Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: April 18, 2017
You’re fresh out of school, landed a good paying job, your debt has finally been paid off and now you’re looking at one of the biggest purchases of your life: a car. But not just any car, more specifically, you’re looking for that sexy luxury coupe that your parents never let you buy. So now that you have some extra money to spend, which do you buy? Which offers the best bang for your buck, and the best driving experience?
Well back in 2015 we said that the Lexus RC 350 was one of the most comfortable and personable luxury coupes on the market, more relaxed than the BMW 435i, more opulent than the Cadillac ATS Coupe, and better looking than the Audi A5. It wasn’t the sportiest luxury coupe (by a long shot), but it had poise, composure, and was an excellent daily driver.
But in the wake of a changing landscape and new and revised competition from the Infiniti Q60 and Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC, we’re not so sure about that anymore. Now that we have driven and thoroughly tested all these coupes, we’re back to revisit the RC 350 to see if we’re still getting the same positive vibes as we did two years ago.
What we loved most about the RC was how it stuck to doing things the good old-fashioned way. These were things that Lexus did particularly well, namely a naturally aspirated V6 engine, a proper 6-speed transmission, and classic two-door proportions. The RC’s cabin was impressively quiet, the noise (though a lot of it was piped through the speakers) was exhilarating, and its stylish sheetmetal was radical but sexy. The RC 350 was a coupe we get behind and would have gladly bought one for ourselves if we stumbled into the same situation, but is that still enough in today’s market?
You see, the RC has not changed very much since the 2015 model. Whereas other automakers have resorted to turbocharging their engines to boost output and improve fuel economy, the RC 350 still uses a free-breathing 3.5-litre V6. It may make significantly less torque than the BMW 440i and Mercedes-AMG C 43, and it’s also less fuel efficient – we averaged around 15.5 L/100km around the city alone – but having a turbo-less engine in this day and age feels like a treat.
The RC 350’s engine stands out because of its linear power delivery. There’s a reason why Toyota and Lexus have stuck with this V6 for so long. The revs glide up like a smooth razor, and power is delivered without the chains and shackles of a turbocharger. The RC 350 may feel underpowered next to its adversaries, but is as a result livelier and more organic. Again, Lexus is sticking with the ways of the past, and it works.
Though the RC 350 has 307-hp and a healthy 277 lb-ft of torque on tap, it isn’t very fast because it weighs a whopping 1,795 kg. That’s 60 kg more than the C 43 4MATIC, and 95 kg more than the BMW 435i xDrive. Heavy and ungainly around corners, the RC 350’s composed and rigid chassis just doesn’t move with as much athleticism as one would come to expect from this class. Every other coupe on the market moves with more enthusiasm and wits.
Instead, the RC takes a more relaxed approach at driving and moves with grace and composure. It’s every bit as comfortable as you’d expect a Lexus to be, and makes an excellent daily driver. Steering is light, the brakes are strong, and pedal feel is linear. Yes the AWD system saps a bit of the fun, the weight becomes unnerving on spirited driving runs, and no you won’t be able to win a drag race against your friend’s BMW, but then you’d be forgetting that the RC 350 is more of a grand tourer than a corner carver.
Breaking the silence is a high-pitched exhaust noise that is more entertaining that its turbocharged farting rivals. A lot of it is intake noise piped through the speakers but unlike BMW who does the exact same thing; you can control its intensity with a dial in the RC, and can switch it off entirely if you wanted to, helping one accentuate the difference when it’s on or off.
On the bright side, the piped-in noise adds much-needed bass to the engine note, which naturally aspirated motors normally lack. Without it, the V6 sounds whiny and strained. With it on, the RC 350 is more of a complete symphony, with lower-pitched growls and wonderful mid-range notes. It sounds really good to be honest – nearly as good as the 440i with a Performance Exhaust, and miles better than the tone-deaf Q60. It even compares with the RC F, the latter of which is just a few octaves higher with a belching 7,000 rpm redline howl.
However it is not just the engine that has held up well over the years, the interior has too. With a solid finish and fitting of panels, and a general sense of luxury and style, the RC 350 ranks high on our list of best interiors. We even like it better than the C 43’s. The seats are snug, bolstering is good for an average-sized adult, and though the multi-layered center layout may strike as odd to some, the ergonomics work.
I even thought the RC’s trippy exterior styling would grow out of fashion within a few months but those swooping headlights, long hood, and low stance still get our dopamine running.
In the end, it’s the price that will remain as a major deciding factor for buyers. The RC 350 AWD starts at an above-average price of $59,050. When compared to similarly equipped V6 counterparts, like the Infiniti Q60 3.0t ($52,990), BMW 440i xDrive Coupe ($57,050), Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC ($59,500), and Cadillac ATS 3.6 ($50,595), the Lexus is one the priciest. Options loaded in however, and it rings in around the middle of that pack.
It has been two years but I still think the RC is one of the best luxury coupes that you can buy. The RC is not very sporty though, and the looming competition has only reminded us of that. The RC is lacking in power, missing in driving excitement, and its radical sheetmetal belies its plump and soft riding intentions. But what it lacks, it makes up for in other departments, arguably areas that are more important to the majority of buyers: comfort, usability, and emotion.
Those are the key areas that the RC excels in and does better than its opponents. It’s old-school quirks also have a timeless charm to them, and there’s nothing like revving up a naturally aspirated engine to brighten your day – I’m just afraid that it will be one of the last.
型号 Model: 2017 Lexus RC 350 AWD F Sport
顏色 Paint Type: Infrared
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $59,050
試車售價 Price as Tested: $63,000
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,730
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,695 / 1,840 / 1,400
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,795
引擎 Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 307 hp @ 6.400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 277 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 12.6 / 9.1 / 11.0
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Sottozero; 235/40R19