2017 Lexus RC 350 Review

The Japanese grand tourer is alive and well


Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer



Positives: Attractive and sleek exterior, stiff chassis, effortless cruising, easy to use infotainment system, and plenty of features.
Negatives: Feels a little heavy in turns, not as fast as rivals, less trunk space than the competition.
Bottom Line: The Lexus RC 350 is a sporty rear-drive coupe that's as luxurious as it is interesting to look at. Lexus has a comfortable, upscale and refined package in the RC. However, it's not the sportiest car out there. This is a car for the man or woman who likes to drive the occasional technical road but isn't interested in an all-out track monster. It's a coupe that sits between the hard-edged sports cars and the soft luxury cars.
Lexus has competed in the sport coupe arena for decades, and its cars usually erred on the side of luxury over sportiness. The RC changed that perception. It brought a truly sporty luxury coupe to the automaker's lineup in 2014. The regular RC comes in a few different models with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder or one of two different versions of the 3.5-liter V6. The tester we had was the RC 350, which came with the more powerful of the two V6 engines. It’s a kind of mid-range sports car spaced between the lower powered RC models and the track-monster RC F. Having driven the RC F before, we were excited to check out the RC 350. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

The Lexus RC 350 is simply a pleasurable car to drive. You get a powerful V6 engine that actually sounds good, a smooth ride, and responsive steering. We could tell right away that it’s a little on the softer side for the segment, but that didn’t really bother us. It’s nice to be behind the wheel of such a smooth and solid-feeling car. As long as you’re not racing other sports cars out there and just want to enjoy the drive, the Lexus RC 350 delivers. It’s a fun and refined car that doesn’t try to be the baddest on the block. If you want something a little sportier, you can add the F Sport package, or, if you have the money, upgrade to the beastly RC F.

Ride Quality: The RC 350 balances firmness and comfort well. The car’s suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease and does so without feeling too soft.

Acceleration: The RC 350 feels pretty fast, and it has a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. However, if you look at competitors, like the BMW 440i or the Cadillac ATS (V6), you’ll see that it’s lagging behind its rivals.

Braking: The brakes bring the coupe to a stop easily. They are progressive and firm, without any soft spots along the pedal’s travel.

Steering: The light and responsive steering makes the RC 350 easy to pilot around curves. We’re glad Lexus didn’t make the steering excessively and artificially hefty like some automakers do when they're trying to make a car feel sportier. Even in sport mode it was easy to turn the wheel.

Handling: For the most part, the RC corners well and handles its roughly 3,800 lb curb weight in the corners. Still, its weight can be felt and keeps the car from feeling like a true track competitor. With the F Sport package, it would undoubtedly handle better.

Technology

7.5

 

Lexus vehicles utilize the company’s Enform infotainment system, which is pretty good, but we’ve never really gotten used to Lexus’ weird touchpad mouse controllers. It seems, though, that Lexus finally decided to scrap the weird touch controller and opt for a dial-joystick controller. Aside from the RC 350’s new controller, the car gets plenty of features including Bluetooth connectivity, Enform’s app suite, and Sirius XM radio. The system lacked Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which should be available at this point in the game.

Infotainment System: The 7-inch infotainment screen provides clear graphics and an intuitive user interface. While other infotainment systems like the ones found in BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles appear more modern, the Enform system isn’t as labyrinthine as its competitor’s systems.

Controls: The much-improved dial-joystick controller is a lot like the controllers found in BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Mazda vehicles. It’s tactile and easy to use. Unlike the old touch-based controllers, you know when the system responds to your inputs. There are also a couple knobs, some small buttons on the dash by the climate controls, and steering wheel controls.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone in the RC 350 was simple and quick. We experienced no issues.

Voice Call Quality: Good call quality with no issues.

Styling

8.3

 

Lexus’ vehicles are definitely not boring. While the styling isn’t beautiful to everyone, there’s no way you can say the swooping lines down the side of the RC 350 aren’t eye-catching. Love it or leave it, you’re going to notice an RC coming down the street.

Front: The Lexus spindle grille is a bit of a sore spot for many of the company’s vehicles, but it seems to fit the RC well. The large grille takes up most of the car’s front and the aggressive headlights and barbed line of LED running lights complete a dynamic front end.

Rear: The rear of the car is a little busy due to the weird fins fitted to the bumper underneath the taillights, but it’s the most unattractive part of the car and we found ourselves not caring much.

