Robert Pepper’s 2015 Lexus RC350 Sport F review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

Editor's Rating

82%
The RC350 is a sports tourer that covers ground rapidly and comfortably but without much driver involvement. Some of its competitors are variously better specified and/or better handlers, but the RC350's main advantages are its relative price and looks. Instead of "Racing Coupe" a better name would be "Practical Easy Drive Coupe".
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We’ve just reviewed the range-topping Lexus RC F, so now it’s time to go to the bottom of the RC (Race Coupe) range and sample the RC350 Sport F.  Well, not quite the bottom because below the Sport F there’s the RC350 Luxury, but the next model up.
 
Much of the RC F test is applicable to the RC350, so this review will focus on the differences.

On the outside

Our RC350 is finished in what is perhaps the most beautiful red on any car in Australia. It is a lustrous, deep shade of rouge that had one of my helpers declaring she’d like to lick it like a toffee apple.  In the interests of being loaned more cars from Lexus I put a stop to that, although the photograph would perhaps have been worth it.

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Lickable or not, how anyone can say that’s not a good looking car?   Certainly the 350 is better visually balanced than the RC F, silver wheels go nicely with the silver at the front and around the windows.  I even found myself doing The Look with the RC350 – when you lock the car, walk away and give it an admiring backwards glance.

While we’re on the outside, the RC350 is also high enough not to cause undue problems with kerbs, speedbumps or the like.  This sets the scene for sportscar practicality which is a 350 trademark.
 
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Room & Practicality

More or less the same as the RC F, but at least one important improvement.  The second row is a 40/60 split and folds down like so.  
 
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There is lots of room for a couple to go touring, and even give the occasional lift to two others.
 
The seatbelt is a grab over the shoulder, without any clever system to bring it easily within reach like you find on some BMWs, just a strap which doesn’t really help.  It’s quite a reach to grab around to get it, especially if you’re short.  In the RC F I found the belt slipped down low over the seat shoulder, in the 350 was fine.  The strap to hold the belt in position works, but requires unclipping for rear-seat access and restricts the free movement of the belt.  Lexus need to pay attention to these details, especially as the seatbelt is a primary safety system and one you use every day.
 
The seats got a lot of praise, and I found them to be comfortable, easy to use and supportive of quick driving which is an unusual combination.  Good work by Lexus.  There’s three memory positions.
 
The steering wheel is electrically adjustable for reach and tilt, and automatically moves up and in as you switch the engine off.  A couple of people felt it was a touch large and I would prefer it to be smaller, but it works as-is.  The switchgear on the wheel is easy to use and doesn’t get accidentally pressed.
 
The rear seats are the same as the RC F, but seem to have more footroom.  Headroom still a problem for adults, but an evening out in the back was liveable enough.  There’s a low-rent bit of easily scratched plastic between the rear seats that serves no purpose other than to remind you it’s not an RC F which has a drinks holder, and it is this sort of detail which Lexus needs to fix to play in this market.
 
As with any three-door coupe the doors are long and heavy, and especially so here. However, as the car is quite high grounding on the nearside kerb isn’t too much of an issue.
 
The way the boot pops open on key command is handy, and there’s keyless entry with push-button start.

On the inside

Again, somehow this car seemed to work better on a style front than the RC F, perhaps because it doesn’t try as hard.   There’s fewer colours used, in part because there’s fewer modes for the car.  And this one doesn’t have cream seats, so it’s all greys and silvers which at least coordinate if not excite. There’s not much sense of luxurious ambience, but it does feel upmarket.

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There’s less controls than in the RC F, so less button confusion.  However, the dreaded touchpad to operate the infotainment unit is still there and works no better in the 350 than in the RC F.  The only person that didn’t hate it was my 10-year old daughter but if I took her opinions into account every car would be 0% unless it’s blue.

The heated and cooled front seats work effectively, and the cabin heating is controlled by sliding your finger up and down a ridge.  This is interesting, but not as effective as a simple dial.  Form or function, you take your choice.  

Touchpad aside, everything else is reasonably easy to use although we still have the low placement of the boot release.

