The 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport VS Old Man Winter
The 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport is the mid-level performance model of the new RC lineup, which is essentially the coupe version of the new Lexus IS sedan. Because of that, many of the features of the RC350 F Sport are similar to those found in the IS350 F Sport inside, outside and under the body panels, but as much as I loved the IS350 – I love the RC350 even more. What can I say, I am a coupe guy and while I would recommend the IS350 to anyone who regularly uses the rear seats for larger passengers, those who really don’t need the two extra doors may want to take a good, close look at the new RC350. It takes all of the upsides of the IS350 and adds in a sportier feel inside and out, with the lines of the IS adapted beautifully into 2-door coupe form.
My 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport came pretty much as loaded as it gets with the F Sport package, the Mark Levinson sound system mated to the large infotainment screen, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, the power moon roof and fog lights – which brings about an MSRP of $53,415. This is a big chunk of change, but when consider the long list of features included in my test car, the price is perfectly reasonable for a loaded up luxury sports coupe.
On the outside, the 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport features one of the most aggressive applications of the Lexus spindle grille, clad in gloss black and chrome and flanked by the angular LED accent lighting that made its debut on the IS350 sedan. When combined with the HID projection headlights, the projection taillights and the angular design of the entire front fascia allow the F Sport to stand out from the non-F Sport RC coupes.
Along the sides, the RC350 F Sport has hard body lines running between the flared wheel openings with the package specific 19” alloy wheels giving the RC350 a wide, sporty stance. Really, looking along the sides of the RC350 F Sport reveals clear inspiration from the LFA with a basic silhouette that pays tribute to the limited edition supercar.
Out back, the 2015 RC350 F Sport has a very aggressive rear fascia with flared lower corners sporting matte black sculpting, which gives this Japanese coupe a very race-ready look. Below the angular LED taillights is more body sculpting that extends down through the lower fascia with integrated exhaust tips and a matte black diffuser area. Finally, I have seen a great many good looking colors on the new RC coupe, but Infrared climbed to the top of my list when I saw how it glowed in the bright winter’s sun.
The RC350 F Sport isn’t quite as aggressive as the higher performance RCF, but for those who want a lower price tag and ease of use during daily driving, the exterior design of the F Sport package paints a very pretty package for this luxury sports coupe.
My 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport test car was loaded to the hilt, and that was very clear as soon as you opened the door. The sport seats are heated, cooled and wrapped in plush black leather with contrasting white stitching, with deep base and side bolsters that cradle your figure during stints of high performance driving. These seats are wide enough to accommodate almost any driver or front passenger, while those prominent bolsters provide the feel of a proper sports car seat. Best of all, the seats are still soft enough to make for a comfortable ride when you are not blasting down the road and around the turns. Both of the front seats provide plenty of adjustability for tall and short drivers alike, with plenty of leg, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder and head room for people large and small.
The RC350 F Sport has a 2+2 seating design, so there are only two seating positions in the back seat and, like the front seats, the rear seats have a deep base to keep the passengers snug in place while cornering. The base and back are both nicely padded and very comfortably, but those seated in the rear have far less leg room. Really, unless you have the front seats moved way forward, the back seats are a bit tight for anyone over about 4’3”, so while this back seat is great for smaller kids – it really isn’t ideal for adults when other adults are seated up front. If you really need to put adults in the back seats, you should check out the IS350 F Sport, which brings about all of the upsides of the RC350 coupe, but with more rear seating space. Also, those heated seats get very hot very quickly, even on a sub-zero winter morning.
In addition to the sport seats of the F Sport package, the 2015 RC350 has a sport seating wheels and a gauge cluster similar to that found in the Lexus LFA. This has a large central gauge with a tachometer running around the outside of a digital speedometer, but with the push of a button, the centered circle slides to the right to reveal other information, including navigation instructions, media information and vehicle parameters. This might just be my favorite gauge cluster on a car below $80,000, as it is just plain cool. Everything in this gauge cluster is controlled by buttons on the right side of the sport steering wheel and on the other side, there are buttons to adjust the sound system, access the hands-free phone system and make adjustments to the navigation system via voice control. Speaking of the Mark Levinson sound system, it sounds incredible regardless of your ideal genre of music so whether you like heavy metal, rap or country – the Levinson speaker system is worth every cent.
Bolstering the level of technology in the 2015 RC350 F Sport is the large infotainment screen mounted high on the center stack, so you barely have to take your eyes away from the road to look at the listed information. This panel is controlled via a simple touch pad located next to the shifter, right along with the drive mode control knob, the traction control button and the snow mode button. Also, for those who want to use more conventional controls, the most basic controls for the sound system and the climate control can use the buttons and knobs located on the center stack below the big screen.
