Road Trip In The Lexus RC350 F Sport

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The Lexus RC350 has an aggressive exterior and aims to attack the coupes from its German rivals. The F Sport package gives it better handling and a more menacing look. As a Lexus and not a Caterham, it’s required to strike the right balance between comfort and handling.  I originally planned to take the RC350 F Sport to an autocross event but the car had to be rescheduled and ended up arriving the weekend before a road trip. The logical choice for the six hour round trip  to a wedding would’ve been to take my Cadillac STS or their Toyota Camry but I convinced them that we should ride in the RC350.

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The slim proportions of the backseat of the RC350 and hundreds of miles to travel threatened to strain my relationship with the inlaws, but the result were quite the opposite. My wife and mother-in-law took the the back seat while I drove and my father-in-law rode shotgun.  I am 6’2″ and my wife at 5’8″ was able to sit comfortably behind me. My in-laws are slightly shorter than both of us so they were even better off on the other side of the car. My wife was even able to set up a pillow in the back seat to nap on the way back.
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While I usually don’t see the point of multiple driving modes in most cars, they made sense here as the RC350 attempts to hit that grand touring bulls eye between sports car and luxury cruiser. The modes include Eco, Standard, Sport, and Sport+ which adjust various parameters of the tune and suspension. In my time I only used the Eco and Sport+ modes and I think having just those two would be plenty. I used the Sport+ mode while I took it around a few of my favorite back roads and the increased handling as well as added road feel was noticeable. It performed in a manner that allowed you to take it a bit further towards its limits.
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The Eco mode was used almost exclusively while we traveled since it provided the best fuel mileage and comfort in my testing. According to the on-board trip computer we were able to beat EPA fuel economy estimates averaging 29 MPG during our highway driving for the trip. I reset the computer once we got into town and even in some stop and go traffic we were still able to get about 23 MPG. This works out to a pretty good average considering that the car weighs over 3700 lbs and had 4 occupants. I am sure 30 MPG on the highway is attainable with a little lighter driving. In comparison, driving around the back roads in Sport+ mode netted me right around 18 MPG.
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The 2GR-FSE engine is shared with a few of its Lexus stablemates and puts out 306 horsepower. While the RC350 is quite peppy, its no speed demon.  It feels a bit slower than the gold standard BMW 435i, and would use just a bit more to push it aside. The 8-speed automatic transmission is quite smooth and will respond quickly if you put it in manual mode via the paddle shifters. Overall, it accelerated well for some spirited driving and quick highway passing. The exhaust was also quite good and could even be heard inside the well-insulated cabin of the RC350 [Five minutes of research suggests this noise is actual, real noise, not faked through the stereo! – Ed].  Driving down the road, I noticed many passers-by staring at the car and looking intently at the front of it as they passed to see what badge it carried.  It had the same reception when we arrived to our destination with a crowd of teenagers gathering around it at one point and discussing how fast it must be.
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The interior of the model I tested was appointed quite well and the F Sport package even added heated and cooled seats which got a bit of use on our trip.  The seats were quite comfortable even for me and adjusted well.  The navigation system was used for the majority of our trip and worked well once the information was entered.  Entering the information was a bit of chore using the trackpad in the center console as it likes to fly all over the place at times and using anything other than the steering wheel controls while moving is not recommended.  The Bluetooth connection worked well and my wife happily held DJ duties from her phone for most of the trip.  The best part of the interior was the LFA style cluster with the moving gauge which allowed you to slide the tachometer to the right to show additional information like street directions or fuel economy.  The one thing that was odd about the interior is that even with so many options ticked, there were still multiple switch blanks on the left side of the dash.
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The base car starts out at $42,790 but the addition of the $3,385 F Sport, the $2,610 Mark Levinson Premium Audio and a few smaller options pushed the price of my tester to $53,880.  The RC350 F Sport can hold its own on the track and the back roads while backing up its luxury badge with interior comfort.  It strikes the balance well and will find a home with a class of buyer who wants the comfort and luxury while knowing in the back of their mind that the car has some performance credentials and could hold its own on the track.

Specs

Engine: 3.5L V6 2GR-FSE
Power/Torque: 306-hp / 277 lb-ft
Transmission: Automatic (8 Speed)
Drivetrain: RWD
Curb Weight: 3748 lbs.
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 MPG (19 City / 28 Highway)
Fuel Economy During Test: 23 MPG City / 29 MPG Highway
Test Duration: 520 Miles
Base Price: $42,790
Total Price As Tested: $53,880
(Full disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle and a full tank of gas for the purposes of this review.)
Images Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Bozi Tatarevic

0 Comments

  1. Teenagers hanging around the car and wondering how fast it might be should make the Lexus crew ecstatic – it might be the whole point of this design. Amazing how messy the front and rear are, while the profile actually looks quite neat. It is surprising that the car will carry four adults so nicely.

    1. The teenagers I know would use their phones to find it out – if they’d care about it in the first place. One more reason to be ecstatic!

      1. If it wasn’t for the NIKE swoosh lights that are aesthetically and functionally offensive, it would be a pretty classic sports car. But I’m also wary not to take the criticism as far as signing a post with “all hail the Solara”.

      1. Current gen RAV4. It reminds me of the AE81 Corolla sedan my family had from 1984-1992. So many blanks, even in the LE trim. One blank was a switch for the rear wiper in the Corolla hatchback.

    1. I made the mistake to call a 130hp car fast in front of a bunch of car guys a couple of years ago. The laughter made me realize that “slow car fast” isn’t universally desirable. On the other hand, why spin the tires at 80kph in 2nd?

      1. I mean, even Miata.net was raging about the ND having 155 hp in the US. (Until the performance figures came out saying that it was almost as fast as an EcoBoost Mustang. But then some people still said “but I’d still rather have 170 hp”.)

  2. More than anything, I just don’t know why I’d take an RC over the better looking IS.

  3. “… there were still multiple switch blanks on the left side of the dash.” A constant reminder there are many more options of which to choose…cheapskate.

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