Profile: The RC looks best from the side. The swooping lines run all the way down the car and accentuate its sport coupe shape.

Cabin: The interior is less polarizing than the exterior. It’s an attractive and upscale looking cabin with an analog clock sitting front and center, separating the infotainment screen from the climate controls. Everything looks like it belongs and there are no major eyesores. Also, Lexus included genuine wood trim, which helps spruce up the cabin.

Comfort

8.8

 

The RC 350 is the kind of car you can settle into for a long drive and really grow to enjoy. There’s plenty of soft-touch material, everything is ergonomically where it should be, and unwanted noises are kept to a minimum. The rear seats are cramped, but what two-door coupes aren’t?

Front Seats: The 10-way power adjustable front seats were well-padded, decently bolstered and clad in NuLux material. Legroom was plentiful, and there’s more than enough headroom and shoulder room.

Rear Seats: The rear seats offer good support and bolstering, but not nearly enough room for regular-sized adults. Kids will fit in these seats easily, but the average adult will find insufficient leg and head room.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RC is a quiet and solidly built vehicle. There is some tire noise that makes it into the cabin at highway speeds, but otherwise, we noticed no errant noises or vibrations.

Visibility: You sit low in a coupe like the RC so forward visibility is somewhat limited in traffic. However, forward sightlines are good and even seeing out the rear of the car isn’t too bad despite the somewhat small rear window. Of course, the backup camera helps considerably.

Climate: The automatic climate control cools off the cabin easily, and the heated and ventilated front seats are powerful as well.

Safety

9.2

 

The Lexus RC 350 isn’t just an attractive and sporty car, it’s also a safe vehicle. The NHTSA has not yet rated this car but the IIHS gave it top marks in its crashworthiness and crash avoidance and mitigation technology categories.

IIHS Rating: Top Saftey Pick+ with good ratings in every category except headlights where it received an “acceptable” rating.

NHTSA Rating: Not rated.

Standard Tech: The RC 350 comes with a fair amount of standard safety equipment, including 8 airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, vehicle dynamics integrated management, tire-pressure monitoring system, and a backup camera.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with just a few optional safety features, including a windshield deicer and headlamp cleanser, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

Storage/Cargo

6.5

 

Two-door coupes with sleek roof lines aren’t exactly known for their spacious cargo holds. The RC 350 is no different. In fact, it has one of the smaller trunks in its class. Also, the interior doesn’t offer many storage spaces either. If you were looking for a car that offers plenty of storage in a sporty package, this isn’t it.

Storage Space: The RC 350 has a small space in the center console for your phone, keys, or wallet. There’s also a couple of cup holders, but that’s about it. Anything else you want to bring along will have to go in the door pockets, glove box, or backseat.

Cargo Room: The 10.4 cubic foot trunk isn’t very spacious and offers only enough space to make a grocery run. If you were hoping to fit lots of luggage in this trunk, you’re going to have to fold down the rear seats and use the pass-through into the cabin.

Fuel Economy

7.1

 

The Lexus RC 350 does a decent job for a V6-powered coupe when it comes to fuel economy but the Cadillac ATS (V6) and the BMW 440i do better in terms of fuel economy by a few miles per gallon in both the city and on the highway. The EPA rates the RC 350 at 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Observed: We saw an average of 25.8 mpg.

Distance Driven: 552 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove primarily on the highway. Our city driving was in heavy stop and go traffic. While we did a lot of highway driving, we never got over 26 mpg.

Audio

8.5

 

The 10-speaker premium audio system in the RC 350 is very good and provided rich, full-bodied sound to all areas of the cabin. If you would like an upgraded system, Lexus offers a Mark Levinson premium package for $2,550 that comes with 17 Clari-Fi High-efficiency speakers including a subwoofer. As good as that sounds, unless you’re an audiophile, we don’t see the need for it.



Final Thoughts

The Lexus RC 350 is an attractive and upscale coupe that offers sporty driving characteristics in a comfortable package. It’s not as fast as its competitors from Cadillac or BMW, but if you’re interested in a coupe that offers a premium interior, solid build quality, and Lexus’ reliability record, it’s an excellent choice. If you’re interested in the car but want something sportier, you can upgrade to the RC 350 F Sport or jump all the way to the RC F.

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