The year 2015 has been a great one for the automotive industry. We’ve seen the introduction of many all-new and redesigned products that have taken the public by surprise, such as the upcoming Ford GT and the production version of the Acura NSX. Personally though, I’ve been (perhaps unreasonably) excited about a product that’s a bit more within reach for the general automotive community. As soon as, Lexus showed us the concept for their IS-based coupé, I was sold. The styling worked perfectly for me, and I instantly knew that because they’re Lexus, the powertrain options wouldn’t disappoint either. As soon as I was informed that the production model had arrived for testing, I just had to book some time with it.
The 2015 Lexus RC350 F-Sport AWD arrived in our garage painted in a stunning Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, which bears an extra cost of $650. Typically I scoff when manufacturers demand extra money for paint schemes, but this is something special. Lexus utilizes a contrast-layering setup, a system only used for auto show and concept cars in the past. This is also isolated to the RC models for now, and the colour simply radiates exuberance. I fell in love with the show car that was shown in a dark red, and previously maintained that I’ll only ever drive a black car, but this blue is amongst the most stunning paint jobs I’ve ever seen. Ultrasonic Blue Mica, as well as Ultra White and Solar Flare (which is an orange), are colours limited to RCs equipped with one of the offered F-Sport packages.
It’s not just the colour of the RC350 that helps it stand out. The car’s styling cues make perfect use of the Lexus corporate spindle grille, gorgeous LED lighting, muscular yet sleek lines throughout the body, and a stance that makes it appear simply intimidating. In my eyes, the RC is the design hit of the year; it’s indisputably one of the sexiest cars on the road today. This was made evident by the stares and positive reactions it elicited every single time I pulled it out of the garage for a drive. Though based on the IS sedan, this is far more than an IS350 with two doors chopped off. With competitors such as the BMW 4-series and Audi S5 having elegant but conservative styling, the Lexus’ out-of-the-box design really does up the ante for this segment.
Now, Lexus’ available F-Sport packages and athletic designs do make the RC350 appear to be a sports car, but it’s not intended to be one. Lexus claims it to be a luxury coupé, and this is a role it fits into phenomenally. This powertrain option is shared with the IS sedan; a 3.5L V6 that’s also seen in a few other Lexus products. Here it’s good for 307 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque at 4800rpm. I’d have liked to see more torque, but the RC350 does hustle when you step on the throttle. Rear-wheel-drive RC350s are equipped with an 8-speed gearbox, whereas my all-wheel-drive tester came with a 6-speed automatic.
This car makes a perfect personal luxury coupé, and here’s why: the throttle response is good but on the heavier side, and the transmission, while capable of delivering crisp shifts, is more geared towards (pun intended) grand touring through the Swiss Alps rather than a track day at Willow Springs. The car handles very well, but it’s not as lively as an Audi S5, which is surprisingly nimble despite not being a lightweight in the slightest. I took the RC350 on some of my favourite backroads, The steering is electric, which helps significantly for low-speed maneuvers or dodging potholes, but it doesn’t really provide the level of feedback that hydraulic racks are capable of. This isn’t limited to the Lexus alone; it’s something that’s becoming more and more prevalent throughout the automotive industry.
When dealing with a car that looks as good as this one does, the sound it makes is quite important. I’ve heard the monstrous RC-F in person, and it definitely delivers. The RC350 isn’t the V8 fire breather that one is though, and the sound insulation does quiet things up in the driver’s seat. Lexus has amplified sound from the intake though, and if the throttle is opened wide, there’s a pleasant combination between a snarl and a roar. I like this combination, because it provides that extra noise when you’re driving spiritedly, and is calm and subdued as a Lexus should be when cruising comfortably at highway speeds.
