Aggressively styled and powerfully motivated, the Lexus RC 350 is a vivid expression of personal driving pleasure.
What is it?
The RC 350 has several direct competitors. The Audi A5, BMW 430 i Coupe, and the Infiniti Q60 are sized and priced right alongside.
Pricing and trims
The RC coupe is offered in two basic forms: RC 300, and RC 350, with some interesting mixing of engines and transmissions.
The RC 300 has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, displacing two liters and producing 241 horsepower. RC 300 prices start at $42,170, including the $1,025 destination charge.
A bump to a 3.5-liter V6 producing 260 horsepower accompanies the RC 300 AWD, which also reduces the number of gears in the automatic transmission from eight to six. The RC 300 AWD starts at $44,860.
The 3.5-liter V6 in the RC 350 is good for 311 horses, and all-wheel drive versions have the same six-speed auto as the RC 300 AWD. Entry price for the RC 350 is $45,100.
That’s where we start with our RC 350 tester, impressive in new-for-2019 “Blue Vortex Metallic”.
A healthy dose of options starts with 19-inch “Split-10-Spoke” alloy wheels ($795).
Triple Beam LED Headlights adds $1,160.
The Navigation and Mark Levinson Package ($2,725) includes Dynamic Voice Command and a 10.3-inch color display, up from seven inches in standard form.
The sound system powers 17 speakers with 835 watts of 7.1-channel surround sound.
The $2,390 Premium Package has items that we think should be standard, including Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Auto Dip Down Mirrors to prevent curbing the wheels during parallel parking.
Intuitive Parking Assist adds another $500.
Total for the tested RC 350: $52,670.
Classified as a “large luxury car” by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), the RC Coupe aced its crash tests.
It also scored high with child-seat LATCH ease of use, which some more family-friendly vehicles don’t get right.
Comprehensive active safety features like the Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Pedestrian Detection and are part of the Lexus Safety System+, which is standard on all RCs.
But as mentioned above, we’d like to see the Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic alert made standard as well, particularly because the RC 350 is a coupe with limited rear visibility.
Burly strength is the RC 350’s vibe, and its 311 horsepower rating tops comparable Audi A5 and BMW 430 i Coupe ratings by more than 60 horsepower. And the RC 350 feels it, with strong acceleration across the rev range, particularly from a stop.
The eight-speed transmission is a ready partner, with quick downshifts via the steering wheel paddles. The paddles effectively tailored the RC 350’s speed in highway traffic, making it less necessary to use the brakes.
Ride and handling
The tested RC 350 had a pleasant balance of grippy handling and ride compliance. It’s a coupe you could hop into and drive for hours and still feel fresh when you arrive, as it filters through to the driver an information flow that’s muted but reactive.
One taste of Sport mode in the RC 350 makes the Normal and Eco modes feel mild; Sport brings notable increase in enthusiasm that will have you automatically dialing it in after startup. Sharper throttle response and firmer steering bring you much closer to what’s going on down below.
If you have relatively long legs, then you’ll love the RC’s legroom, which at 45.4 inches is more than most.
Lumbar support was placed in a friendly position for your tall tester, and the side bolsters hugged well in corners.
The rear seat is tight, even by coupe rules. While its competitors squeeze out about 32 inches of rear legroom, the RC 350 restricts it to 27.3 inches, which severely limits its use as a seat for people with legs.
Ten-point-four cubic feet: that’s the RC 350’s predictably tight luggage capacity. Other coupes are about the same, while the BMW 430 i Coupe tops 15 cubic feet.
While the trunk is shallow, the space does go deep.
The rear seat folds down for longer items, which helpfully opens things up, though the opening size is reduced by the rear cushions.
A molded plastic tray forms a sturdy load floor beneath the carpeted trunk panel.
There’s a spare tire beneath that, an increasingly rare sight these days.
Infotainment and controls
The tested RC 350’s $2,725 Navigation and Mark Levinson Package is recommended, as it significantly upgrades the center screen and stereo sound.
Repeated exposure to the screen’s console touch panel over many Lexus press cars has made it second-nature, though at first it was frustrating. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel if at first it seems over-reactive.
All RCs are Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatible, but Android Auto hasn’t arrived yet.
The Lexus RC 350 remains firmly competitive as it approaches its fifth year on the market.
It’s more powerful than its similarly-priced Audi A5 and BMW 430 i Coupe, and it has an aggressive style that’s distinct from the Infiniti Q60.
To be tops, the 2019 RC 350 would need Android Auto, along with a bit more rear seat and cargo room.
But the RC 350 feels substantial and responds with authority, like a luxury coupe should. Fold in Lexus reliability, and the RC 350’s appeal becomes clear.
2019 Lexus RC 350
Base price: $44,075
Price as tested, including $1,025 destination charge:
Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package: $2,725
- Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 835-watt, 7.1-channel Surround Sound Audio System With Clari-fi Audio Processing
- Machined-Aluminum Control Knobs
- 17 High-efficiency Speakers Including Subwoofer And Clari-fi Technology
- Lexus Enform Dynamic Navigation
- Lexus Enform Destination Assist
- Dynamic Voice Command
- Navigation System With 10.3-inch Split-screen Multimedia Display
- In-dash DVD/CD Player
Premium Package: $2,390
- Heated And Ventilated Front Seats
- Blind Spot Monitor With Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
- Electrochromic Outside Mirrors
- Rain-Sensing Wipers
- Lexus Memory System
- Power Tilt-and-Telescopic Steering Wheel
Intuitive Parking Assist: $500
Premium Triple-Beam Headlamps: $1,160
– Touring-coupe balanced performance
– Sport mode makes it fun
– Substantial overall feel
– Optional safety features should be standard
– Learning curve for touchpad controller