One brand that gives the luxury German carmakers a big run for their money is undoubtedly Lexus. The Japanese brand has an aggressive suite of models in all categories, including in the niche two-door, four-seat luxury sports coupe market. Aptly named the “Radical Coupe”, or the RC, the rear-wheel drive ripper goes up against the likes of the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series.
2019 brought a minor update to the RC lineup, with revisions to styling and features. You can still opt for the RC 300, which comes with a 180kW/350Nm 2.0L turbo petrol engine; or the RC 350, which comes with a 232kW/380Nm 3.5L V6 petrol. There’s also the top-of-the-range RC F, which comes with a 351kW/530Nm 5.0-litre V8.
There is no option for a manual gearbox as all models are matched to an eight-speed auto and, as it should be, all variants are driven by the rear wheels. Here we’re testing the RC 350 F Sport, for which prices begin at $77,321 (plus on-roads).
2020 Lexus RC 350 F Sport – THE SPECS
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Output: 232kW@6600rpm / 380Nm@4800-4900rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive, limited-slip diff, rear-wheel steering
Wheels: 19-inch alloy, F: 235/40 R: 265/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Kerb weight: 1740kg
Power-to-weight: 7.5:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 9.1L/100km
Economy during test: 9.7L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 66L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 25.49kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.55 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.04 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.93 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.23 seconds at 155.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.795g
100-0km/h braking: 3.06 seconds at 39.34 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.166g
Decibel at idle: 47*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 85*
Priced from: $77,321
* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different
2020 Lexus RC 350 F Sport – THE PACKAGE
Although the RC is technically a sports car (according to VFACTS), it still has the soul of a luxury car. This means you get all the bells and whistles. That includes lots of the latest active driving safety systems such as low- and high-speed forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping aid, and distance-controlled cruise control.
Going for the F Sport adds selectable driving modes, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, auto dipping and cornering headlights, a 17-speaker premium sound system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital radio, and wireless phone charging. The F Sport also adds Dynamic Rear Steering, performance brakes with four-spot front calipers, and a limited-slip differential. Surprisingly, it does miss out on rear collision mitigation, yet it still comes with a CD player (LOL).
Design-wise, the RC 350 is sharp and sexy from every angle. It goes for a swooping, low, aerodynamic look from front to rear, and adopts many distinctively-Lexus angles and edges and bold LED lighting shapes to exert a strong and athletic look. We love it. And staying familiar with the Lexus design language, you will notice the prominent mesh ‘spindle’ front grille that spans from the bonnet all the way down to the front skirt. At night, the shadows from the precise LED lights make the RC look even sexier.
In typical two-door coupe fashion, getting in and out can be a strenuous task. The doors are large and the ground clearance is low, with a low roofline. It can be especially tricky if you have a bag to load in with you. But once you’re in, you’re held snug into position like a race car driver. The dash and dials are within easy reach to create a driver-centric environment, although some of the design is starting to show signs of age as most of it is unchanged from the previous model.
We love how the large dial within the digital instrument cluster electronically moves to the side when you open the menu. It adds a Swiss-army knife level of sophistication to the cockpit. The leather and materials all feel top-of-class in quality too, with only some of the plastic parts painted in a silvery-gold looking a little outdated.
You can navigate most of the on-board functions from the 10.3-inch multimedia screen that can also spilt into two menus. It is controlled by a fiddley trackpad that guides the screen pointer using vibrations over the in-screen buttons. Even after using it solidly for a week, we still found it cumbersome and a little distracting. But the screen itself is magnificently clean and bright. It would be nice if they included the 12.3-inch screen seen in the recent RX update, although that would probably require a fairly serious dash redesign.
If you want to do your shopping in the RC 350, you’ll be happy to know that the boot measures at a decent 374 litres. Rear seating is where space is tight. But we expect that from a two-door sporty coupe. In comparison to the main rivals, the RC’s rear headroom and legroom shape up quite well.
All Lexus models come with a four-year/100,000km warranty, and an owner’s experience that is one of the best on the market. You’ll also be happy to know that Lexus continually wins those big JD Power dependability customer surveys. Servicing of the RC 350 is required every 12 months or 15,000km.
2020 Lexus RC 350 F Sport – THE DRIVE
Even though the RC 350 V6 is not the top line engine, it still provides an exhilarating drive. The Toyota-based ‘2GR’ 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 is ready and willing, and loves a good rev when you command it. It doesn’t hesitate to drop a few ratios and attack, either. And it sounds amazing when it does. Being naturally aspirated, it’s an engine that encourages you to explore the top end rev range, which is a rare thing these days. But it does mean maximum torque doesn’t kick in until 4800rpm.
Our tests revealed a best 0-100km/h time of 7.04 seconds. It is officially timed at 6.1 seconds, which is slower than some of the 2.0 turbo rivals from Germany, but even so 7.04 seconds isn’t hanging around. The eight-speed auto is brilliantly refined and organised. It seems to know what gear is best at all times, with no time wasted during gear changes.
We had the most fun kicking the V6 back on bendy country roads rather than unleashing its performance from a standstill. Feeling the rear wheels push you around corners is the where the RC struts its best stride. By all means, you will have no trouble dashing ahead of city traffic, but it’s the dynamics out on the open road that you’ll love most.
Regarding the driving dynamics, the RC 350 is expectedly low to the ground. Which means body roll around corners is almost non-existent. This means you can tackle corners with absolute confidence and accuracy. When sport mode is selected, you can throw the rear around a little more and enjoy the higher-rev gear changes and increased throttle response. The F Sport’s adaptive variable suspension also goes into a tauter setting to further brace the platform. At the same time, the suspension absorbs sudden bumps surprisingly well for a low and sporty car. In fact, we’d say it is the most comfortable setup in the class.
There is plenty of communication between you and the road through steering wheel. And the combination of a weighty feel and four-wheel steering means you only have to turn the wheel slightly to get the car pointing in the desired direction.
In today’s day of small four-cylinder pocket rockets, a big V6 won’t stand up well in the fuel consumption department. Officially, it burns 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle. Our average rated at 9.7L/100km. When driven harder the average increases very quickly.
2020 Lexus RC 350 F Sport – THE VIDEO
2020 Lexus RC 350 F Sport – THE VERDICT
Lexus continues to put notable effort in making sure the RC 350 is an exhilarating car for driving enthusiasts. The combination of the roar of a V6 with power delivered to the rear wheels, and handling that almost feels like you’re gliding on a cloud, this Lexus will have you taking those country drives more often. Just, we’d love to see a more user-friendly multimedia setup.
– F Sport Dynamic Rear Steering means it glides around corners
– 17-speaker sound system with F Sport
– Exceptional road manners, especially over bumps
– Built to very high quality standards
– Nice naturally aspirated V6
– Media screen trackpad is fiddley
– Fuel usage is high for the level of performance it provides
– Some of the interior is starting to age
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