MSRP: $49,295 ($58,615 as tested)
3.5L V6, 311HP, 280PF, RWD
Five years is a long time to wait to drive the Lexus RC 350, and while it is not the more-coveted RC F, the 2020 F Sport was a good start.
Confused? I’ll explain.
The Year 2015 was great in many respects, but it disappointed in one.
On the upside, that’s the year I started doing car reviews and sliding into automotive journalism, it’s the year The Great Georgia Airshow hosted the Blue Angels, and it’s the year we became a family of six en route to becoming a family of seven a few years later.
On the downside, it is also the year Lexus came out with its V8 RC F sports coupe, loaned one to each of the seven Blue Angels pilots during their stay in Georgia, but never got around to loaning one to me. Lexus also put the V6 RC 350 in showrooms in 2015, but again, I never got my hands on one. I did get to review a 2015 ES 350, mind you, and that was a lot of fun.
Since then, I’ve requested an RC, any RC, every year. I’ve reviewed many Lexus models over the last half-decade, but it was only in March of this year that Lexus, my favorite car maker, sent me the RC. To be exact, they sent me the 2020 RC 350 F Sport. It was worth the wait.
A few years ago, I wrote that the ES 350 is the quickest daily driver a man would ever need, and I still stand by that statement, but a man would be forgiven for walking past the ES and stepping into the RC. Same sized engine, but so much more fun to drive.
If you’re not familiar with Lexus, the ES is a sedan, which is an old word meaning four-door car. The RC 350 is a coupe, which is an old word meaning you just paid more money for a car with only half the doors.
One reason the RC is more fun than the ES is that the RC is rear-wheel drive. And in the case of the RC 350 we tested, it was also rear-wheel steer. No, not in the same way that forklifts are rear-wheel steer, but the RC’s rear wheels turn just enough at just the right times to help you change lanes more efficiently and to park more cleanly.
You’ll see in our YouTube review of the RC 350 that we really liked its torque in sport mode, and we were particularly impressed with how it looked, and how it made the roadway look, when the sun was down.
As for power, this is a 3.5-liter V6 delivering 280 pound-feet of torque. According to Lexus, the RC 350’s top speed is 143 MPH, and it can reach 60 MPH in 5.8 seconds. That’s not whiplash speed, but it’s quick enough for a luxury coupe.
As for performance, this is where the exterior and the interior work together nicely. First, it has the F SPORT bolstered front seats, which are both heated and vented. The seats in the RC 350 are gratefully wider than what you find in the Toyota 86 GT or the Mazda MX-5, but they still offer great support pushing through the turns. And then there’s the F SPORT-tuned suspension, which flattens the road’s tightest curves. Your tires are getting more bite and less bark, which suits us middle-aged enthusiasts just right.
A nice touch I appreciated is the metal foot pedals and the footrest where a clutch pedal might otherwise be located. When you’re paddle-shifting through the gears, your feet are solid.
This is a Lexus, so interior luxury expectations are going to be high, and the RC 350 did not disappoint. Those sporty seats I mentioned earlier are somewhat firm, but mostly comfortable. The leather itself is soft to the touch. The hand-stitched trim looks great, and it strikes that perfect balance between sport and luxury. And that’s what I think I love most about this car: it’s not all-out sporty nor all-out luxurious, but it is this perfect blend of both. It’s got what you need to arrive at the road course in style, though you’re not likely to put this vehicle on the track itself.
What you are going to do is enjoy one of the best sound systems on the market, especially if you get the optional Mark Levinson Audio Package with its 835 watts driving 17 speakers. More impressive to me than the number of speakers is the number of input devices, including the most important one: a CD player. Yes, in this day and time, Lexus still offers a CD player. We middle-agers love the CDs, and this is one more reason to love Lexus.
One other plug for this RC 350. It keeps the stick style cruise control. When other new cars are incorporating cruise into the steering wheel itself, a few are sticking with the stick, which is in every way superior. “Just saying,” as they say.
The exterior styling is also amazing. Every year, I think the Lexus cars can get any better looking, but then every year they do. Lexus SUVs are nice, but their cars are industry leaders in my book. Going back a couple of decades, and I (and pretty much everyone else) accused Lexus of trying to mimic Mercedes’ aesthetic. No more. Lexus designers in my humble opinion are outpacing designers of much more expensive cars.
Let’s get specific. The RC 350 looks like a beefed-up 86 GT. On the copy we tested, it had the 19-inch split-five-spoke alloys with orange F SPORT brake calipers glaring through. It’s got all the markings of a Lexus, but they manage to reconfigure the trademarks in new ways. You’ll have to see our YouTube video for yourself to get what we mean.