Other than the fact that the 8-speed gearbox in rear-drive models is derived from the magnificent, dearly departed IS-F, one of the biggest reasons I would opt for that model is the fuel savings. If the RC350 F-Sport were a sports coupé, fuel mileage wouldn’t be a huge concern. However, because this is a luxury cruiser that could very well be seeing a lot of highway trips, it’s worth noting how efficient it is. Plus, this is a more realistic purchase for the Canadian market, because the majority of buyers in our nation opt for AWD if the choice is available. I was able to average 10.4L/100km in a combined cycle. This isn’t too far off from the IS350 F-Sport AWD I drove last fall, and is right in line considering the RC350 is a bit heavier.
The base Lexus RC350 comes with all-wheel-drive and starts at $54,600. My test car also had the F-Sport Series 2 package. This package includes everything that comes on the F-Sport Series 1 package, which includes things like the full LF-A motorized instrument cluster, LED headlamps, an F-Sport styling package with unique trim bits, adaptive variable suspension front and rear, lane change assist, and a couple other things. The F-Sport Series 1 package brings the sticker price to $57,750. It also adds a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, dynamic radar cruise control, parking assist, and a pre-collision warning system. The F-Sport Series 2 package tops out at $61,100. The only RC350 AWD that slots above this is the Executive Package, which, at $61,800, adds real leather seats in lieu of the F-Sport accessories inside and out.
The infotainment setup in the RC350 is shared with the all-new NX line from Lexus. It’s the same setup with a touchpad-like setup rather than the mouse-based Remote Touch Interface seen in previous models. Though only a couple years old and a favourite of mine, the mouse took a ton of criticism for being counter-intuitive. The new touchpad is easy to use and feels ridiculously solid. All menus are easy to browse through and the system is quick to respond. From an appearance standpoint, the Lexus system is one of my favourites. The Mark Levinson stereo impresses as well; it reproduced various genres of music flawlessly. Adding to the toys within this car, the LF-A motorized cluster is a great conversation point – truly slick.
Another point worth mentioning is the NuLuxe interior upholstery, which is amongst the best faux-leather in the industry. All RC F-Sport model interiors are finished in NuLuxe; the setup in my car was black. I was given the opportunity to sample the Rioja Red in the IS350, and it looks stunning as well. The quality of the NuLuxe “leather” is so good that I was convinced it was genuine leather until I read into the detailed specifications of my test car. The typical naked eye won’t be able to feel the difference, and this synthetic material will likely be more durable in the long run, as well as easier to clean.
Comfort is one area where Lexus has always been one of the industry greats, and the RC350 is no exception to this. The seats are definitely impeccable and provide excellent support, and the driving position of the car is nearly perfect. You sit close to the ground as expected in a low-slung coupé, and all major controls are positioned within easy reach of your hands. I did notice though that the small rear windows create substantial blind spots, so lane changes should be made with care. Additionally, the door sills are a little higher than I’d have liked, and I’d imagine that they will become scuffed quite easily by shoes during entry/exit. It’s a shame, really, because the attention to detail even on the door sills is truly pronounced. Additionally, thanks to crash and pedestrian safety regulations, the RC350 appears to ride a bit too high in the front. This is nothing a set of aftermarket lowering springs can’t fix, but for those like myself who prefer to leave cars as they come from the factory, this could pose a bit of an issue.
Before today, Lexus hadn’t produced a proper two-door coupé since the SC300/400 in the mid-1990s. That car still remains a favourite of mine, and I still look twice every single time I see one. The second-generation SC430 with its retractable hardtop was never a favourite of mine, and led me to believe that perhaps the Lexus of the future would be more conservative. This 2015 RC350 though, is going to be a huge hit. The polarizing styling wins in my eyes, and the long-term durability and overall reliability that the Lexus brand is known for will help the car last for years to come. The first time I saw this car in person at an auto show, I mentioned to my colleagues that if I needed a practical yet fun daily driver, I’d buy one in a second. After a week with the 2015 Lexus RC350 F-Sport, I stand by that statement.
2015 Lexus RC350 F-Sport Gallery