Miles Driven: 540
Fuel Used: 22.7 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 23.8 mpg
Driving mix: 20% city, 80% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/28/22 (city, highway, combined)
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B-|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
Base price: $43,010 (not including $975 destination charge)
Options on test car: Windshield de-icer and headlight cleaner ($220)., 19-inch alloy wheels ($795), Premium Package ($1240), adaptive cruise control ($500), moonroof ($1100), illuminated door sills ($449)
Price as tested: $48,289
The great: Responsive powertrain, ride/handling combination
The good: Cabin appointments
The not so good: Rear-seat room, infotainment/climate controls
We previously tested the entry-level Lexus RC 200t with its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and the range-topping RC F with its potent V8, but we think most will find this RC 350’s combination of V6 power and reasonable price to be juuuuuuust right.
Or perhaps we should say that the V6 models should be about right. The RC 350 comes in rear- or all-wheel-drive form, both sporting a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. (This test is of the rear-drive version.) But there’s also the RC 300, which has a detuned, 255-horsepower version of the 3.5-liter V6 and 6-speed automatic transmission, and it comes only with all-wheel drive. All models also offer an F Sport variant with sportier features.
According to Lexus figures on rear-drive models, the 241-hp 2.0t scoots from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, has an EPA combined figure of 26 mpg, and starts at $40,155. Respective numbers for the RC 350 are 5.8/22/$43,010, while those for the 467-horsepower RC F are 4.4/19/$64,165. In our own tests, the RC 350 averaged 6.2 seconds 0-60 and 23.8 mpg in 78-percent highway driving.
While the 2.0t suffers a bit of typical turbo lag in some situations, the RC 350 does not. Nail the gas from a stop, and it jumps; hit it while underway, and the transmission kicks down fairly quickly for great passing response, accompanied by a sporty growl from the engine. Magnify all this by about 1.5 times, and you have the RC F. Otherwise, the cars are quite similar.
Some things that jumped out about the RC 350, a few of which we’ve noted in earlier tests:
- While the back seat offers sufficient headroom for those up to about 5’9″, they won’t have any (and I mean, any) legroom unless the seat ahead is moved well up, and the front seat powers forward veeeery sloooowly to open a small portal to the rear seat — which only accommodates two.
- When swung to the side, the sunvisor does not extend far enough to cover the back of the door window, which might be noticed by taller drivers.
- Interior storage is downright stingy.
- Wide doors (common to two-door coupes) need lots of side space to open enough to get out, a hindrance in parking lots.
- The rear seat backs fold flat to expand the cargo area, but the releases have to be accessed from inside the cabin — which is quite awkward — and the backs rest about seven inches above the level of the trunk floor.
- The ride is quite comfortable considering the great handling ability, and the car is reasonably quiet in highway cruising.
- The RC 350 requires premium-grade fuel, which cost $1 a gallon more than regular when we filled up.
One thing we noticed that was different about this RC compared to others we’ve tested was the infotainment controls. Since our test vehicle wasn’t equipped with the optional navigation system and the Lexus Remote Touchpad controller, it had an simple console knob with three auxiliary buttons. It still often took multiple steps to get what you wanted, but we found it easier to use than the Remote Touchpad interface. Climate controls consisted of an awkward-to-use temperature “slider” and repetitive-step pushbuttons for mode and fan speed.
Coupes inherently come with several sacrifices for their sporty looks, and the RC — in any version — is no exception. But when compared to its rivals, it offers quite a bit for the money … in any of its various forms.
You can admire the Lexus RC 350 for a number of things. There’s the rakish profile, the exact handling, and the fine powertrain. Cabin style is attractive without being overstuffed or fussy. Without the Lexus Remote Touchpad controller on the console—the test car had a simple dial to enable radio presents, which could be scrolled through via steering-wheel buttons—there was less diversion from the business of driving.
You can also not admire the RC 350 for a few other things. Rear-seat passenger room is just a notion, driver vision is hampered a bit by the low roofline, and wet grip with the optional summer tires that were on the test car can be lacking. This driver experienced a couple of rear-end slips while making simple turns on town streets after a rainfall. He also averaged 23.9 mpg after a trip of 245.7 miles that included 24 percent city-type driving—enough to surpass the EPA combined-mileage estimate but still a ways from the EPA highway projection of 28 mpg.
The RC350 is hardly practical but it is expressive and generally well executed, especially as Consumer Guide’s test car was equipped. At a price still south of $50,000 it is worth the consideration of shoppers in this tightly specific market niche.