The 2015 Lexus RC 350’s 306-horsepower V-6 delivers a satisfying kick in the pants, the handsomely proportioned coupe body exudes performance and the cockpit-style interior surrounds you with comfort. But the “spindle” grille that looks a bit like a scowling catfish leaves me cold.
Variations on this face now appear on nearly every Lexus model in one form or another as part of the company’s design language. I presume the look is intended to appeal to a younger audience and perhaps help Lexus overcome past criticism that its cars lacked a sporty enough character. Lexus calls the RC 350’s styling “audacious,” but I think the grille disturbs the elegant lines that are carried throughout the rest of the vehicle. Would it stop me from buying one? Probably not, because so much of the car is right.
There’s no doubt the RC 350 turns heads, as I found out after driving it for a week. I received several thumbs-up waves from folks on the street so perhaps I’m one of the few who thinks the grille is overdone. The long-hood, short-trunk profile is archetypical sport coupe in the way it emphasizes the power of the engine. The scoops next to the grille and the faux vents in the back fenders are obviously only for decoration but bother me less than the grille. Many of the design cues came from the out-of-production LFA supercar that had a price of $375,000.
The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe starts at $42,790. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shifters on the steering column. The all-wheel-drive that would be much better suited to winter climates begins at $45,025. It has a six-speed automatic.
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An F Sport version starts at $47,875 for rear-wheel drive and $49,705 for all-wheel drive.
The F Sport was created for enthusiasts who want items such as variable suspension, Lexus Dynamic Handling with rear-wheel steering and variable-ratio steering. The F Sport gets a unique texture in the grille and 19-inch wheels.
Crisp handling is one of the RC 350’s main attributes. While not as performance-oriented as the F Sport, it still responds as if it knows what you have in mind. The chassis platform is a mix of GS and IS sedan segments and it is stiff and tight. The ride is not overly harsh. The driver can select Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow driving modes.
In many respects, the interior of the RC 350 reminded me of the IS 250 sedan. The instrument panel looks somewhat similar, as do the controls. The deep bucket seats fit me perfectly. On vehicles equipped with navigation, a clever touchpad on the center console uses tap, pinch and flick gestures to control audio, navigation and other systems. Bluetooth connectivity for telephone and audio streaming is standard.
The RC’s blind-spot monitor not only alerts the driver to cars alongside but also to cars that are approaching in adjacent lanes. The rearview camera also has cross-traffic alert that is very useful for backing out of parking lot spaces.
Four years or 50,000 miles, with a six-year, 72,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the test car was $42,790. Options included blind-spot monitor, rearview camera, navigation, fog lamps, parking assist, special paint and moonroof. The sticker price was $48,450.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com
2015 Lexus RC 350
Engine: 3.5-liter, 306-horsepower V-6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 107.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,748 pounds
Base price: $42,790
As driven: $48,450
MPG rating: 19 in the city, 28 on the highway