simple look at the 2016 Lexus RC 350 F Sport should be enough to tell you that the manufacturer went all out: nobody can look at this car and tell me it’s bland!
Don’t make it angry
The styling of the new RC is probably the first thing you’ll notice when you see the coupe for the first time, unless we’re specifically talking about my press car; on this one, you’ll probably see the orange paint before anything else.
The car is long, wide and full of sharp angles. Even Lexus’ Predator-mouth front fascia looks right at home on this car. Regardless of the way you look at it, you’ll find a new detail you haven’t seen before or a particular crease that you didn’t notice. Styling is always subjective, but I love how the RC looks. The F Sport trim is especially cool, thanks to its 19-inch alloy wheels and unique front grille.
The RC’s interior is also modern and dynamic: from the driver’s seat, it feels like you are in a cockpit... a very comfortable, leather-bound cockpit.
This is what’s great about Lexus' new products: despite receiving a healthy dose of style, they haven’t lost sight of what made them so desirable in the first place. Every single plastic trim is solid, there isn’t any kind of rattle inside and the leathers are of the highest quality.
Seats will keep you well in place, but their bolsters won’t squeeze you uncomfortably during long trips. Visibility isn’t amazing (the hood is long and curvy, while the angled roofline isn’t great for blind spots), but you don’t buy a stylish coupe to see out of; you want to be seen in it.
The dashboard is large and the centre console sits high, enhancing the aforementioned cockpit effect. On said console, you can find Lexus’ trackpad; it works pretty much like the mouse on a laptop computer. You can use it to access the infotainment system’s various menus. It works okay, but I was among the minority who preferred the force-feedback mouse of the last few years.
On my test vehicle, I had the Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system: along with Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins and Mercedes-Benz’ Burmester stereos, I think this system is one of the best in the industry. It can render the lowest bass as well as the highest notes without any distortion, and it sounds perfect regardless of how loud you crank it.
Supercar looks, sedan power
Powering the RC 350 F Sport is Toyota's ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6. This engine is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel drive system. Thanks to some updates, it produces 307 horsepower, compared to 268 in most of Toyota's products. This is enough to propel the car to 100 km/h from a standstill in less than six seconds.
While it isn't slow—it's actually on par with competitive models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz—the RC suffers from a very singular problem: it looks much faster than it actually is. Thanks to its dark wheels and F Sport logos, the RC 350 looks just like its bigger brother, the RC F. At every stoplight, people will think they are lining up against a 467-horsepower, V8-powered race car... And the fact that my tester was painted Solar Flare (which was previously only offered on the RC F) didn't help.
The ride is very Lexus-like, meaning this RC is smooth and soaks up bumps in the utmost silence. However, if you want more fun out of your drive, you can place the mode selector on Sport or Sport+. This firms up the adaptive suspension, tightens the steering (but doesn't make it any more communicative), sharpens the transmission shift points and pipes intake noise into the cabin. The end result is a car that handles surprisingly well for its size and sounds great; this mill might be similar to the one in a Camry, but it has a baritone rumble that wouldn't be out of place coming out of a Muscle Car's exhaust.
More than the safe bet
Lexus pulled all the stops with the RC 350. Not only is the car stylish and different from anything else on the road, it's also built to a high standard; it rides smoothly and can even manage to be fun if you want it to. While you previously checked out Lexus products if you wanted a reliable and luxurious car, you can now cross-shop the RC 350 F Sport with Germanic offerings for a stylish and fun ride.