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Visible on the left is the strap that holds the seatbelt in place. Works provided you don’t want to get in the back in which case it needs to be unclipped. Tedious. To the right of the steering wheel are auxiliary controls including the boot release set quite low, when there’s blanking plates above it.  The foot-operated parkbrake is visible too, which nobody thought was a good idea.

As in the RC F, I found the side grabhandle in the roof kept touching my head. Irritating, for such a large coupe.  There’s more or less the same information in the centre display unit too:

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The infotainment unit is not the easiest to use. It took quite a while to find something as simple as the balance and fader controls, and in general the thing takes some learning.  There’s a few too many button presses to be ideal. Owners would either figure it out or just not use it to its fullest extent.  The mini-display on the dash can help too, and that at least is easy to use.

The instrument panel is pretty cool. The tacho slides to the right to reveal a pop-up screen…

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….which has a nice array of gauges such as fuel consumption, navigation and the like.  There’s no gauges for acceleration or braking as there are in the RC F, which is absolutely fine.  The speedo is digital-only.  This display is easy to use, quick to respond, nicely laid out and useful.

It is also possible to change the colour of the needle and turn the revcounter ring red when revs exceed a set amount.  A nice little touch.

Overall, the RC350’s interior systems are adequately specified, useful and usable but certainly not class leading and could do with a bit more attention to detail here and there.  But there’s nothing you couldn’t easily live with.

Performance, ride and handling

 As a tourer and around town

We spent a day cruising the coutryside in the RC350 and it worked well for our family of four.  There is sufficient room in the back for the children, although adults would be drawing lots.  The boot is capacious enough for bags, jackets and the like.   The car is comfortable on the open road, although a touch noisier than it should be.  There’s plenty of power, and it is an effortless cruiser.   Around town – it’s a big coupe which are never the easiest, but there’s front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.  Rear visibility isn’t too bad considering it’s a coupe.  The rear-steer on this F Sport model means  a 10m turning circle, and that’s nice and tight thanks to the four-wheel steer.

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As a sportscar

What’s it got?

Compared to the RC F the RC350 Sport F has very little in the way of sporting tech.  The rear differential is open, which means it’ll hurt for traction out of corners on a track, and be harder than it should be to drift…not that we expect to see many RCs lining up for tandem runs. 

Stability control is either on, or off.  No sport mode.   There are however Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes which change the shift patterns and throttle response.

You can take control of the gearshift yourself via paddles, or shift via the gearlever for push-forwards change up, which is the wrong way around.  Bad move for a Racing Coupe in 2015.

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This F Sport model has  Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which according to Lexus which firms up the ride in the Sport+ modes, and it changes the electric power steering.

If you operate the paddleshifts while the gearshift is in D then you select the topmost gear the gearbox can use, and the car will choose the gear.  For example, you can select 6, and the car will use gears 1-6 inclusive.  If you switch to manual mode then the car will remain in the gear you select, so 6 means you’re in sixth.  In manual mode it will remain in gear even if you floor it (no kickdown) and not change up even at redline.

How does it drive?

Despite what Lexus may claim, the RC350 not a sportscar, it is a sports tourer.  Sportscars must be fun not just fast, and the RC350 lacks the requisite driver involvement.  It is completely viceless, and I rather get the impression there’s not much in the way of depth to explore.

The 3.5L V6 pulls well, but doesn’t quite have the immediate urgency you’d like in a sportscar, you don’t feel as if your right foot is ready to unleash the fury of wild horses.  The gearchange is not particularly snappy, and the steering, while direct, is too light and lacking in feel.  The engine note is pleasant enough but not the best of the V6s.

It is however a rapid car on public roads, not really hurting for grip, although it lacks the surety of powerful all-wheel-drive sportscars under power.

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Some comments from one helper:

8 speed gearbox is very smooth. You can find yourself ‘playing’ with the 8 gears on a quest to find the ultimate gearing for your specific driving condition.

Sports – Don’t bother – go straight to Sports+.  

