All the looks in the world. Not quite the performance I was expecting.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The all-new RC’s aggressive, sporty styling comes in hard and fast thanks to the low-profile sculpted exterior, its boldly flared fenders and a very wide stance. The body is contoured and seems to be etched with deep lines.
The front end in particular gives you a visual jolt with yet another application of Lexus’ spindle grille (the most aggressive I’ve seen to date) and hey – LEDs for everyone! You get LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and even LED foglights. (So they don’t feel left out, the tail lights are LEDs too.)
Those epic fenders are filled with 19-inch alloy wheels. The all-wheel drive model gets 235/40-sized rubber all the way around, whereas the rear-wheel driver gets massive 265s in the back.
If there’s a view that I wasn’t enamoured with, it would be the rear quarter view. I wasn’t a fan of the ribbed faux outlet on the back corners. It makes me think the car is trying to look like a mid-engine beast, and that’s too bad. Those little quirks confused things for me a tad, and it gets a little muddy in the styling department back there. It’s a great looking car otherwise.
The RC’s interior is sumptuous with soft-touch materials, contrasting stitching and clean styling. A really, really nice heated steering wheel falls into hand, and behind it is one of the coolest gauge bins I’ve seen. Front and centre is a large all-digital tach dial, surrounded by useful information. Hit a button on the steering wheel however, and the whole tach ring literally moves to the right to expose a large multi-functional driver information screen on the left. It’s a cool party trick and furthermore, it works really well.
The heated and ventilated F Sport seats – deep buckets that are as comfortable as they are supportive – are beautiful to look at and are as good on the road as they would be on the track.
Lexus’ 7-inch display screen that handles absolutely everything you can think of – media, phone, navigation, car settings, fuel economy history, you name it – sits in the centre of the dash. It’s all controlled with a new Remote Touch interface that acts much like a trackpad on a laptop but with haptic feedback. It’s not perfect, but it beats the crap out of the previous mouse-like input device they used. It does support things like pinch and flick motions too. By the way, the 17(!)-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is out of this world.
The temperature for the dual-zone automatic climate control system is adjusted via electrostatic sliders (aka touch strips). As much as I hate that kind of technology, I will admit it works pretty well here. Still, I’d prefer a good old-fashioned knob for quick temperature adjustments.
The RC offers plenty of driver assistance technology – pre-collision system, lane change assist and blind-spot monitoring, dynamic radar cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, a backup camera and parking sensors. And yes, there’s a sunroof. Of note, while things seem spacious enough, head room is somewhat limited in the front. My seat was set as low as it goes, and I only had about an inch of room to spare. Taller drivers will likely run into issues in the RC.
Ugh, do I even have to talk about these? It’s a true 2+2, which means the rear seats are more for decorative purposes. There are two of them, and besides being difficult to get into and being sunken into a dark, claustrophobic hollow, there’s no room. Not nearly enough head room for me (at 5’10”) and my kids (the oldest is 11 years old) complained bitterly about the lack of leg room. I’d consider the rear seats for occasional use.
No, none of this is a surprise, and no, none of this is a knock against this car. It’s expected. Hilariously, there are two sets of ISOFIX anchors for putting kids’ seats in the back, in case masochism is your thing.
Basically there is none. There are a couple of little spots here and there, but none of them are really useful. The biggest space is obviously the trunk which, at 295 litres, has surprising utility. It’s not huge, but it’s usable and you could easily throw a few bags in there for a nice week long road trip. For two. And yes, the rear seats do fold down in a 60/40 split if you need to carry longer items. You know, for those Home Depot runs you’re sure to do with your RC coupe.
Under the Hood
Big surprise – Lexus uses its 3.5-litre V6 again. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. It cranks out 307 horsepower at 6400 RPM and 276 lb.ft of torque at 4800 RPM. Respectable numbers for nice old-school naturally aspirated engine. The all-wheel drive model gets a 6-speed automatic (yawn…), while the rear-wheel drive one gets a decidedly more modern 8-speed.
The car weighs in at a somewhat portly 3748 pounds (1700 kg). Fuel economy isn’t the RC’s selling point, but it’s not bad at all actually. Ratings sit at 12.6 L/100 km (19 US mpg) in town and 9.1 L/100 km (26 US mpg) on the highway. My average? 13.9 L/100 km (17 US mpg) after a week of driving the RC hard, with a heavy foot, through snow and ice. Not bad at all.
