Lexus makes a great, well-engineered vehicle. But through an enthusiast’s eyes, Lexus coupes usually can’t compete with the hard-edged German sports coupes from BMW and Audi. However, the RC 350 F Sport AWD delivers a lot of vehicle at a reasonable price point. Couple that with Lexus’ world-class reliability and service, and you’re destined for a great ownership experience.
The Lexus RC 350 flaunts a 311-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that generates 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. It boasts direct and port fuel injection and an awe-inspiring sound reminiscent of the LFA supercar. Well, it might not be that good, but the shifts are lightning fast for an automatic, adding to the sporty character. The all-wheel drive RC 350 features a six-speed automatic transmission. The rear-wheel drive version uses an eight-speed transmission, but we really liked the six-speed and its quick reflexes.
Inside the RC were unexpected yellow-trimmed seats that added to the F Sport’s character. The available perforated trim exuded style and sophistication. An analog clock and expressive gauges give the elegant cabin an extra level of refinement.
The big parlor trick in the instrument cluster is that the main gauge face is motorized. It shifts to the right when the display button is pressed on the steering wheel. It sure is cooler to see the gauge cluster move mechanically than just have one large LCD screen. Then more information can be given to the driver on fuel economy or driving habits.
Individual settings for climate control allow the driver and front passenger to adjust their preferred temperatures using haptic touch slide switches. I usually do not like these type of sliding switches (they are reminiscent of the Cadillac CUE system), but in the Lexus they thoughtfully provide the ability to easily raise or lower the temperature by one degree as you press the top or bottom part of the button. To help ensure that the cabin stays fresh, a smog-sensing system automatically switches to recirculation mode if it senses high levels of pollutants outside.
On the safety front, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (BSM with RCTA) is now standard across all RC models. The Lexus BSM is designed to detect and warn drivers of vehicles approaching or positioned in the adjacent lanes. RCTA helps customers when backing out of a parking space by notifying them of vehicles approaching from either side. This same technology is also available in the aftermarket, in case you have an older vehicle and want to retrofit this very important safety tech. It does wonders in preventing fender-benders and significant accidents.
The cabin is filled with the traditional luxuries you would expect, but the Lexus Enform system allows the driver to communicate with the vehicle via a smartphone, smart watch or a device with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The prospects of starting your car by asking Alexa to do it is pretty cool. She’ll also tell you how much gas you have left in the tank. This is another technology that is available in the aftermarket, and it sure makes starting your car easy from upstairs, even if the keys are located downstairs.
To make the F Sport version of this good coupe even better, Lexus added an adaptive variable suspension. Unfortunately, from the regular version to the F Sport version, the engine power remains the same. On the other hand, Lexus created a great-looking coupe that looks chiseled but isn’t so hard-edged on your hind parts. But the 3.5-liter engine has enough street cred to back up the looks.
Lexus uses Mark Levinson’s name on the audio system. But most buyers will not even recognize the name of the brand popular with esoteric audiophiles. It doesn’t sound the same as the wildly pricey home audio pieces, but overall it delivers enough power and clarity to satisfy. There is a setting for surround sound, but I preferred it turned off.
Should You Get One?
While the German manufacturers may exude more driving passion, the price and reliability of the RC 350 make it stand out as the best choice for a vehicle to be kept for a decade (or more). The RC 350 F Sport stickers for around $57K. That isn’t bad! Compare that to the BMW M440i with standard all-wheel drive with a starting price of $59,495. And if you want to take it to the next level in BMW, you’re looking at an M4 coupe that starts at $70K. When coupled with insurance, that can get very expensive very quickly.
The Lexus is probably the most sensible choice in the sport coupe class compared to its German rivals. We understand if passion wins out over sensibility. Still, the RC 350 F Sport is a pretty good overall lover!