We recently tested and loved the all-new Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance, with a massively powerful and sonorous 5.0-liter V8. It was a fantastic sport sedan. But maybe you like the svelte lines of a coupe. And don’t really need all that power, but still want something quick and sporty – and with all that luxury and goodness of Toyota’s premium division? Well have we got a car for you! The Lexus RC 350 F SPORT. Let’s take a look.
Sporty, Smooth and Sophisticated
The RC has been with us for several years now, yet it still turns head – proof of a good design.
Up front is the familiar and massive “hourglass” grille. As time goes on and more competitors join the prominent probiscis fad – we’re looking at your BMW 4-series – it doesn’t seem as outlandish as before. Triple-Beam LED headlights with signature daytime running lights create a memorable look.
The profile is pure coupe with a long nose, laid-back windscreen angle, a distinctive shoulder line and cut-out above lower side sills. The biggest eye catcher are the 19-inch split 5-spoke alloys in our tester’s unique F SPORT BLACK LINE rich gun metal gray, made all the better by the optional F SPORT orange brake calipers.
At the rear, LED taillights brace a built-in rear lip spoiler, while the rear valence with large air outlet style openings and a contrasting finisher add some depth. Dual chrome exhaust tips hint at the sporty promise of the F SPORT. The finishing touch is the RC’s Sonic Chrome paint, a rich silver gray that looks elegant and really shows of the coupe’s lines.
From the Cockpit
Inside is equally sporty and elegant. With a strong cockpit vibe, a prominent center console separates the driver and front passenger. Being an F SPORT, you get a significant upgrade including heated and cooled front sport seats that are simply among the best in any car, anywhere.
This is a true 2+2 design, and we wouldn’t recommend putting adults in the rear seat, but kids should be fine. Even more useful, the rear seats fold down to give you plenty of storage space, even for longer items. Speaking of cool storage, buyers of the F SPORT BLACK LINE Special Edition also received a Zero Haliburton Edge 2-piece lightweight luggage set designed for Lexus. Very cool.
While we like the contrasting red interiors we’ve had on the RCs in the past, we savored the elegance of our tester’s all black interior, featuring black ash trim, with a matte appearance and subtle graining that’s lovely to look at. You’ll also find the ash on the fat, leather-wrapped F SPORT steering wheel. Little touches of tastiness that remind you’re in a Lexus. Adding to the cozy feel, F SPORT models add a black headliner.
We also love the gauge package. Cobbed from the LFA supercar, you have a central mounted tach with a digital speedometer read out. But this has a cool party trick – push a button the steering wheel, and the entire tach glides across the display, revealing additional information on the screen. OK, it’s not a full digital display like many competitors, but it remains special and cool.
Info-tainment is served up on a crisp 10.3-inch display that comes with the optional Navigation Package. On all RCs you get standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, as well as Lexus’ Enform suite, including Wi-Fi and remote access through your smartphone or smartwatch, as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa capability. You’re hooked up!
The rest of the switch gear is simply laid out, with clear and easy to decipher switches where you expect them on the center console. Another tasty touch we love is the analog clock in the middle of the dash.
One thing we didn’t love was the touchpad interface for the info-tainment system. It remains frustrating and fidgety, thankfully there are enough secondary controls that you avoid it for most of your everyday needs.
Driving the RC 350 is a pleasure, and an interesting contrast to the IS 500 we tested recently. In the IS, the engine dominates the experience. With the spine tingling V8 sound, deep well of power and rapid-fire shifts it’s a thrill ride, with the emphasis on V8 thrills.
The RC 350 is a more balanced performer. It starts with Lexus’ familiar 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out 306 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft of torque. This engine is every inch a Lexus, smooth, linear with a lovely sound especially as the revs rise, but well behaved. The 8-speed automatic is equally smooth, and will shift quickly, but not do anything so rude as to kick you in the back between gears. OK, we miss the slightly raucous IS V8 and those kidney-punching shifts. It’s your fault Lexus, you spoiled us!
Dynamically the RC and the IS feel more like siblings. Like the IS, the RC 350 has a wonderfully supple ride, and excellent grip (AWD is available for those who live in slippery climes.) We had our tester during some heavy rains in SoCal and the traction control with rear wheel drive worked excellently.
The steering is nicely weighted, with loads of feedback. It makes for a car that is fun to drive quickly. Our tester made it even easier to go quite quickly, thanks in part to some carefully chosen options including a Torsen limited slip differential and Lexus Dynamic Handling with Dynamic Rear Steering. Serious gear to help you squeeze the most out of any road.
But it’s no high-strung sports car. On a leisurely drive, you could put grandma in the passenger seat, and she’d be very comfortable. In this way, the RC 350 embodies what Grand Touring is all about. It’s an ideal blend of sport and luxury.
Can I Swing a Piece of Automotive Art?
Yes, and Lexus does offer an enticing range of models to tempt you. The RC 300 with a 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter, 4 cylinder starts at $42,320. We’d probably pop for the visceral thrills of the F SPORT model at $46,790.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Lexus RC F with the same 472 horsepower V8 we loved in our IS tester, yours starting at $65,720 – but you can load one up and go over $101,000 if your passion and pocketbook runs deep.
Our RC 350 F SPORT is the middle ground in the RC family, starting at $49,520. Nicely equipped with Navigation and larger Info-tainment screen ($1,645), Orange Brake Calipers ($300) Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), Premium Paint ($425), Torsen Limited Slip (a bargain at $390), F SPORT BLACK LINE Special Edition ($2,145), Lexus Dynamic Handling ($1,900) a couple small items, and $1,025 for destination and we rang the bell at $58,055.
Competitors would include the BMW 4-series coupe, a more engaging drive, but you’ll have to come to terms with that massive grille, and a massive step up in price, as a comparable 440i $63,525. The Audi A5 Coupe is gorgeous and a great drive, and you can even get one close to the price of the Lexus, at $56,440, but that would be the turbo 4-cylinder engine. So, we’d have to say the RC 350 is a bit of a bargain in the high-stakes coupe segment.
Of course, the big temptation to us would be the Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance at $62,075. All the same Lexus goodness, a stylish sedan instead of coupe, but oh, that V8….
A near-perfect blend of style, luxury, driving enjoyment and quality, the Lexus RC 350 F SPORT is beautiful in every way.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.