Where else would you take a lurid orange Lexus RC350 for a weekend drive? To the sleepy off-season beachside hamlet of Hawks Nest – a lazy 3 hour drive north from Sydney. A weekend of eating and drinking saw the RC350 only get called into duty a few times for trips to and from the beach.
Look, I have to say: this was it. The RC350 is a surprisingly capable and enjoyable highway tourer with the added benefit – especially in the CarAdvice orange hue – of being eye candy for other motorists. Plenty of glances our way (some of which, I admit, did seem disappointed that this was not the hairy chested, V8-powered RC F) made stepping out more fun that I had expected.
Well, that's the real question with this car.
The more cynical would argue that a two-door V6 Camry in a really nice suit is never going to be anything other than mildly warm. However, I’m going to take a more honest approach based on my time with the RC350, being that visually it has all the goods to be hot enough to fool most of the people all of the time. The horizontal Nike tick LED daytime running lights work very well indeed with the brazen trapezoid front grill and tech-inspired angular exterior cues. Plus the colour just works for me.
All the looks of the RC F for $50K less is sort of hot, too - if bargains are your thing.
Now, what is not so hot is … well… how to say this without being rude? Frankly the RC350 is a tad porky.
Weighing in at a hefty 1740 kilograms, this is one coupe that feels every bit as heavy as it really is. While the 3.5-litre V6 engine punches out 233kW of power and 376Nm of torque the fact is that this car never really feels as quick as its 0-100km/h claim of 6.3 seconds suggests.
The RC350 feels like a mature product, with high quality perforated leather seats (heated and cooled) that offer exactly the right amount of support for both long distance driving and shorter more spirited hops.
Back seat accommodation was better than expected with four full-sized adults being happy for short trips – although the gymnastics required for entry and egress is never going to be elegant in a swoopy-roofed coupe. Its large and deep boot easily handled a weekend's worth of luggage.
Less convincing is the Lexus touch sensitive trackpad with haptic (imagine a tap back when you mouse over menu items) feedback. Why anyone would think that a trackpad makes ergonomic sense in a moving, bouncing, and yawing vehicle is beyond me. At 110km/h on the freeway it makes using the otherwise good RC350 infotainment system far more of chore than it should be.
It looks good and is far cheaper than any of its German rivals. It's the thinking man’s RC F, where you get 95 per cent of the visuals and 80 per cent of the go for a lot less dough.
The Mark Levinson DAB+ stereo pumped out good clear bass and razor sharp treble: I liked it a lot.
High levels of cabin refinement, and a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission combined well with the punchy V6 to deliver driving dynamics that were surprisingly engaging.
Probably the most annoying was that the electric seat adjustment failed on the way out of Sydney, leaving the RC350 perfectly setup for myself at 6’1”, but not so much for my 5’1” wife.
The touchpad interface became less annoying over time spent in the car by simply avoiding the need to use it. Thankfully the majority of menus are also accessible via the steering wheel controls and viewable via the highly configurable TFT binnacle display, leaving the central display and its finicky touchpad relatively redundant.
Ah. No. This coupe is for those where the family have grown up and flown the coop already.
The RC350 would by osmosis have to be the most low maintenance sports coupe in the known universe.
With a naturally aspirated powerplant directly related to that found in such vehicles such as the Toyota Aurion and Kluger, this is a mechanically proven, simple and ultra-reliable sports car as anyone could hope to own… unless, of course, the seat stops working.
The central satellite navigation interface is dated to the point of looking Atari vintage, and it jars against the better resolved interface on the driver's TFT display.
The engine note does not match the promise of the looks for the majority of the operating range, only just coming on song with a rising V6 snarl when pushed hard.
In a parallel universe somewhere there may just be an alternate, more fiscally-conservative version of myself that would jump at the attractive and comparative bargain that is the RC350.
Unfortunately the reality is I crave more excitement from my sports coupes than the angular RC350 can deliver, so while it has been fun, it is bye-bye.
The Audi A5/S5 and the BMW 4 Series would be my go-to choices, although right now I’d be waiting until the new Mercedes C-Class Coupe goes on sale - even if it doesn't arrive until next year.
A car lover that does not love cars would love to own this car. Or someone who wants a grown-up Toyota 86.