The 2015 Lexus RC 350 is the newest jewel in the Lexus crown. Forget the wallowy Lexus sedans of the past that clearly appealed to an older generation some 35 years ago; the RC sports coupe's primary mission is to shift the brand image of Lexus globally and draw younger, aspirational buyers to the fold.
Think "Radical Coupe" because that's what "RC" stands for -- and, after driving it at the Monticello Raceway in New York, we can assure this is no hype.
The new RC lineup includes the 350 RWD, 350 AWD and 350 F SPORT. Engines are the 3.5-liter V-6 with a choice of a six- or eight-speed transmission and the 467-horsepower F SPORT version with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that rockets from 0-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
The two-door RC 350 has a brash and self-assured design, heart-exhilarating performance, and is crafted with sumptuous luxury. The 2015 luxury sport coupe borrows common threads from the GS midsize luxury sedan, the IS sports sedan, and the limited-production LFA Supercar F SPORT.
The RC 350 is packed with all modern-day amenities, a collection of top electronics, and is set up with an ultra-stiff platform that endows its responsive handling. It brings several "Lexus firsts" in technology and production engineering developments. Among them is a signature paint color -- Infrared -- with a new contrast layering paint technique pioneered on concept vehicles; this is the first use for mass production.
It's also the first car in the Lexus stable to get a new blind-spot monitor system that detects vehicles from behind approaching at high speeds. Plus, it has a new version of the Lexus Remote Touch system that integrates navigation and other services via a touchpad controller mounted on the console.
Looking at the new models, you'll first notice Lexus' signature spindle grille at the face of the two-door RC, although it's longer and tauter across the coupe's low, wide nose. Likewise, trademark fish-hook-shaped LED daytime running lamps are integrated into the bumper below the main triangular headlamp housing that sports three lamps.
The 2015 Lexus RC sits on a 107.5-inch wheelbase and is sleek, swoopy, aerodynamic, finishing with a sweptback and sculpted backend; there are distinguishing trims for the standard RC 350 and the high-performance RC 350 F SPORT.
Moving inside this 2+2 sports coupe are a variety of touches, depending on the model; all interiors are bedecked with high-end, soft-touch materials, including real wood and leather. The front seats are not only comfortable, but also well-bolstered. Rear buckets are best suited for short passengers and short drives.
We had a chance to drive the exhilarating RC F SPORT at the Monticello Raceway in New York. This version has electronic suspension damping, rear-wheel steering, and throaty, high-performance exhaust note. Its V-8 engine achieves 467 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 389 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm and is matched to Lexus' SPDS eight-speed transmission.
It has a full torque-converter lock-up from second to eighth gears that allows "clutchless" manual shifting and downshifts that are 0.10-second in M mode. The transmission also has throttle-blipping control that matches the engine speed to the gear.
SPORT mode includes Lexus' G-sensor AI-Shift control that uses information from a G-sensor on vehicle's driving status in order to provide the optimal gear ratio for sporty driving. NORMAL mode enhances fuel economy by mapping the throttle to give smooth acceleration and slower gear shifts.
The mode select system tailors the RC's powertrain, electric power-assisted steering, and air conditioning. Suspension response in SPORT S+ mode boosts handling performance, with suspension changes and an available Dynamic Handling System on F SPORT models. The RC 350 gets NORMAL, SPORT S, and ECO modes.
During our highway drive, the most noticeable features of the RC F SPORT were its responsive, mannered drive; the quietness of the cockpit; the comfortable seats; and sumptuous, race-inspired trim.
At the race track, however, it was easy to lose ourselves in the potent sound; the driverless, super-smart features; and the crisp handling that gives absolute poise in corners. We also especially appreciated inspired performance driving featuring gear shifts aided by a Torsen limited-slip rear end, an optional torque vectoring differential, large Brembo brakes, plus a speed-activated rear wing.
Suggested pricing for the model line starts at $42,790; the top-of-the-line F SPORT starts at $62,400. Competitors include the BMW M4, Audi RS 5, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
Copyright © 2014 Motor Matters
|Base price||$62,400 (as tested: $63,325)|
|Curb weight||3,958 lbs.|
|Engine type||32-valve V-8 w/SFI|
|Epa mileage rating||16 mpg city, 25 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||17.4 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||467 at 7100 rpm|
|Overall length||185.2 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||389 at 4800 rpm|
|Vehicle type||4-passenger midsize RWD sports coupe|
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