The 2016 Lexus RC350: The Driver’s Car Never Meant for the Track
Since beginning to receive demonstration loaners from Jim Hudson Lexus in Augusta, Ga. back in May, there was always one vehicle I was anxious if not nervous about testing—the RC Coupe. Nearly every review thus far on the RC has been less than praising, to say the least. Jeremy Clarkson called the RC-F a “missed opportunity” while other reviews claimed the RC Coupe to be completely uncompetitive. Now it was my turn.
Regardless of what you have heard about how the RC drives like, the one undeniable fact is that it is a stunning work of metal to look at. From the arch in the hood to the intricate ducts and scoops, the front of the RC is unique, to say the least. Moving along the side, subtle creases follow down the entire body ending at the wrap around taillights, themselves continuing the line around to the rear of the vehicle. The gills in the rear, while serving no performance purpose, seem to accent the RC quite well. The twin exhaust pipes give the rear an extra sporting appearance. Overall, the RC Coupe is a handsome coupe guaranteed to steal gazes from the BMW 4-series or Audi A5.
The interior of the RC Coupe is focused yet luxurious. Although you sit quite low in the vehicle and the seats are heavily bolstered (even without selecting the F-Sport package) the seating position is quite comfortable. The steering wheel is well gripped and the pedals seemed to have been positioned perfectly for left-foot braking in mind. The easy-entry system makes ingress and egress easier while the heated and ventilated seats keep you cool and comfortable. The driver information display is your classic setup of two large dials with a small screen between them giving you various trip information, access to your music, navigation, and some of the configurable driver settings.
The Lexus Enform multimedia unit is controlled via a haptic feedback trackpad versus the now familiar mouse-based system. The trackpad works surprisingly well; however, I have to admit looking down at it more than I would the mouse unit. Not the best for keeping your eyes on the road but overall still a good system. The infotainment screen is very responsive and features the configurable “home” screen that can display navigation, trip settings, media playback, current weather, fuel consumption, internal climate controls, or a combination of the three at any time. For being such a new model in Lexus’s fleet, I would have hoped the RC Coupe would have featured the new 12.3-inch display now found in the RX SUV and GS sedan instead of the smaller display from the IS but overall it’s still a very good unit.
My only true gripe for the interior would be the climate and radio control unit that frankly looks like it’s from a 2003 Lexus instead of a 2016 model. However, I think most people would not consider that a deal breaker, especially after you see what the RC Coupe is like to drive.
Our test demonstrator was the RC350 model, meaning it features a longitudinal, 3.5-liter V-6 up at the front sending power through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Upon start-up, the RC Coupe rumbles into life with a note I would expect more of a V-8 rather than a V-6. The exhaust note is much lower than you’d expect, which is by no means a bad thing.
Better than the exhaust one is there is a true presence of intake noise when hard on the throttle (likely thanks to the massive grille allowing so much air into the intake). The intake noise is so distinctive in fact that it nearly resembles a supercharger whine. This noise alone makes you want to put your foot down that much more.
The RC Coupe’s steering is weighted just about perfectly, with clear feedback coming from the road to the driver. Like many Lexus models, the RC Coupe features a drive select system with options ranging from “Eco” to “Normal” to “Sport.” Although you might imagine Eco would be best for everyday driving, I found that it dumbs down the engine and transmission so much that you end up being forced to floor it just to pull away from a red light. Because of this, I found myself keeping the RC in Normal about 80 percent of the time.
Selecting Sport mode will sharpen up throttle response as well as shorten shift times—particular fun on the lonely back roads on my home from work each day. Although the RC Coupe isn’t the lightest coupe on the market weighing in at nearly 3,700 pounds, it does handle the weight extremely well. It’s by no means going to be a car you’d want to take to the track but for making the everyday drive a bit more exciting, it’s spot on.
Unfortunately, it’s clear you cannot buy an RC Coupe expecting to return decent fuel economy. Even while cruising on the highway and trying to be as light-footed as possible, I rarely saw higher than 20 miles per gallon, seeing an average 17.8 MPG over the course of the 800 miles I drove. But hey, no one’s perfect.
My ten days with the RC350 was certainly an enjoyable time. The RC350 is uniquely styled, has one of the nicest and most comfortable interiors in its class (besides the aged radio and climate controls), and when you finally put your foot down it is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Of all the vehicles I’ve tested the RC350 is the first model that I would actually want to own myself. Just be prepared to refuel every three days.
Test Drive Data:
- Vehicle: 2016 Lexus RC350
- Exterior Color: Atomic Silver
- Interior Color: Flaxen Nuluxe Leather
- Price/As Tested: $42,790/$49,155
- Engine: 306 HP 3.5-liter V6
- Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
- Fuel Economy: 19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined
- Fuel Economy Observed: 17.8 MPG
- Miles Driven: 821 Miles
- Test Location: Aiken, SC and Augusta GA
- Test Dates: June 13th- 23rd, 2016