The new Lexus RC range comes with both a polarising design and sporty engine. But, does the interior styling match the exterior design?
Entry-level cars such as the Lexus RC350 Luxury are often a somewhat sad affair. They’re sometimes drab and lack the cool features and trademark styling of their more premium siblings. There’s always a sense of self-pity as you pull up at the traffic lights alongside somebody that spent more money on their big purchase — Porsche Boxster owners, we feel for you.
Lexus avoids this entirely by loading its cars to the hilt with features — even base variants. The Lexus RC350 Luxury is no exception, nestled at the entry-level of the Lexus RC range with a starting price of $66,000. The RC range extends to two other naturally aspirated V6 models, the RC350 F Sport and Sports Luxury, priced at $74,000 and $86,000 respectively.
Read our recent review of the F Sport version here.
The top-end of the RC range is reserved for the naturally aspirated V8 RC F moniker, which is priced from $133,500 (all prices quoted exclude on-road costs).
From the outside, it takes a real trainspotter to realise this is an entry-level car. The RC 350 Luxury gets 18-inch alloy wheels along with the same adventurous and angular styling of its more expensive siblings.
Both the front and rear ends are decked out with LED lights — the front including ‘tick’ shaped daytime running lights. The side profile also features body chisels and chrome highlights to help it stand out in traffic.
Disappointingly, the exterior styling flair doesn’t flow through to the interior, which is more traditional Lexus than futuristic Lexus. An excessive number of buttons, along with a plethora of dashboard surfaces and angles upsets the otherwise premium feel of the cabin.
The fit-and-finish and build quality is exceptional, but doesn’t feel as luxurious or prestigious as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (which will be the base used in the new-generation C-Class Coupe premiering later this year) or the BMW 4 Series.
The main disappointment within the cabin is the infotainment system. Comprising a small seven-inch LCD screen and a finger operated mouse touchpad with haptic feedback; the system is clumsy and lacks the ingenuity of something like BMW’s iDrive. The finger pad’s haptic feedback is a confusing and redundant feature given you need to glance at the screen to see which button is selected upon feeling feedback through your finger.
While the RC range receives kudos for including digital radio across the range, the ten-speaker sound system fitted to RC350 Luxury leaves a lot to be desired. Lacking bass and high-frequency clarity, the level of setting adjustment isn’t enough to get the most out of the speakers. Every other model in the RC range comes with the renowned 835W 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, which is exceptional by comparison.
Nevertheless, at $66K the RC350 is pretty well-priced against the 180kW BMW 428i, which costs $81,000.
Like most vehicles in this segment, rear seat legroom isn’t amazing — but it’s better than we expected it to be. Getting in and out is fairly straightforward and the two seats are big enough to comfortably sit two adults side-by-side. Headroom is good and there are four ISOFIX anchorage points, along with rear air vents.
The second row of seats fold flat in a 60:40 formation, which is handy when carrying larger items that won’t fit in the boot. The boot caters for 423 litres of volume, which is 22 litres less than the BMW 4 Series.
Built with drivers in mind, the Lexus RC is an attempt to straddle the line between sportiness and luxury. Under the bonnet is a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 engine that produces 233kW of power and 378Nm of torque. The engine sends torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Performance is hampered by its portly 1740kg kerb weight. Despite this, it manages to sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.1-seconds, but uses a considerable 9.4L/100km on the combined cycle, which is higher than its turbocharged German competitors.
Behind the wheel, the RC350 feels sportiest high in the rev range. The V6 engine produces peak power and torque above 4500rpm, meaning that you need to be committed on the throttle to get the most out of it. At those engine speeds the engine sounds great and produces a burly exhaust note at the same time.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is very smooth, which is typical Lexus, and manages to perform well in its sport mode and when called upon using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Gearshifts are quick with raspy barks from the engine on downshifts.
Steering feel is great with a direct rack and electrically assisted steering. The same goes for the brakes. Brake pedal feel is excellent with immediate and progressive feel, even after a more gruelling run.
The body sits flat through corners but can become unsettled with mid-corner bumps. The ride errs more on the side of plush rather than sporty, which can upset the car when changing directions quickly. That being said, it performs beautifully around the city and within the urban sprawl.
Front and rear visibility from the main pew is good, but it’s sometimes hard to judge the length of the bonnet given the low driving position. Front parking sensors help avoid a kerb-related parking faux pas.
The Lexus RC350 Luxury is a good car in isolation. Yes, it doesn't provide the driving thrills of a 4 Series, and though it has all the ingredients to be a good mix between sports and luxury, it doesn’t exactly excel in either department. The interior feels a little underdone, while the engine can be thirsty and needs revs to be playful.
But if you have your heart set on a Lexus RC, there is certainly no shame in opting for the entry-level RC350 Luxury. It comes with the bulk of its dearer sibling’s features, without the higher asking price, and is a sharp-looking and eminently comfortable luxury coupe.