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Surprising details about the 2014 Lexus RC 350 sports coupe

This week Lexus has confirmed the RC 350 is a production model and surprised many Lexus enthusiasts with new details of the car. Lexus has gone out of its way to make this vehicle better than the new BMW 4 series.

The new Lexus RC 350 is a 2-door sports coupe. We used to call it a 2-door version of the IS 350, since it looks as if it is that’s car’s 2-door twin. However, in the first of many surprising details revealed this week, Lexus tells us that the RC 350 is actually based on the Lexus GS line. We won’t parse words with Lexus on that statement. We will say though that the IS is also based on the GS, so… The new IS 350 shares the suspension, drivetrain, and many other components with the GS, so we are not sure what the difference is.

The next surprise is that the 107 inch wheelbase of the RC is slightly shorter than the IS 350’s 110 inch wheelbase. Lexus claims that will add an element of sporting character to the RC in comparison to the IS 350. If so, the RC will be awesome since our testing, and testing by Car and Driver and Road and Track all confirmed that the IS 350 F-Sport is the best overall car in its compact/mid-size sports sedan class, even besting the BMW 335i. We already knew the new RC 350 at 184 inches is longer than the BMW 435i (182.6”), and wider than the BMW 4 series (by half an inch.) Now we also know it will likely turn in quicker due to the shorter wheelbase.

The coolest detail revealed by Lexus this week was a nice little power bump in the RC 350’s 3.5 liter V6. This normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine is used in the IS 350 and also the GS 350. We love it and when we compared it in back to back driving vs the BMW 335i, we found the IS 350 to be much more responsive off the line. The BMW suffered noticeable turbo lag. The new specifications for the Lexus engine are 314 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. That is up 8 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque compared to the IS 350. We detect a little badge engineering here to make the RS 350 the top performer in the line-up. That said, more is better when it comes to power. Compared to the BMW 435i the Lexus has 14 more horsepower and slightly less torque. However, compared to the similarly priced BMW 428i with the 4 cylinder turbo, the Lexus will have dramatically more power and torque.

We also didn’t know that the RC would come in all-wheel drive, but it will. Both the 3.5 liter V6 with the 8 speed sequential automatic and also the hybrid version will be offered both rear, and all-wheel drive. We have mixed feelings about this. In the IS the AWD system intrudes on the driver’s footwell. Also, this writer’s opinion is that the AWD car in the garage should be the crossover. Despite the Audi marketing campaign designed to hide the fact that its platforms are all front-drive, having all four wheels turn does nothing to improve the handling or traction of a good sports sedan in the dry. In the wet it does, but is that the day to push your $50K car around on public roads? Lexus drivers don’t fit that mold. However, the slow-poke IS 250 AWD is by far the best seller in the line, so we will assume Lexus knows the numbers and will do better by offering AWD RCs. Hopefully they will still ship some RWD models to the northern states.

Lexus has clearly hit a home run with the new IS series and cannot even keep up with demand. We think that Lexus’ RC and IS chief engineer, Junichi Furuyama, summed up the new IS and RC perfectly, saying, “We developed RC to deliver extra response that exhilarates rather than overwhelms drivers, in keeping with the true spirit of Japanese hospitality, or omotenashi.”