Lexus is returning to racing with the 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport coupe that combines an aggressive design and a growling V-8 designed to thrill. This is not a racecar, let’s be clear on that, but it does take off from 0-60 in under 5-seconds as one would expect of comparable cars in the sports coupe class including Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. It is a sporty, two-door, four-seater with all of the luxurious appointments that the Lexus brand is known for in the industry.
Racing across the Hudson River Valley recently I test drove the Lexus RC 350 F Sport, at the invitation of the manufacturer, up hills and around twisting curves and had to remark on the stable suspension and ease of driving. The center of gravity is low and the car never felt out of control even as the road banked a bit near the West Point Overlook.
The Lexus RC 350 F Sport has four driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ – the driver can select with the turn of a slick silver knob while driving. Eco is fine if you want to sit on a highway and utilize cruise control but feels very sluggish, almost as if you’re holding back the reigns of the 450+ HP engine. Normal feels more like a typical sedan with an easy suspension that takes the bumps out of the road and steering that seems to function all on its own. Sport is where I spent most of my ride and seemed to get the most driveability out of the car. The steering was firmer, the suspension tighter, and the sense of control and “one-ness,” if you will, between the car and driver took over. Sport+ was fun especially if you know how to paddle shift and really rip it around turns, if not, stay in Sport mode.
Talking tech, the Lexus RC 350 F Sport is build to stay grounded, literally. G-Force sensors, referred to as the G-AI by Doug Herbert from Lexus College, hold the rear wheels to the ground through turns. Herbert went on further to explain, “vortex generators on the side mirrors disturb the air and cut down on both drag and sound.” With the windows open at 65MPH there was no side window buffeting noise you’d expect making for an enjoyable drive.
The interior of the Lexus RC 350 F Sport is what you’d expect from a Lexus-designed sports car with suede and leather trim, touches of carbon fiber, classy analog clock in the center of the dashboard, knee and leg padding in the cockpit along the unremarkable middle console, and seats that resemble something stitched for a Sci-Fi movie close-up. The seats are something to remark upon, the stitching is designed to follow the spine and does so remarkably well. The seat is further designed to keep the leg tipped up slightly at the knee to reduce the restlessness one feels after sitting in a car for a long period of time. While a four-seater, the backseat is very stingy on leg-room. Face it, you’re not putting kids in this car but you could comfortably seat two tall guys in the front for buddy weekend with the golf clubs in the back. A Mark Levinson Surround Sound system is a great addition and resonates like a rock concert.
If you judge a car on the exterior alone the Lexus RC F Sport will hold your attention. The signature spindle grill artfully combines L’s and F’s, the 19″ wheels also feature a series of L’s to further the branding elements. Eye-catching in a variety of colors including scorching ‘Molten Pearl’ orange, referred to by auto journalists along with me for the ride as “speed traps waiting to happen,” vibrant candy apple ‘Infrared’ red, and a deep ‘Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0’ which I found particularly chic. A side note: during the hosted test drive, drivers of ‘Molten Pearl’ were pulled over by a curious member of the New York State Police who wanted details about the car beyond the driver’s license and insurance. No, they were not speeding at the time and were sent off on their way with a smile and wave from the officer who no doubt took the car’s info for his own shopping purposes.
While most drivers won’t be putting this car on the race track, it is the ideal Hamptons car for those breaking into the sports car class who want to ride out from NYC to Montauk for Lobster Rolls at LUNCH on the Napeague Stretch and cruise around the backroads.
Finer Points: Only 15,000 units of the 2015 Lexus RC 350 series will be produced, available fall 2014. The Lexus RC 350 starts at $42,790 and the Lexus RC 350 F Sport starts at $62,400.