Christopher Little

Less Is More: 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport

After several years’ hiatus, Lexus has returned to the coupe market. The all new RC enters into competition with the new BMW 4 series, Audi A5, and Cadillac ATS Coupe. Unlike those other two and their 4-door counterparts, the RC doesn’t share its underpinnings with the IS sedan. Lexus fused the front end of the excellent GS sedan with the wheelbase of the IS-C and the rear end of the new IS. That’s because the RC350 we have here is actually not the top-end model. The new RC-F jams a 5.0L V8 underhood, which might explain the departure from the IS front end.

Lexus RC350 FSport 3

Before we draw and competitive comparisons, we feel it necessary to judge it against one of its own family members. We have plenty of experience with the new Lexus IS. Our first test, in the IS350 AWD, revealed a capable handler that felt just a bit tepid when it came to performance. However, our follow-up with the IS350 F Sport left us far more satisfied. So how does the RC stack up against the IS?

Lexus RC350 FSport 7

The RC350 F Sport AWD feels less like the IS350 F Sport and more like the IS350 AWD we tested. It suffers from the same footwell intrusion that the IS AWD does. And like the IS AWD, the RC AWD utilizes the same 6-speed automatic instead of the RWD’s 8-speed. In fact, both cars share the same steering and brakes as well. Despite the wider front track and F Sport suspension tweaks, the IS350 AWD and RC350 F Sport AWD are almost dynamically identical. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as we really enjoyed the precision and balance of both cars. Though in the winter cold, the RC did present more understeer than the IS.

Lexus RC350 FSport 21

The RC350’s weakness is the same as the IS350: the engine. We won’t say the 3.5L V6 is under-powered, 306hp is right on average for its class. But with only 277 lb-ft , it does lack torque. Lexus’ competition uses either turbochargers or superchargers on smaller displacement engines. While Lexus has made inroads into forced induction with the turbocharged 4-cylinder in the NX200t, they’re still a few years behind the curve. The RC350 just doesn’t excite. It sounds sporty in the upper revs and it holds firm to the cold pavement, but it’s missing the push-you-into-your-seat kick that it needs.

Lexus RC350 FSport 12

Inside, the RC holds up to the high Lexus standard. Like the drivetrain, most of the interior is very similar to the IS. The exception, for the better, are the new sport seats. They simultaneously provide contoured comfort on long drives while offering enough bolstering to keep you from sliding around. Our tester also came equipped with the superb Mark Levinson sound system. We haven’t heard a finer system in its class.

Lexus RC350 FSport 6

Don’t’ get us wrong, we like the new RC. But it gives us more of a grand touring vibe than a sport coupe. It’s very luxurious, filled with creature comforts, and offers plenty of room in the trunk. And, despite our benchmarking of the IS, doesn’t stand to compete with any sedans. With two less doors and different underpinnings, the RC is comparable, but has much more upward potential. When dialed up to sport, it becomes a deft handler, but fails to excite the way the S5 did. Of course, this isn’t the RC’s final form. When the weather finally breaks, we’ll have our time with the RC-F. With a punchy V8 underhood and a limited slip rear differential, it should provide the extra kick we’re craving.

-Christopher Little

2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport AWD
F Sport Package $3,580
Navigation Package w/ Mark Levinson Premium Audio $2,610
Power Moonroof $1,100
Pre-Collision System w/ Radar Cruise Control $500
Park Assist $500
LED Foglamps $410
Destination Charges $925
As Tested MSRP $54,650

Even Better: 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport
Just Right: 2014 Lexus IS350 AWD
The Founding F: 2013 Lexus IS-F


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