Once you’re nestled in that nearly perfect driver’s seat, a push of the ignition button rewards you with growly V6, which I thought sounded almost too good to be true once I got on the road and hit the gas. Turns out I was right – because Lexus decided an Engine Sound Generator was the way to go with the RC. Sad face.
The RC is fast but not quick. The power builds smoothly and is delivered in a very grown-up, linear fashion. There isn’t much drama. But there’s plenty of power. The transmission, while not the fastest thing in the world, is smooth, smooth, smooth. Even in Sport mode. Gears can be shifted manually, using paddle shifters or sequentially with the gear selector – again, the shifts aren’t super quick.
The RC has selectable drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+. Sadly, neither of the Sport modes really transform this car. Unlike other cars, where switching it to Sport mode immediately holds the shift points longer and there’s a perceptible change to throttle response, etc., I found it difficult to really notice much of a change at all in the RC until you start driving more aggressively, at which point the car seems to realize you meant business after all and it will change some of the shifting patterns.
The handling is very agile, especially in light of the substantial weight of the car – its road manners are excellent thanks to the adaptive variable suspension and the variable electric steering. The steering response is rather impressive and initial turn-in is smooth and quick and the RC stays very flat during cornering, even at very high speeds. Speaking of high speeds, the car’s stability on the highway is outstanding and it handled crosswinds nicely.
I loved how the whole car felt extremely rigid throughout it all, which also resulted in a better-than-expected ride quality. I was impressed with its ability to soak up hits, even big potholes that couldn’t be avoided. Thank you Lexus! The RC pulls off what you’d expect of a nice, cushy Lexus sedan.
I really admired the all-wheel drive system’s capabilities. It grabbed traction on the most horrible of slippery roads, and did an exemplary job clawing around corners, dry or slippery. The RC’s brakes are tremendous, and will haul things down to reality quickly. Visibility out of the front is fantastic, however shoulder checking is horrifying and will induce panic attacks aplenty. The view out of the rear window is basically a short slit, but it ends up being fine for most driving.
Aside from the aforementioned engine noises (real and manufactured) under heavy throttle, Lexus has made the RC’s cabin a very quiet place. You’re essentially exempt from road and wind noise, even at highway speeds.
OK, so I think I’ve been clear about what the RC does well. Which is a lot. But it has to be said. It’s not a truly sporty coupe. This is more of a gentleman’s car. Is it quick? Yes, of course. But it doesn’t kick you in the pants. It’s too smooth. Is it fun? Meh. I guess it can be around corners, but it is missing the raw, hard edges that its exterior styling promise us. And that’s a bit of a let-down. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an awesome car through and through, but looking at that gaping maw of a front end, I expect raw power to wrinkle the pavement and leave me grinning from ear to ear. And the car doesn’t do that.
Heck, it doesn’t even allow you to have fun in the snow! You can turn off the traction control, but it will barely let you slide the rear end a few degrees before all the electronic grannies kick right back in and – get this – it turns the traction control back on for you. That’s right. This car hates fun. At least in the snow.
Oh man, this car gets so many eyeballs. People stare at it without shame. I really do like most of the styling. And it looks bang-up in the blue. The luscious interior – with its smart styling and cool touches, full suite of technology, safety gadgetry and comfort – is very well done.
The car is fast and comfortable and capable. And surprisingly, WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She laughed at the lack of practicality, but loved driving it, and loved being seen in it. And she felt that everything inside worked well.
And perhaps that’s a sign. My wife does not enjoy sports cars. And in the end, I don’t think I’d define the Lexus RC 350 as a sports car. The all-wheel drive trim lacks nearly all the hard edges I look for in a sports coupe, and throws in a bunch of soft, comfy and safe edges instead.
Yes, the car is awesome. And it’s exactly the car that some people want. But it’s not the sports coupe I’d hoped for. And it’s not the sports coupe that the aggressive styling suggests. You’ve confused me, Lexus.
Pricing: 2015 Lexus RC 350
Base price (AWD trim trim): $54,000
Options: $6500 F Sport Series 2; $650 Lexus premium colour
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $63,245
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.