The RC sports coupe is not based on another of Lexus' previous sedan platforms and is instead designed from a clean sheet. The RC's exceptionally stiff chassis builds on Lexus' reputation and manufacturing excellence. The automaker itself claims the RC "the best-handling regular production Lexus yet."
While the car's shape screams its sporting intentions with every curve, the RC's performance begins underhood. Power comes from a choice of two engines, a new-for-2016 turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that is capable of 241 horsepower and 258 lb-feet of torque. A naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 is good for 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque in the RC 300. A tuned version of that same 3.5L V6 comes on the RC 350, where it puts out 306 horses. The 2.0L is only available with rear-wheel drive, while the RC300 and RC 350 are offered with a choice of either rear or all-wheel drive.
Lexus' "all-weather drive" system uses an electronic center differential to vary torque from the standard 20/80 front/rear to as much as 50/50. Braking in all RC models is quick and powerful, thanks to big 13-inch front and 12-inch rear rotors.
Outside, all RC models feature standard 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals. Inside, the RC includes NuLuxe interior surfaces with aluminum and wood accents, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat, automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, cruise control, HomeLink, a 7-inch VGA screen, a 256-watt, 10-speaker audio system, back-up camera and more. The all-wheel drive RC 350 also features heated front seats.
Factory options abound, including 19-inch wheels, a blind spot monitor, leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, parking assist, a moonroof, navigation and an 835-watt Mark Levinson 17-speaker premium surround sound system. The all-wheel drive can be optioned with an All-Weather Package that includes headlamp washers, an instant-heat PTC heater, and a windshield de-icer. The Luxury Package adds many standalone options such as the blindspot indicator, heated/ventilated leather seats, rain-sensing wipers and more. Finally, the optional F Sport Package adds a mesh grille, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive variable suspension with a Sport+ driving mode, aluminum pedals, sport seats with contrast stitching, unique badging, and more.
From Lexus' ultra-performance range of vehicles comes the RC F, which differs from the other RC models in significant ways. For starters, it is powered by a 32-valve 5.0L V8 that makes 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel-drive only the RC F includes the 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic, a Torsen limited-slip differential, huge 15-inch front and 13.6-inch rear vented disc brakes, and unique "F" exterior and interior treatments. Lexus claims the RC F will hit 60 mph from a stop in just 4.4 seconds, on its way to a 170-mph top speed.
Safety is paramount on the RC, and standard features include several airbags for front and side, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist and traction control.
To be fair, the bright Molten Pearl Orange 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport coupe is an ostentatious ride. Everywhere I parked it, heads turned and people greeted me with "nice car." And to be honest, about half of those "nice car" greetings were probably sarcastic. It's difficult not to look like you're trying too hard in a massive orange sports coupe.
However, I hadn't been behind the wheel for more than a few hours before I noticed another type of unwanted attention that the Lexus was gathering: sneers and flybys from BMW 3 Series drivers. The RC F Sport seemed to bring out the worst in San Francisco's BMW enthusiasts; it's as if they took the orange paint, the gaping spindle grill, and the large L badge as personal challenges to their throne behind the wheel of the ultimate driving machine and felt obligated to knock me down a peg or two by launching away from traffic lights and weaving through traffic.
As the center of all of this attention, I couldn't help but chuckle. Though the ostentatious aesthetic will attract those looking for a 4-series fighter, the RC's softer edged performance is more akin to that of the more laid-back Benz C-Class Coupe. The F Sport may look like a boy racer, but it has the soul of a gentleman's tourer.
The Good The 2015 Lexus RC 350's silky smooth V-6 engine supplies 306 horsepower and plenty of forward thrust. The ride is comfortable and quiet on the highway. Adaptive suspension and summer tires grip the road much better than the soft ride would indicate. The RC's looks are divisive, but we dig it.
The Bad I wasn't able to feel a noticeable difference between adaptive suspension's Sport+ and normal programs. The soft ride lacks engagement and connection to the road. Lexus' Remote Touch trackpad can be awkward to use.
The Bottom Line The 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport looks like a boy racer, but it has the soul (and slightly soft performance) of a grand tourer.
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