I felt that I had to continually work to achieve any satisfaction in performance. In most situations you are constantly dropping your speed not to exceed the road speed limit. I found this the total opposite with the RC, you are constantly working the pedal to stay on the speed limit.

Quality

Lexus vehicles are typically well built and the RC 350 is no exception.  No concerns about this car lasting a long time, and the warranty is 4 years/100,000km which is a bit better than 3/100,000km but not by much. An extended warranty is available.
 
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Pricing & Equipment

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Safety

The RC350 Sport F has only the basics and is a bit of a disappointment at this price level.  It hasn’t been ANCAP tested, but it has all the usual airbags and safety features.  There is no Lane Departure Warning, active cruise control or Lane Change Alert.  You do get a rear traffic cross alert for when you’re backing out of a park space and Blind Spot Monitoring.

 A tyre pressure monitoring system is standard but is is disappointingly basic.  Doesn’t tell you which tyre is low, and if there is a readout for the pressures for each tyre I couldn’t find it.  The tyres are the same front and rear, unlike the RC F, and there’s a space-saver spare.

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In the back both seats have ISOFIX child restraint points and tethers for childseats.

2015 lexus RC350 F

PRICE :  $ 74,000 (+ORC)

WARRANTY : 4 years / 100,000 km

SAFETY : not ancap tested

ENGINE : 3.5L V6 nA

POWER : 233 kW at 6400rpm 

TORQUE : 378 Nm 4800 rpm 

0-100km/h :  6.3 seconds 

TRANSMISSION : 8 speed automatic 

DRIVE :  rear drive

BODY :   4695 mm (L);  1840 mm (W),  1395 mm (H) 

TURNING CIRCLE :  10.0 m 

WEIGHT :  1740 kg 

SEATS: 4 

TOWING :  N/A 

FUEL TANK : 66 litres 

SPARE : space saver

THIRST : 10.9 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle 

FUEL : 95 RON

We have also compared the RC350 against the RC F, and the RC350 against the Toyota 86.

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RC350 range

The base model is the Luxury.  Our test car was the F Sport.  Here’s what’s different:

Luxury ($66,000 + onroads)

• Drive mode select (three modes: ECO, NORMAL and SPORT)
• LED head and fog lamps
• Four-way power steering column adjustment
• Power front seats with heating and ventilation and one-touch entry for rear passengers
• Smart entry and start
• Satellite navigation, seven-inch multimedia display
• Reverse camera
• 10-speaker audio
• DAB+*
• Advanced Bluetooth®^ and USB^^ input
• Parking sonar front and rear
• Five-spoke machine finished 18-inch alloy wheels
• 60:40 rear fold seats

F Sport (in additon to features from Luxury, $74,000 + ORC)

• 19-inch twin 10-spoke F Sport alloy wheels
• Four mode Drive Mode Select (ECO, NORMAL, SPORT S and SPORT S+)
• Adaptive Variable Suspension
• Variable Gear Ratio Steering
• Dynamic Rear Steering
• 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio
• F Sport steering wheel
• Power front seats with memory function
• LED high grade headlamp
• Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
• Lane Change Assist

Enhancement pack one ($2500)

• Moonroof

Enhancement pack two ($7300)

• Pre Collision Safety System
• Active Cruise Control
• Moonroof
• Lane Departure Warning
• Auto High Beam
• Smart Key Card

Sports Luxury (in additon to features from Luxury, $86,000 + ORC)

• 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels
• 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio
• Adaptive Variable Suspension
• Semi-aniline leather-accented interior
• Power front seats with memory function
• Shimamoku interior ornamentation
• LED headlamps with auto high beam
• Pre Collision Safety System
• Active Cruise Control
• Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
• Lane Departure Warning
• Smart Key Card
• Moonroof

There’s some good features there but it’s a lot of extra coin considering many other cars have the same features for less money.

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1 Comment

  1. AUSDAVIDZ
    August 6, 2015 at 7:05 am — Reply

    That photo of the dash is the issue I have with the RX350 I am driving, small “range” around 520km when the tank is ful and then it starts to go down too quickly 🙁

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper