There’s a lot to like within the current Lexus lineup. This is a brand that, despite remaining under the conservative Toyota umbrella, has evolved from an equally conventional and traditionalist view to some of the most outrageous and downright wicked designs on the road today. A prime example of this evolution is this 2016 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport. We were able to review the car when it first hit the Canadian market, but we gave it a revisit to see how well it has fit in after being on sale for just over a year.
It’s something about the styling of this car – for me it was love at first sight the first time I saw the RC concept unveiled at an auto show. The edgy lines are different enough from the IS sedan it’s based on, and the LED lighting all around just works. The wildebeest known as the RC-F (reviewed here) boasts an all carbon-fiber roof, while the RC 350 has a functional sunroof that stylishly slides over the roof. Our test vehicle was also painted in Infrared, which is one of the two colours that Lexus charges $650 extra for (totally worth it in my mind, but I would opt for the Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0). Even with the 19” wheels though, the RC 350 has massive wheel gap in the front; it almost appears as though the rear sits lower.
In the United States, there are a few different models of the RC coupé, starting with the base RC 200t and going up to the full-bore RC-F. Canadians only get two choices, the RC 300 and RC 350 tested here – both only available in all-wheel-drive guise. The RC 350 puts out 307 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 277 lb-ft of torque at 4,800RPM. Power delivery is excellent, and throttle response is also sharp as can be. This feels like a legitimate performance coupé, and sounds like one too thanks to a resonance pipe from the intake to the firewall that pushes a plethora of intake noise into the cabin at wide open throttle.
The RC’s entire demeanour sharpens up considerably in Sport and Sport+ settings, and this change in behaviour is reflected through a subtle colour change within the instrument cluster. However, regardless of the mode, one limitation of the car is the six-speed automatic transmission. It’s not a poor gearbox by any means, but with the rest of the industry bragging about seven, eight, and even nine speed units, this one is just long in the tooth. The result is worse fuel economy and higher engine RPMs at highway speeds. Regardless, the taller gearing does translate to commendable response in the city, and the manual mode with paddles is a treat when driving spiritedly.
Since the first 2013 GS 350 F-Sport we tested, it became pretty evident that Lexus has been focusing heavily on driving dynamics and handling. The RC 350 packs unique F-Sport steering tuning geared to deliver athletic prowess. This steering doesn’t exactly boast analog feedback, but it’s well weighted and the car changes direction in a simplistic point-and-shoot manner. This is a significant departure from the Toyota family’s typical effortlessly light steering.
When shopping in the sporty coupé or grand tourer class, ride quality is very important. Lexus has equipped this RC 350 F-Sport with AVS (adaptive variable suspension) front and rear, along with stabilizer bars and coil springs in front. I found that when driving around in Eco or Normal, the car wallowed around quite a bit. The body control is only improved when in Sport or Sport+, when the dampers firm up into their most athletic setting. This is the desired setting for any sort of weekend motoring adventure, and the RC is sure to please even the pickiest of drivers.
This coupé with standard all-wheel-drive is rated for 12.6L/100km in the city and 9.2L/100km on the highway, requiring 91-octane premium fuel. It must be reiterated that an eight-speed automatic transmission (which is available on rear-drive models in other markets) would improve these numbers significantly. We averaged 12.1L/100km in one combined cycle, and this is taking into account a significant amount of spirited driving, for science. The 65L tank is capable of decent distances before needing to stop and refuel.
The RC 350’s interior is based on the current IS (reviewed here), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fit and finish is spectacular, easily up to Lexus’ standards. There are some plastics visible within the cabin, but they are high quality and more fitting here than any sort of faux wood finish. Each and every button feels nice to the touch, most notable are the matte-finish knobs for the volume and radio tuning controls. The F-Sport seats are exceptionally comfortable and supportive, whether you’re cruising on the highway or carving the canyons. Lexus makes some of the best all-around seats in the industry, and that’s no easy feat.
Canadians can opt for the entry to the RC lineup, the RC 300 AWD, for as little as $48,350. The RC 350 AWD starts at $58,550. This may seem like a $10,000 difference, but the RC 350 includes the F-Sport Series 1 package, which is approximately $5,500 extra on the RC 300. This package includes navigation, Active Sound Control, heated and air conditioned front seats, adaptive variable suspension, blind spot monitor, NuLuxe seating, 19” wheels, and the LFA-inspired TFT instrument cluster. Our car included the F-Sport Series 2 package as well, which adds $3,300 and adds dynamic radar cruise control, 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, park assist, and a pre-collision system. The total as-tested price is $61,850.
Enough praise cannot be sung about the collaboration between Lexus and Mark Levinson. Our team consists of two serious audiophiles; drivers that swear by big name brands such as Bang & Olufsen and Bowers & Wilkins. Even the Krell audio system in the Acura RLX (reviewed here) was something special. This however, came as a huge surprise – each and every note in various genres was replicated using the utmost of clarity and richness. The car is capable of streaming Bluetooth audio, but we found the best sound quality using lossless files played through USB connectivity.
The 2016 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport is a downright beautiful vehicle with a lot to offer. Lexus has compressed the lineup significantly for Canadian buyers, which is understandable from a cost standpoint but at the same time isolates enthusiasts looking for the rear-wheel-drive option. The upcoming LC 500 coupé will offer rear-wheel-drive in this country, but it will also be significantly more expensive. Those without a need to use rear seats and who prioritize style, comfort, and an involving driving experience will find the RC 350 F-Sport to be an amicable and enjoyable companion, mile after mile.