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 turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that is capable of 241 horsepower and 258 lb-feet of torque, or a naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 is good for 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A tuned version of that same 3.5L V6 is also available 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.
The Lexus RC is a lot more than just an IS with two doors lopped off. Ever since it was launched in 2014, the RC has blazed its own visual trail, leaving the IS' lamentable looks behind, but holding onto its plush driving manners, respectable interior quality and comfort.
What the RC adds to the package is better tech -- some of which you can't even get in the IS. And for 2019, the RC gets a significant exterior design update, putting even more distance between itself and its oddly-styled sedan sibling.
It's dawn on Angeles Crest Highway, the new day's light shining on the seemingly endless ribbons of asphalt that beckon me deeper into the San Gabriel Mountains. These legendary roads make my right foot grow heavier, but as soon as I hit a brisk pace, the Lexus' suspension says, "Nah, man. We don't need to go any faster."
The Good Belle-of-the-ball looks can spice up any boulevard.
The Bad The RC falls apart when treated like a sports car, especially when equipped with expensive should-be-sporty options.
The Bottom Line It’s no performer, but as a comfy-cozy cruiser, the Lexus RC 350 is easy like Sunday morning.
Expect sharper styling, new engines and upgraded cabin tech.
Lexus Interface now comes standard, as does a hybrid-electric powertrain.
Lexus' flashy new infotainment system is making its way across the automaker's lineup.
When it goes on sale late in 2022, this SUV will offer a steer-by-wire system with a wild-looking yoke instead of a traditional wheel.
This completely electronic system has some real advantages over conventional steering wheels, though there is a learning curve.
It'll be a larger, more spacious alternative to the three-row but cramped Lexus RX L utility vehicle.
The shock absorber can separate from the vehicle body on affected vehicles, which is obviously bad.
The affected vehicles won't turn stability control back on automatically if a driver turned it off and then shut off the vehicle.