Lexus: 2015 RC350 F Sport review

Lexus: 2015 RC350 F Sport review

The RC350 is a car you could put anywhere and it would still photograph beautifully. It was by chance that I had booked a trip to Ohakune in order to do the Tongariro Crossing on the same weekend that I had the RC350. I honestly could have spent a whole day finding vistas that included snow-capped Mount Ruapehu, but as it was, Ohakune Mountain Rd and its sinuous rise to the ski fields of Ruapehu set the scene. The brilliant blue sky did the rest, but the Lexus still stole the show.

 

ExteriorLexus RC350 2015 fq2

While it’s not quite (in my eyes) at the level of the Maserati GranTurismo Sport, it’s joined the beauty pageant with the Jaguar F-Type and the Audi RS5. From the L-shaped Lexus LED headlights at the front (which are mimicked at the back) over the sultry curves and strong shoulder line, there’s nothing that I dislike about the RC350’s exterior.

Lexus RC350 2015 rearPower

But, this beauty contestant is big boned, tipping the scales at 1740kg. The 233kW V6 does its best to get the RC350 moving, taking 6.3 seconds to get to 100kph. In comparison, a BMW 435i (the RC350’s principle competition), does it in 5.1 second.

You’ve got full control over the 8-speed Sport Direct Shift gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, or you can use the gearstick itself. The gearbox has 4 modes: eco, normal, Lexus RC350 2015 wheelsport and sport+. Sport keeps the revs above 2000rpm and eliminates a lot of the gear searching that the Lexus does on hills. Sport+ seemed to firm up the suspension more – probably more than you need. In both sport modes you get the effect of the sound generator in the engine more frequently, giving it an appealing V6 tone.

Handling

Sitting on 19-inch wheels that wear 265/35R19 at the rear and 235/40R19 at the front, grip isn’t a problem, despite it being a heavy car. The brakes are substantial in size (357mm at the front) and do their best to bring the bulk down to zero kph.

The cornering ability of the Lexus RC350 2015 track padLexus is seriously electronically enhanced. The first time you drive swiftly on a really tight road it feels as if the back end of the car is helping you around the corners. And it is. There is dynamic rear steering – the rear wheels turn slightly away from the curve. At low speeds, this improves the turning circle, too.

Interior

Lexus has done away with the awkward joystick setup and instead has a touch-responsive trackpad with four buttons above it to control the media centre and settings. This is an option on Lexus RC350 2015 stereothe F Sport model we tested, and standard on the Limited model. I can’t decide whether it’s better than BMW’s iDrive. In a way, it probably still requires a little too much attention away from the road, but it’s definitely better than the joystick.

You use the trackpad to control the Mark Levinson music system. It has 17 speakers, which undoubtedly contribute significantly to the RC350’s overall weight! Sound quality is suitably absorbing.

The instrumentation is a pleasure to look at. The main dial moves to the right to reveal trip computer functionality.

Lexus RC350 2015 steering wheelThe downsides to the Lexus are, in general, minor. There’s a bit of Toyota switchgear for the cruise control, and the transmission tunnel makes left leg room a little less than I’d like (I spent a lot of time trying not to transfer sunscreen from my left leg to the padded leather central console). My biggest gripe, though, was lack of storage. The cup holders don’t take a water bottle, and there’s generally a dearth of space.

But you can’t fault the interior for anything else. It’s got the kind of quality that Lexus does really well – a nice selection and variation of different types of surface, all high quality, with plenty of prominently stitched leather.

Lexus RC350 2015 front interiorThe seats, which have both heating and cooling for both front seats, are laterally supportive. My passenger complained that her head was pushed forward a bit and to stop this she had to angle the seat back more than she wanted. I didn’t find this was a problem.

There are eight airbags ready to deploy if things go wrong – the usual six plus front knee protection for driver and passenger. Other safety technologies include brake assist, traction control, stability control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert and ABS. There’s a reversing camera which is essential due to the RC350’s high haunches. The feature I used most was dynamic cruise control to maintain my speed the same as the vehicle in front.

Fuel economy

Fuel economy was around where I expected it to be – high-9 litres per 100km range for open road driving at 100kph with some overtaking. Lexus quotes 9.4l/100kph combined; a more realistic figure is around 11, and you’ll need 95 octane fuel.

Summary

Despite the Lexus dominating in the exterior looks and interior feel, and equipment levels, the BMW 435i coupe (review here) has the edge in driving dynamics and performance. The Lexus is the car you’d want to be seen in; the BMW is the car where you’d feel fresher after driving 6 hours. The BMW is also much quicker, but the Lexus seemed quieter and smoother. Both cars can hustle, hiding their bulk well with suspension trickery and big helpings of power.

When you purchase a car at this level, you need to decide on the image you are imparting. Part of the appeal of the Lexus is the adulation that you get from other drivers and the general public. I never once had a comment about the BMW, but had frequent comments about the Lexus. So, even though I preferred the driving experience of the BMW (marginally, though), perhaps I would prefer the overall ‘owning’ experience of the Lexus more. It’s a tricky choice…

Price: from $122,500

Pros

  • The wow factor in terms of looks

Cons

  • Miserly interior storage

 

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