2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport review: Wild-styled Lexus coupe attracts all the wrong kinds of attention
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.
Powerful, but a bit soft-edged
Under the sculpted hood, the RC is powered by a 3.5 liter V-6 engine that builds a naturally aspirated 305 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission (the only option available for the RC) the powertrain feels like a good fit for this sporty, but large coupe. The driver is given access to sport- and manual-shift programs for the gearbox and Sport S, Sport S+, Eco and Normal drive mode programs for the engine.
Power reaches the road via the rear wheels, but an optional all-wheel drive system is available for both the standard RC and RC F Sport.
With the drive mode and the transmission in their sportiest settings, I found that the Lexus is still just a little lazy. Despite having quite a bit of power on hand, the transmission always seemed to find itself in a gear or two taller than I would have chosen for spirited driving on a twisty road. Selective use of the manual-shift mode with steering wheel's paddle shifters largely remedied this, giving me better access to the upper reaches of the tachometer's swing.
Our F Sport model features a number of styling upgrades that give the RC a high-performing look, including the motorized F Sport instrument cluster cribbed from the IS F Sport and inspired by Lexus' LFA supercar. The digital gauge is pretty awesome to look at as the large central tachometer's face changes from white to yellow and red, as revs approach the redline that the transmission will never actually reach (because the computer will always upshift for you, even in the manual mode). Tap a button on the steering wheel and the tach's motorized bezel slides slightly to the right, revealing more screen real estate, which is used to display infotainment information, trip computer data and more.
Not merely a styling package, the F Sport model also features larger 19-inch wheels with staggered fit summer tires. The suspension is upgraded with an Adaptive Variable Suspension. Like the transmission's sport setting, the suspension still feels a bit floaty and soft at its most hardcore Sport S+ setting. The RC's handling feels more like a grand tourer and reminds me quite a bit of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. That isn't a bad thing, but remember the GS is also a much larger, heavier car so the RC should theoretically feel more nimble.
However, despite the suppleness and feeling of being disconnected from the road, the Coupe still grips the pavement well enough for very spirited driving. Plus, plentiful power goes a long way toward making up for the lack of engagement. At the end of the week, I feel like the RC lives up to the level of performance promised by its F Sport badge. But though the ostentatious orange paint will attract the attention of those looking for a 4-series fighter, its softer edged feel is more akin to the C-Class Coupe.
Lexus Remote Touch tech
Imagine if the trackpad on your laptop sharply buzzed whenever you moved the cursor over a clickable link on screen. That's what it feels like to interact with the RC's new Remote Touch trackpad controller. In theory, the familiar touchpad should be second nature since I'm plopped in front of a laptop computer during most of my waking hours, but somehow I never really felt at ease with the Lexus' infotainment interface.
The first oddity is the aforementioned feedback. In theory, this should allow the driver to interact with the touchpad without constantly looking at the screen, but in practice it just feels weird. The options menu gives the driver the choice of multiple levels of force feedback, and whoever had the car before I did must have cranked it to 11. The thump that it gave my fingertip when I rolled over an onscreen button was mated to an audible ker-chunk!
As I moved the cursor around the screen, it would snap to clickable areas as well, which in theory should have made aiming for virtual buttons easier. The snapping works great for pages like the home screen where the click points are evenly spaced across the entire screen. However, on screens like the Map display, where click points are irregularly sized and scattered to the perimeter, or the radio tuning screen, where there are dozens of oddly placed buttons, operation gets a lot more wonky. It was tricky to get the cursor to actually go where I wanted it to, rather than where the system thought I wanted it to. I feel like Lexus' old Remote Touch joystick did a much better job with these types of screens.
On the other side of the weird control scheme is Lexus' Enform infotainment system, which we've seen in operation on a variety of Lexus vehicles. It's not the glossiest interface that we've tested, lacking the crisp Nvidia graphics and Web-connected 3D maps of Audi or BMW, but it gets the job done with a fully featured list of digital audio sources, excellent voice command and its own suite of Enform Web-connected apps.
The 2015 Lexus RC 350 starts at $42,790 in the US. Our example adds $3,985 for the F Sport package, $1,530 for Navigation, and a $1,100 moonroof. We've also got a $1,900 Variable Gear Ratio steering option that lightens the steering feel at low speeds and weights the tiller up at high speeds for better feeling and responsiveness. Rounded out with $410 for fog lamps and a $925 destination charge, our example rolled into the Car Tech garage with an as-tested price of $53,140.
The RC just barely edges out the 435i M Sport where price is concerned, but that's mostly because of BMW's practice of nickel-and-diming buyers with dozens of options, where Lexus offers just a few large packages. Owners willing to carefully pick and choose just the options they want or need could match the Lexus' value. Mercedes-Benz's C350 coupe is another close competitor, but I think I'd rather deal with Lexus' annoying touchpad than spend any amount of time fiddling with Benz's Command and mBrace systems. Your preferences may vary. I should note that neither the Bimmer nor the Benz come in this crazy shade of orange.
Interestingly, though the most hardcore (for a Lexus), V-8 powered RC F is available in the UK, the standard RC 350 doesn't appear to be. Down under, the Australian RC 350 F Sport has a drive-away price of about AU$83,990 when equipped similarly to today's example.