If you’ve been following the Lexus brand lately, you know that they’re on an all-out mission to shed their soft, comfy, pure luxury image…that’s still a work in progress; it takes a long time to change people’s minds about a brand. But the new RC coupe just might be the car that speeds that change along.
The 2015 Lexus RC marks the brand’s reentry into the sporty coupe segment. And from the looks of this car, they’re not jumping back in quietly. The RC may not instantly strike fear into the hearts of the German marques that dominate this segment, but they will certainly know Lexus has joined the party.
The RC’s compliant, yet very rigid chassis is an all-star for sure. It’s not a new chassis per se, but a modified combination of 2 separate Lexus platforms. The front architecture and suspension comes from the mid-size GS, while the rear comes from the compact IS, with a lot of structural bracing in between. Enough to satisfy a fairly wide variety of tastes.
Taking a walk through the lineup, things start with the RC 350. It’s the tamest model with a 3.5-liter V6 coming directly over from the GS, outputting the same 306-horsepwer and 277 lb-ft. of torque. Transmission is also the same 8-speed automatic, with steering wheel shifters, unless you choose all-wheel-drive in which case you’ll lose 2 gears.
But, the outside is anything but tame. While it may not the most dynamic looking Lexus of all-time, it’s pretty darn close.
It’s still Lexus-smooth, but with plenty of sharp angles and body tucks to drum up some excitement. The front end screams aggression with a big-mouth grille and vertical openings slashed into the corners.
18-inch wheels are standard, with significant fender flares above them. L-shaped LED rear lighting has been updated with clear, jagged lenses protruding out. The rear bumper also gets slashed up with simulated corner vents.
Inside, things are less of a departure. There’s still lots of luxury to touch and plenty of serenity to be had when driving. Lexus calls this a pure 2+2 Coupe, so rear space, especially leg room, is limited.
4-dial gauges set a sporty tone, with a small central TFT screen providing plenty of info. 10.4 cubic-ft of space hides in the trunk, and useful folding rear seatbacks add to that. Neither back-up camera nor navigation are standard, however, but if you do upgrade, there’s a new remote touchpad for inputs.
Next up the line is the RC 350 F Sport, and the added content is very high. For the exterior, there are 19-inch wheels, unique front and rear fascia, and fender badging.
Inside it gets even better with supportive sport seats, new sport pedals, LFA-inspired gauges, black headliner, and tasteful silver trim.
While the Sport’s engine is unchanged, there are lots of mechanical upgrades. Like adaptive variable suspension, high-friction brake pads, 4-wheel steering, and the additional Sport+ driving mode.
We spent most of our drive time in the F Sport and were very impressed with its light and balanced feel. Around the track at the Monticello Motor Club, things felt super-rigid with virtually no flex.
The rear-steer speeds up turn-ins, and the car has an almost Porsche-like competency, where you have a hard time believing you’re having this much fun in a straight-up street car, let alone a Lexus. And you can do some serious pushing without feeling like you’re going to end up in some “epic fail” video on You Tube.
But, where this tale really gets interesting is in the top-of-the-line RC F. This car is serious, with a 467-horsepwer 5.0-liter V8, as well as fully upgraded chassis and brakes.
It’s a beast! On the street, it feels a little nose heavy, and steering is slower, though you can dial in more with Sport and Sport+ settings, but we found it almost too aggressive for everyday use.
On the track however, it comes alive with the V8 growling on acceleration, and barking on downshifts. Transmission is also an 8-speed, but it’s different enough to get a separate internal name.
A Torsen limited-slip rear is standard and you can upgrade to a torque vectoring rear, which includes “set-it-and-forget-it” presets for standard, slalom, and track. The torque vectoring rear is highly recommended, as it allows you to seriously late brake and perform dare-devil late turn-ins well beyond your skill set.
All of that, along with huge 6-piston Brembos up front, make the RC F a legit player in the RS, M, and AMG game. Lexus claims 0-60 happens in 4.4-seconds and we believe it.
Prices are competitive too, starting at $43,715 for the RC 350, the F Sport comes in at $47,700, and the big-dog RC F goes for $63,325.
While the LFA got the performance-image ball rolling for Lexus, things have been slow in gaining momentum. But we think the 2015 RC is a game changer, and just what the Lexus makeover has been waiting for.
Engine: 3.5 liter V6
Torque: 277 lb-ft.