These are hot times in the sports coupe business, my friends!
Buyers have never had more choices for high-performance, rear-drive vehicles with racy rooflines and track-ready platforms.
Diving head-first into the fray of BMW 4 series, Cadillac ATS, Audi A5 and Infiniti Q60 is the 2015 Lexus RC - a hot new design with five major models starting from $43,000 and hitting $64,000 in the RC-F.
HD Drive Review Video Part One
With standard and F Sport trim levels both offering rear or AWD, the RC350 comes in hot with a standard quad-cam V6 making 306-horsepower through a DirectShift eight-speed automatic. Performance is stout versus the base BMW, Audi and Cadillac engines, with sprints to 60-mph in the mid-fives.
Our test car is the most performance-focused of the V6 models: the F Sport RWD.
The F Sport is a big upgrade for the $4,000 bump in price: this $47,000 stunner packs an F Sport-exclusive Ultra White paint, plus unique nose and tail versus the standard model.
We loved this car, spending an absurd amount of time smiling at the wheel and slicing around corners with its four-wheel-steering and Sport+ adaptive dampers in fully play mode.
In addition to the Exterior, Interior, Performance, Colors and Pricing article sections, this review includes 200 photos of the car and two high-definition drive reviews.
So buckle up and hang on!
A cool sports car should instantly win you over with its rear-drive proportions and sweet design details. Modern and high-tech, the car should look gorgeous and custom right from the factory -- no cosmetic mods needed. It conveys aggression, sex appeal and youthfulness effortlessly.
The RC350 F Sport is obviously all of these things. The once-alarming full-frame grille is now a fantastic style statement, finished with black chrome on its pinched spindle point, with micro-dot LED foglamps making the night-time look even cooler. Quad HID projector beams are incredibly illuminating -- with all front lighting in a matching 4K white hue.
The grille is otherwise black and cross-hatched with brake cooling intake ducts in its lower corners. The bottom of the grille is a dark titanium, allowing the F Sport to look low and mean in any rear-view mirror.
The free-standing LED arrowheads are cool, as always, but it is the overall stance and hood-length that gets your attention next.
Long and low with a cab-backward style, the hood feels far wider and lower than the new IS.
The fenders roll outward in a subtle flare, with a soft crease peeling up the car's beltline and toward the high-mounted taillamps on the trunk. Below this line, the rear fenders have a giant bulge to cover the wheels. It rides low and long - with the pinched rear-quarter glass making a fast-moving point toward the C-pillars.
The F Sport body includes a deep sill extension with rear flip in its surface, nicely highlighting the planted stance and tiny overhangs.
The RC's tail is all-new, looking more advanced and technical than any Lexus so far, aside from the LF-A.
Blocky graphics of the trunk-top are chopped and angle downward in a cascade from the trunk to the rear fenders. Far wider is the lower bumper itself, with carved-in black fender louvres a style flash exclusive to the F Sport.
Pinched square exhaust outlets are flush-mounted in a contrast-black diffuser portion of the bumper.
The bottom line of the style: the RC350 F Sport looks incredibly cool and desirable. It is far more chic and smart than the factory ATS or 428i, which needs an M Sport pack and custom wheels to match this style. No ATS or A5 bar the ATS-V looks as fast and unique versus the sedans.
HD Drive Review Video Part Two
The RC F Sport has big but lightweight doors with frameless glass and LED greeting lamps in the swept door handles. They light up white on approach, and set the tone for the hotshot exec mood inside.
F Sport seats with unique stitching feel absolutely stellar. These are some of the best thrones in the business, with a distinct GT-R feel to their bolsters and backrest.
Riding low and leaned-back, the RC350's wheel whirs out deep and low to meet you. This is one of the finest driving positions in the car business.
An F Sport-exclusive sport steering wheel with metallic shift paddles controls the helm, which feels heavy and masculine and meaty.
The controls are all ultra-modern, with one-touch wipers and blinkers, electrostatic LED map lights and the new synaptic touchpad for the eight-inch display screen. The dash is low and carved-out, with cool touch points and classy fixtures.
We slightly regret that the darker of the two brown interior options are not offered on the F Sport, instead offering a bordeaux red option.
Otherwise, the F Sport's dark headliner, sports seats, drilled pedals and alloy accents are all perfect upgrades for a slinky and sexy style.
The glowing gauges are a highlight, with a choice of tachometer light options: red, white or blue (naturally:)
The main cluster is a full digital display (in the F Sport), but with a physical dial edge atop for a 3D depth that is super cool. A button on the steering wheel adds more info screens to the binnacle display, and the 3D edge of the dial motors over to make room. Sounds cheesy, but is actually delightful.
Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus drive modes are selectable via rotary knob, with the TCS and ESP turning off after five-second push of the button -- while the lever is in park for ESP too.
In Sport, the steering adds quickness but becomes heavier than before. The suspension is less keen to upshift and more eager to downshift through multiple gears at a time.
In Sport Plus, the real action starts. The AVS adaptive suspension is firmed up and the four-wheel-steering is in play.
In the other modes, 4WS is not active.
But with it on, the RC350 has almost a ridiculously tossable feel. Slalom moves become eerily quick -- it is a riot. Extremely fun and precise, and not synthetic. You can still hang the tail out and bang around corners on full throttle.
The RWD RC is a happy drifter that will not cut power until your slip angle gets seriously sideways. This is the instance when the electronics step in, which is what Clarkson noted on the RC F as well. Not an issue in most hard driving, but the safety net makes the RC less frisky than Mustang EcoBoost making donuts or U-turns.
The F Sport RC350 is a joy to flog. It is quick and vocal -- the eight-speed in Sport Plus is eager to rev out to the redline and bang off upshifts with aggression. An excellent adaptive intake tract opens wide on hard throttle, bellowing out in a creamy and mellifluous howl. This 306-pony V6 is happy to break the rear tires loose on launches, but actually makes you work for speed versus some turbo powerplants and their low-speed torque burst.
The chassis feels very grippy up front around hard corners with or without the 4WS active (at all speeds in Sport Plus). For more straight-line tracking, the Sport setting or even Normal and Eco calm the helm and make the steering rack noticeably less darty.
Ride is awesome. Firm and well-damped, with a fluid and solid setup that is always planted even under hard braking or hard throttle.
A fantastic steer. Fun and instantly alert; a posh cruiser or dramatic sportscar, as needed.
The F Sport is offered in three unique exterior colors: Ultrasonic Blue, Moltern Pearl and Ultra White. This bright white takes the place or Starfire Pearl on the base RC.
RC350 F Sport Colors
Our RC350 test car came in just above the $48,000 base price, but lacks moonroof that you might want for more light in the cabin.
2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport AWD
2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport
So many photos! Ahh!
Overwhelmed by passion for this sexy and sporty machine.
For those seeking the hottest $50k sports coupe of 2015, the Lexus RC is a must-drive. Cooler standard looks than the BMW, better designed and more unique than the ATS Coupe, plus far more fun than the Audi?
That would be the 2015 RC350 F Sport.
Just remember to activate that telepathic 4WS via Sport Plus!