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Lexus RC 350 Sports Luxury review: One of the finest grand tourers
Not perfect, but the RC 350 comes close enough
- Luxurious interior
- Involving engine that's quiet at low revs and exciting at high revs
- Great looking car
- Voice control is often inaccurate
- Voice prompts cannot be disabled
- Heavy front end
Price$ 80,435.00 (AUD)
Few cars ooze the kind of presence characterising the Lexus RC 350. It is all lines. Sharp lines dice its front lamps, and soft lines arch the spine of its roof. The shape is simple, with a large bonnet, two doors and a small boot, but the details are intricate. There’s a gaping grille up front, other-worldly 19-inch mags and even fins punctuating two exhausts. The effect is a sophisticated take on the performance car shape.
Inside is a plush interior, lined with quality materials and kitted with technological treats. Perforated leather is flanked by sculpted aluminium insets. Subtle strips of light draw attention to seemingly insignificant components. Parts of the dashboard are soft and generously upholstered. Centered is an analogue clock. These details lean the Lexus coupe away from performance and towards luxury.
Completely engage the throttle and every one of its 233kWs has a voice
Take the seats for instance, which are not only heated, but also fanned, so that cool air seeps through the porous leather to keep the back of blazers and business shirts dry. This feature is born from comfort and not performance. That’s why it’s best to think of the RC 350 as a grand tourer.
This is an intelligent car. Collision sensors border its perimeter and a rear-view camera lends support when parking. An infotainment system is managed by a trackpad and is displayed on a 7-inch touchscreen. All sorts of media can be listened to or watched, with connectivity options including Bluetooth streaming, two USB ports, a microSDHC memory card slot — dedicated to the competent GPS system — and auxiliary inputs. Stock RC 350s come with a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system, while models higher up in the range play tunes from a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
Not all of the technology takes the hassle out of driving. The car ‘bongs’ incessantly. Bong; there’s a red light camera. Bong; there’s a school coming up. Bong; the school is around the corner. Bong: You’re in the school zone. Bong: I forgot it’s Sunday and there is no school.
These notifications provide an overload of information. Driving in suburbia, where the schools and the safety cameras are plentiful, is marred by this perennial whining, which cannot be turned off, unless all voice prompts are deactivated. The journalist who reviewed the RC 350 before us had set the volume of voice commands to low. As did the journalist who reviewed the IS300h that we are currently testing.
Generously equipping the RC 350 with luxuries does weigh the car down
Another gripe involves the voice control, which is lacking in contextual awareness. Every command has to be broken down and it rarely qualifies selections accurately. It often failed to acknowledge the simple prompts “no” and “cancel”, which in this car, will be said often.
These pet peeves are easily overcome; deactivate all of the prompts and keep the voice control use to a minimum.
The RC 350’s low profile and thin tyres do not spoil the ride. The car is silky smooth on ordinary roads and softens the jolts of those that are bumpy. It is quiet, refined and primed for long drives.
Generously equipping the RC 350 with luxuries does weigh the car down. It is more than 200 kilograms heavier than the equivalent BMW 435i with a curb weight of 1740 kilograms. It’s hunkered, fat profile grants it presence, though the low centre of gravity isn’t enough to offset the heavy V6 engine.
Understeer is a problem when taking sharp corners quickly, and even though the rear end can be kicked out in an exuberant display of oversteer, it would be irresponsible doing so on public roads.
The RC 350 then is best suited to long motorway straights and this is a point driven home by its engine. The naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 is civilised when on ordinary roads. The engine purrs quietly as it shifts through all eight gears, choosing to focus on practical economy. Lexus claims the RC 350 will do 9.4L per 100 kilometres in the everyday ‘economy’ driving mode.
Switch it to one of the sports modes and the tone changes. The engine’s stamping pistons grow more audible under partial throttle. It's a mechanical whirl that remains seductively refined.
It is as comfortable on the congested streets of Sydney as it is enthralling to drive on the barren roads of rural Australia
Completely engage the throttle and every one of its 233kWs has a voice. The note is deeper and gnarly. Dropping the car down from third to second at 3000 rpms marks the point where this car turns from everyday gentleman into a street hoon. The redline is at 6400 rpm and that’s long enough to ride out the addictive melody, right up until the next gear is engaged and you start the high all over again.
Petrol consumption goes up with this kind of driving to approximately 15L for every 100 kilometres. Most of the time our review car idled around this figure, give or take a couple of litres.
Lexus claims the RC 350 will hit the 100km/hour mark from a standstill in 6.1 seconds. The sports luxury car won’t break any land speed records, but it is plenty fast for a luxurious coupe.
Some cars are made solely for the open road. During those moments when the sun is shining and the roads are empty, they make undeniable sense. Encounter some traffic on an overcast day and the things you love quickly turn to hate. The ride is no longer low but impractically bumpy. Screaming engines are rendered pains during stop-start commutes. And all of this is often endured with an interior that is barren of features and wanting for comfort.
This is where Lexus’ RC 350 differs. It is as comfortable on the congested streets of Sydney as it is enthralling to drive on the barren roads of rural Australia. It is civilised and it is raw. No matter the day or the hour, it will be ready for open roads and overcast days.
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