Like a sharp-dressed man capable of sparkling cocktail conversation, the Lexus RC350 is handsome and charming. Those aren’t usually words one would use to describe a Lexus, the brand that’s always racing after perfection, but has been known to leave charm on the side of the road. If that’s what you think of Lexus, you might want to zip around the block in the RC350.
I didn’t always like the RC’s style, which has seemed ungainly from some angles, but this one makes my heart palpitate. It all starts with the pointy nose bearing Lexus’ spindle grille and flows back over bulging fenders and fastback roofline. LED headlamps, running lamps, and taillights glisten among the shimmering silver paint. The lower side rockers look carved by a new-age sculptor who cut his teeth in The Renaissance. Rock it all with 19” wheels and chrome exhaust outlets.
Looking at the car’s styling, you might guess the RC is based on the mid-size GS sport sedan. You’d only be half right. The front structure is based on the GS while the rear cribs the smaller IS sedan. The middle part is taken from the reinforced IS convertible.
The interior is mostly shared with the IS. The console would be at home in a starship, its joywheel commanding the infotainment system with navigation. Slide your fingers to adjust climate control. Praise Japan, there are proper volume and tuning knobs. Heated and ventilated leather seats and power moonroof add comfort in all seasons, while safety is enhanced by a backup camera, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert system, adaptive radar cruise control, and front crash mitigation systems. Gauges are straight-forward simple and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is divine–perfect for engaging asphalt with a spirited powertrain and chassis.
You can choose the RC with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but do yourself a favor and step up to the RC350’s 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 311 horsepower to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated 19/28-MPG city/hwy. You’re never going to rocket past supercars with that much power, but it’s plenty of kick for a compact luxury sport coupe.
Going one further, engineers tuned the suspension and steering for optimal performance, giving the car a light precise feel that’s a joy whether locked onto the horizon at high speed or just attacking hilly and curvy two-lane backroads. That’s mostly due to the adjustability of the steering, throttle, and suspension through ECO, Comfort, and Sport with a console knob. Real-time damping alleviates lean, dive, and squat. Sport mode felt right to me, but the car ran smooth and refined in all modes.
Lexus has always built highly refined automobiles, but they’ve lacked a certain spirit and fashion sense. With the RC350, Lexus shows it can maintain its high standards while appealing to renaissance men (and women). It’s a worthy competitor to the Cadillac ATS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 4-Series, and Audi A5. The RC starts at $40,155, but came to $48,288 as tested.
Contact Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.
2017 Lexus RC350
Four-passenger, RWD Coupe
Powertrain: 311hp 3.5-liter V6, 8-speed auto trans.
Suspension f/r: elect. Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Design, Powertrain
Fuel economy: 19/28 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Tahara, Japan
Base/as-tested price: $40,155/48,288