The RC 350 is a remarkably good daily driver, and with six cylinders, presents a great value.
Lexus launched their RC personal luxury coupé a half-decade ago, and at the time it was the only two-door offering in the lineup. After nearly two decades without a legitimate grand touring coupé since the SC went to a retractable hardtop design, the brand made a bold re-entry into a popular segment. Competing against the likes of BMW’s 4-series, Audi’s A5 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the RC has some stiff competition. As this model nears the end of its life cycle, we decided to jump into a 2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport AWD to see how it has held up.
Rather than being built on its own bespoke platform, the RC 350 is a bit of a mishmash of Lexus models. Its architecture uses the front end of the current GS sedan and the rear end of the IS sedan, creating a sandwich around a mid-section from the previous IS C convertible. The average buyer will not know this, and that’s probably for the best, as the styling has aged very well. Excluding the high-performance RC F (reviewed here), all models sold in Canada are all-wheel-drive only, which has a taller ride height and makes for an unsightly wheel gap up front. This model year sees some minor updates including new headlights, taillights, and wheel designs.
Excluding the $85,000 RC F, the Canadian market RC only comes in two flavours; the RC 300 AWD and RC 350 AWD. The former is available in two configurations, but the top-tier RC 350 only comes one way, at $62,300. The Infrared paint on our test vehicle costs an extra $650 included. Equipment on board includes the lovely NuLuxe interior, Apple CarPlay, heated and ventilated front seats, a sunroof, and the driver assist technologies. Android Auto is still absent, and the touch-controlled temperature setting on the dual-zone climate control is a bit counter-intuitive.
The second gripe with the RC’s interior is the horrid infotainment system. Lexus’ touchpad-based setup is difficult to use and bordering on distracting when trying to perform simple commands on the Apple CarPlay while driving. Additionally, the angle on the screen makes it hard to see the bottom half from my driving position. That aside, the cabin is a very comfortable affair, with excellent seats, a good driving position, and physical buttons for many of the infotainment system’s functions.
While a 2.0-liter turbocharged four has been available in the United States, the regular RC only gets two different tunes of a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6. Output is 311 horsepower at 6,600RPM, and is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Rear-drive cars in U.S-spec get an eight-speed automatic, which is unfortunately missing from the Canadian market. Response is sharp and the 3.5 remains a crisp and thoroughly enjoyable engine. Synthetic engine sound is actually quite good in this application, and the transmission is reasonably quick to respond.
The standard variable dampers sort the suspension out nicely. We observed that in its standard setting, the RC feels floaty to a point of unsettled. The front end tends to dive and dart, as if the struts are worn out. This is immediately rectified by enabling “Sport” or “Sport+”, where things firm up and the entire demeanour of the car transforms. At nearly 3,900 pounds, the RC 350 is no lightweight, but it does have quick reflexes and makes long sweepers enjoyable. The steering is well-weighted, and while there isn’t much in the way of analog feel, it’s dialed in nicely.
Lexus Canada rates the RC 350 AWD at 13.1L/100km city and 9.8L/100km highway, for a combined 11.2L/100km. Naturally, the six-speed automatic’s gearing means fuel efficiency isn’t optimal, and the added weight of the all-wheel-drive system contributes to this as well. Our 500-kilometer test over a week resulted in 12.6L/100km in combined driving, using 91-octane fuel as required. We could see an idle stop-start system helping city mileage a bit, but what the RC really needs is those extra two gears in this configuration to help highway consumption.
The RC 350 is a remarkably good daily driver, and with six cylinders, presents a great value over similarly-priced four-cylinder offerings from the Germans. The BMW M440i has just been released, and will be more expensive especially once some essential option boxes are checked off. The Mercedes-AMG C 43 and Audi S5 are both higher performance, more focused offerings that set them in a slightly different category.
The personal coupé was a powerful segment amongst the Japanese automakers up until the end of the 2000s. Models like the Nissan Altima, Toyota Solara, and Honda Accord all offered sporty, six-cylinder variants with available manual transmissions. This class is all but extinct now, with entries limited to just premium manufacturers. Well positioned to fight the rivals, the 2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport AWD maintains its focus on comfort, sharp looks, and the bulletproof reliability of the Lexus brand.