FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Lexus RC
Going hard in the paint with solid results.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: September 26th, 2014
The 2015 Lexus RC is an ambitious car. Instead of going with the same formula as the last generation and just creating an IS Coupe, Lexus pulled out an entirely new vehicle (composed of three current vehicles), and the automaker even pulled out a new badge, just for this coupe. All it takes is one quick glance at the Lexus RC to realize that Lexus has taken the typically conservative IS Coupe and taken it in a completely different direction - a direction that involves sportiness, the likes of which we haven't seen on a Lexus product in some time. It practically screams, "Drive me at the track!" That's exactly what the media did, too; Lexus brought us to upstate New York to see how the RC performs, both on the road and on the track.
How did it do? Well, it looks like you're in the right place to have that question answered.
Even though the front end of the 2015 Lexus RC is technically also the front end of the Lexus GS, the automaker saw fit to keep the RC/IS comparisons alive by reworking the current IS interior to fit the RC. All the familiar shapes are there - the round protuberances that make up the passenger side of the dashboard, the slanting HVAC controls that are often hidden by rogue shadows ... even the Lexus LFA-inspired gauges are still there (so long as you check the right option boxes ... otherwise, the RC 350's base-model gauges are pretty standard-looking).
The RC 350 and the RC F share most interior parts, although the RC F's panels have touches of ultrasuede in places where leather or soft plastic suffice on the base model (by feel alone, we actually prefer the RC 350). That said, on both cars, no matter where you rest your arm, it's somewhere with a good feel to it. The introduction of the mouse-replacing Lexus infotainment touchpad frees up some space compared to the IS, and while it's a little less intuitive than the mouse was, it's still easy to use while on the road.
The word "ambitious" once again comes to mind. Lexus isn't exactly known for creating designs that leap off the page and attempt to kick you in the goolies, the exception being the LFA. That seems to be where Lexus pulled a great deal of its design language from. The hood is long, the rear end is strong, and the lines along the side of the car accentuate the haunches without getting too boy-racer about itself. Sure, it gets a little closer to an extra from Akira as you move up the trim-level ladder, but given the RC F's under-hood powerplant, it's not like it's tarted up for zero reason. Each trim level looks appropriately (and, more importantly, distinctly) styled. If you're not too keen on it in pictures, give it a look in person, and your mind will probably change.
Also, props to Lexus for making the RC F's fake tailpipes far more believable than the IS F's were. It's much harder to see the actual tailpipes behind the tips this time around.
On the Road (RC 350)
In short, Lexus nailed it with the RC's driving feel. We'll start with the RC 350. Whether you purchase the rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive variant, the RC is a positively composed piece of metal, ready to soak up highway miles without any fuss. Of course, if you want to make a fuss, you still can, but driving with comfort in mind is so great that it's tough (but not impossible) to justify the wasted gas. With the same 3.5-liter V-6 that we've enjoyed in other Lexus products providing just the right amount of engine noise when the gas pedal is pushed into the firewall, the RC 350 is a solid grand tourer for the frugal set. The car's heft actually does it some favors here, adding to the vehicle's solid feeling without turning it into a total pig when the going gets curvy. No matter what sort of road you're on, though, the RC never feels uncomfortable.
Hell, even on the track, the RC 350 provides for a lovely experience. The AWD system does a great job shuffling it through corners (we didn't test the rear-drive RC 350 on the track), but it lacks the low-end grunt of the RC F's V-8, so it can suffer on corner exit if the revs are too low. The brakes are also fairly susceptible to heat-induced fade. For a car that's far more likely to be parked in a mall garage than a track paddock, though, we're not going to count those things against the RC 350.
On the Road (RC F)
Where the RC 350 is soft and warm, the RC F is ... well, only slightly less soft and warm. It's not a complete track-day menace, nor is it a track car that's been outfitted (however barely) for the road - like, say, the new BMW M4. Instead, the RC F comports itself as a fast-but-heavy grand tourer that will give its driver plenty of excitement on the track, should he choose to go there. The RC F subscribes to the realistic idea that, in all likelihood, many RC Fs will never even see a red-and-white-painted curb, and so it's built with the road in mind, first and foremost. And it does a damn fine job on those roads. The heft, as mentioned with the RC 350, keeps the car feeling solid and composed in all manner of driving, yet it's not like the Challenger Hellcat, which feels like somebody strapped a scramjet to a lead bathtub. The RC F rewards its driver's judicious throttle use with a mix of induction and exhaust noise that provides a welcome respite from today's collection of muted turbo V-8s.
Once we hit the track, the RC F's spry chassis really came alive. Despite the car's heft, the steering wheel responds well to input; the RC F will squat and tackle corners with almost surprising immediacy. The car felt delightfully neutral in corners (especially with the optional torque-vectoring differential), a quality that makes you wonder if you're not driving fast enough to keep the car entertained. It begs to be driven harder, harder, harder, god damn it, HARDER! It wants you to be a better driver. There aren't too many cars like that. The M4, for example, will chew you up and spit you out if you so much as look at the steering wheel the wrong way. Not so with the RC F; it's powerful and capable, yet it's strangely welcoming.
We think the biggest issue with the 2015 Lexus RC is its backseat. Yes, there are two seats back there; however, like the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, those seats are almost entirely for show. Kids should fit just fine, but if you want to take three of your grown-ass buddies on a road trip, you're going to see some dirty, dirty fighting for shotgun.
Other than that, though, we walked away from our (admittedly short) time with the Lexus RC family very, very pleased. It's a determined step in the right direction, one that pulls the Lexus name away from the stodgy pillows that everyone thinks the automaker is doomed to make for eternity. Well, good news, folks, Lexus can make sporty cars, and it can make them for a damned decent price, undercutting nearly every car in its segment. Well done, Lexus.
Specs & Price (RC 350)
Engine: 3.5-liter, direct-injected, naturally-aspirated V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (RWD); Six-speed automatic (AWD)
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel or rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 306 horsepower / 277 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg, mfr. estimate): 19 city / 26 (AWD) or 28 (RWD) highway
Base Price: $42,790
All-Weather Package: Headlight washers, PTC heater, windshield de-icer
Luxury Package: Blind spot monitor, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, leather interior surfaces, auto-dimming side mirrors, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, seat and steering wheel position memory
F Sport Package: Adaptive variable suspension, sport pedals, black headliner, 19-inch wheels, front fender badges, sports seats with contrast stitching, heated and ventilated front seats, power tilt/telescope steering column, driver's seat memory, upgraded brake pads, LFA-inspired instrument cluster, heated leather steering wheel, optional adjustable steering weight
Individual options: 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, blind spot monitor, heated and ventilated front seats, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with pre-collision system, LED foglamps, power moonroof, navigation with backup camera
Specs & Price (RC F)
Engine: 5.0-liter, direct-injected, naturally-aspirated V-8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 467 horsepower / 389 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg, mfr. estimate): 16 city / 25 highway
Base Price: $62,400
Premium Package: Heated and ventilated front seats, speed-sensing rear spoiler, carbon fiber interior trim, blind spot monitor, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, water-repellent side windows, seat position memory
Performance Package: Torque-vectoring rear differential, carbon fiber roof, carbon fiber rear spoiler
All-Weather Package: Windshield deicer, headlight washers, heated steering wheel
Mark Levinson Package: Navigation system with Mark Levinson premium surround-sound audio
Individual Options: Leather-trimmed seats, power moonroof, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with pre-collision system, LED headlamps, navigation
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Lexus RC 350, click here: 2015 Lexus RC 350.