First Drive: Lexus RC350 F Sport

by Michael Satterfield

Lexus has never been my go to for performance, the upscale Toyota had managed to produce some amazing performance cars, but sadly those have been more of the exception than the rule. When I think Lexus I mostly think of beige SUVs driven by retires. But Lexus has been working to change that perception by offering more performance inspired variants of their sedans and coupes. With the current trend in the automotive world, it is not a stretch to imagine that we will see an all out SUV F model sometime in the future since Lexus is already offering F Sport option on the UX, NX, and RX crossovers. 

The RC is no different and is offered with a turbo four-cylinder or one of two non-turbo V6s, none of which are all that exciting to drive or make a very good noise. The F Sport package is offered on the RC300 and the RC350 and don't worry adding the F Sport badge doesn't add any horsepower. It does have great looks and the luxury appointments one would expect in this class, but if you are thinking this is a budget way to get an RC F, you will be disappointed.

The 2019 RC gets a minor refresh with new front and rear bumpers, head and tail lamps, and new mirrors. Inside the new start button, revised console design, and an analog dash mounted clock are the only noticeable changes on what was a already hansom cabin. The optional premium package includes heated and ventilated front seats, memory settings for driver, power adjustable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Other options include a heated steering wheel, moonroof, premium sound/navigation, and dynamic handling package which brings the MSRP of this rear wheel drive RC350 F Sport test car to just under $61,000. You can also opt for an all wheel drive version for another $1,600. 

The 311 hp, 3.5 liter V6, the most powerful option offered of the three engines, is smooth and the F Sport suspension and sticky summer tires do make the car fun to drive when you push it in the corners. That said with a 0-60 time closer to 6 seconds it falls far behind many in its class like the Infiniti Q60 and BMW 440i. The other issue with the RC350 F Sport is that fully loaded it comes within striking distance of the much more powerful and more aggressive RC F, which packs a 472 hp V8 with a starting price just $3,900 more than this test vehicle.

Like many cars in its class, the RC has a back seat in theory, but only for the smallest of humans, the front seats are spacious and comfortable and the fit and finish as with all Lexus vehicles is exceptional. Trunk space is what you would expect in a GT car and the back seats do fold down if you need a little extra room for luggage.

Other than the nearly useless console mounted touch pad the infotainment system is excellent and if you are an Apple user, CarPlay is available. Android fans, sorry but Android Auto is currently not supported and it looks like it won't even be something you will be able update the system to work with later. Android is coming to later models of Lexus and Toyota cars the 2020 model year and beyond. Lexus also does tout that the RC is the first vehicle in its class to offer Amazon Alexa, so thankfully you will be able to reorder toilet paper while on the road.

Overall the RC350 F Sport is what you would expect from a Lexus, smooth, comfortable, and well built. But it is not what I would expect from a Lexus with an F badge, having taken part in the Lexus performance driving school I know that the RC F is a very capable and exciting performance car, but the F Sport just makes me wish I was driving the V8 powered F. If Lexus could capture some more of that rawness that the RC F delivers in the F Sport they would have a real hit, even if it was something as simple as a more aggressive exhaust note.

I do understand that not everyone is looking for a loud track focused fast car like the RC F and that for many a stylish commuter car that will deliver decent gas mileage and still be mildly fun to drive in the canyons has a lot of appeal. If I was ordering my own RC350 F Sport I would avoid the expensive and unnecessary rear-wheel steering and moonroof, opting to spend that money on the limited slip rear differential, premium LED headlamps, and rear spoiler.

I would also be sure to pick on of the more obnoxious colors like Infrared, Blue Vortex, or this Flare Yellow, it suits the car and the interiors with matching colors create a fun sporty look that make it feel much less Lexus like, which in my opinion is a good thing. While it's not your grandmother's Lexus, it's still not your dad's BMW 440i M Sport.

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