The 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport might be sport in name, but being from Lexus, it is packed full of sport-themed luxury throughout the cabin. The RC350 F Sport leaves you wanting nothing, as it combines the level of luxury that you demand from a modern Lexus with the sporty feel that has become synonymous with the Lexus brand.
The 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport is powered by a 3.5L V6 that delivers 306 horsepower and 277lb-ft of torque with the help of an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available, but my test car was fitted with a rear drive configuration, which I think bolsters the fun-to-drive factor of most cars – and the RC350 F Sport is included on that list. While AWD has its advantages, I tend to get more fun out of a car like this when it is only spinning the rear wheels.
For the first few days of my time with the RC350 F Sport, temperatures were generally below 0 at night and in the low teens during the day, but it was clear, so the roads were cold yet dry. This allowed me to stretch the legs of the RC350, testing the high 5 second 0-60mph time while pushing the car to pretty impressive high speeds on the highway with very little effort. You don’t get the wicked hard acceleration that you get with the pricier RCF, but it launches hard enough and pulls through the midrange well enough to propel this beautiful coupe into the low 14 second quarter mile range while also reportedly being able to hit 143 miles per hour on the top end. I wasn’t able to experience those top speeds, but I found that the RC350 F Sport will climb well past any posted speed limit with an impressive level of urgency. It isn’t crazy fast off of the line, but it will blast down the highway at high speeds as comfortably as any luxury coupe in this price class.
Where the 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport really shines is when you hit the twisties, as the F Sport package includes the adjustable drive mode selector which – when switched to Sport+ mode – sharpens up the steering and stiffens up the suspension for more responsiveness and more feedback during stints of spirited driving. While the sportier setting might transfer a little more road noise through the suspension, it is minimal enough that I spent the vast majority of my drive time in Sport+. Really, the variable suspension and steering setup affords this car a great mix of handling and ride quality so while the “Normal” mode takes even less of the road noise out of the ride, what little ride quality compromise that is made in Sport+ is well worth the added driving excitement. Also, Sport+ adjusts the transmission to shift for improved performance, downshifting when you brake and shifting later when accelerating for better performance, but those who want even more control can use the manual shift mode and the paddles mounted on the steering wheels. These paddles afford you an impressive level of control over your shifts, which adds fun to drive factor while improving performance through the hard corners.
Four days into my time with the new RC350 F Sport, Old Man Winter dumped a blanket of fluffy white snow over the Metro Detroit area. I was concerned, as the rear wheel drive Lexus was wearing the stock summer performance tires, but when the snow first hit, I had no troubles getting out of my driveway or my subdivision before they had been plowed. Driving around on the sloppy, slush-covered local roads was no problem for the RC350 F Sport, even with the summer tires. I did have to keep the wheels spinning on steeper hills from a stop in the early stages of the snow storm, but at no point did the Lexus coupe fail to push through the snow. Aiding in this process is the Snow mode, which adjusts the levels of power to the drive wheels to slow tire spin and get you moving forward without the driver having to play with the throttle. The can cornered very nicely in the lighter snow so while acceleration was compromised a touch in the early stages of the storm, it still got around turns with no real issues.
However, after the first bit of snow hit the ground, a much bigger snow storm rolled into the area, dumping a half foot of fresh snow on the local roads and at that point, the summer performance tires revealed their shortcomings. The tread of the standard tires quickly packed with snow and with more snow still under the tires due to the depth where the roads hadn’t been well cleared, forward motion was a struggle. I was still able to get around, but as the snow continued to pile up, I opted for my own half ton truck with snow tires over the high performance tires of the RC350 F Sport. Based on my experiences in the heavier snow, winter tires are definitely a must-have for any RWD RC350 F Sport owners looking to drive the car year round, but in lighter snow and on well cleared roads, the RC350 F Sport was a perfectly reliable winter car.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a gorgeous luxury sports coupe that won’t break the bank, but which still offers you all of the luxury that you could want and an inspired driving experience, the 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport is the car for you. While those prospective Lexus buyers who have a greater need for speed will want to opt for the far more powerful RCF, the RC350 F Sport will pull away from a great many luxury cars on the road while also carving the canyons well enough to get your blood pumping every time you hit the road. The RC350 F Sport is a ton of fun to drive on the open road, but with a cabin that is chock full of comforts, this is a car that almost makes rush hour traffic enjoyable.
The 2015 Lexus RC350 F Sport is the perfect luxury sports coupe for someone who wants premium luxury with a side of performance, making for a beautiful daily driver that packs a high level of fun to drive factor. This is a car that you can enjoy all year long, but I recommend that anyone in an area that gets heavy snow that stays on the road for days invest in a good set of snow tires.