By on June 30, 2016

2016 Lexus RC350 F Sport

The quickest Nürburgring lap times make no difference to me when I’m driving across town for a Monday afternoon dental appointment. In fact, the best Nürburgring lap times will likely result in a car that shakes my fillings loose before I get to the dentist.

A spec sheet that lists competitor-besting horsepower and torque figures might have held sway over me a decade ago, but I’m much more captivated now by how a car responds to my inputs.

The 2016 Lexus RC 350, even with all-wheel-drive traction and the F Sport package, is no track monster. Nor, in comparison to more established rivals from Audi and BMW, is the RC 350 a winner on paper.

And that’s okay. I don’t need, nor do I want, a track monster. I don’t spend much time analyzing horsepower wars.

The RC 350 F Sport is, however, a frightful Solar Flare orange beast to behold, and I’m not sure I can cope with offensive styling.

Or can I?

To be fair, beauty, or the lack thereof, is always in the eye of the beholder. I’m not saying you can’t love the RC 350’s exterior treatment. My neighbour calls it “pretty.” My two-year old, typically impressed only with pickup trucks and large cargo areas, fell in love at first sight, telling me while examining the RC’s cabin, “I sleep in here tonight.”

2016 Lexus RC350 F Sport Solar Flare

I PERSONALLY BELIEVE…
To my eyes, a Solar Flare RC 350 F Sport festooned with garish inlets and outlets, a grille seemingly as large as a Scion iQ’s whole front end, and enough slicing and dicing on the headlamps to make a home cooking show is the antithesis of the classy Toyota 2000GT, the 1965 Lancia Fulvia Coupe, the second-generation Mercedes-Benz SL, and even Audi’s first-gen A5. The RC 350 goes out of its way to beg for attention, rather than simply accepting whatever respect is due a $54,375 Lexus coupe.

It’s not impossible for me to set aside feelings of stylistic discontent to render an unbiased judgement of a new vehicle. Manufacturers send me a new car to drive every week — as often as not, I’m not a fan of the design. I can set that aside as a non-factor, because it doesn’t invariably mean TTAC and GCBC readers aren’t.

But we’re not talking about TTAC and GCBC readers now. I don’t like the way this car looks. No, I detest the way this car looks. It’s only been here for a few days and I’m already sick of seeing its rear end appear before my eyes when I let the dog out at 6:30 every morning. I’m almost embarrassed to have it sitting in my driveway on a street full of Civics. I’m going to get my haircut this afternoon — where do I park this thing so the hairdressers don’t make every kind of negative assumption about my vehicular tastes?

OVERCOMING
And yet, I truly am enjoying every moment I have with this car, supplied for the week by Toyota Canada. I’m attaining a level of enjoyment with this car the likes of which no other car that aesthetically offends me has ever come close to managing.

For example, if I was an avid camper and the revolting Pontiac Aztek’s tent impressed me, I still wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about the way it looks. If the SsangYong Rodius had a Chrysler Pacifica’s Stow’N’Go, the Kia Sedona’s SXL’s interior, and my Honda Odyssey’s LATCH accessibility, I would still never be able to stop thinking about the SsangYong’s grotesque exterior.

Here I am in this RC 350 F Sport that’s as easy to find in a parking lot as John McEnroe’s New York Mets hat in the Wimbledon Court Two bleachers, a car which has me wondering why 21,000 U.S. car buyers took the plunge, and I no longer care that its bodywork grieves me so.

Granted, perhaps many of those 21,000 owners bought or leased an RC because they liked the way it looks, perish the thought. Some may have even been under the impression that it’s sporty.

2016 Lexus RC350 F Sport interior

SPORTY
The 2016 Lexus RC 350 F Sport AWD is certainly not sporty in the straight-line sense of the word, not in comparison with a BMW 335i, Audi S5, or Cadillac ATS 3.6. Nor will you believe much about the RC’s alleged sporting credentials once you’ve heaved its 3,900+ pounds into a hairpin and found yourself washing wide.

The fact that the RC’s on-road behavior contradicts the wild and wooly exterior is nevertheless no bother, not to me. Perhaps if the RC 350 had all sorts of straight-line gumption, I’d be dismayed by its lack of agility. Indeed, if the RC 350 possessed the lithe chassis of the Scion FR-S but lacked the power to put it to use, I’d likewise be disheartened.

Instead, the RC 350 is quick enough. Throttle response is natural, and it takes some revving for the 3.5-liter V6 to feel like a 307-horsepower engine. Instead of a suspension stiff enough to make a near-4,000-pounder tackle a corner like the proverbial Fiesta ST, the RC 350 F Sport rides with suppleness befitting a Lexus LS.

COMFORT
Rather than imply a false sense of athleticism with hefty steering and snap-bang gear changes, the RC 350’s steering is light and its six-speed automatic (rear-wheel-drive RC 350s use an eight-speed) draws no attention to its civilized shifts. In every way, the means by which the RC 350 makes forward progress is in keeping with every other facet. Relaxed, but not apathetic. Swift, but not sudden. Composed, not calculating.

Steering weight, throttle response, transmission shifts, the degree of body roll — it’s all operating on the same plane. The RC’s sport mode amplifies the car’s ability but doesn’t conflate differing priorities. In appreciating the balance, I find myself wanting to drive the RC 350 more and more, especially if I don’t need to look at it as I go to hop in.

2016 Lexus RC350 interior detail

Hopping in, mind you, is no joy. The roof is low; the seat bolsters are high. Visibility, as you’d therefore expect, is awful, and I sometimes find myself driving slower than I otherwise would because I don’t feel I have the full picture of what’s going on around me. I’m also distracted by the Lexus touchpad, though there’s an increasing level of comfort with the controller.

The RC’s is certainly a well-built cabin, from the plush dashtop to the signal stalk engagement to quality centre stack, which doesn’t look expensive but feels worthy of the MSRP. It appears as though Lexus persistently asked, “Why use one button when we can use two?”, which adds a measure of Japanese character. The seats are terrific but could be improved with four-way lumbar. And the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is jaw-dropping.

The Lexus RC 350 F Sport rides far too smoothly to shake my new fillings loose. Turning up the wick on that stereo, however, may well provide my dentist with some unforeseen work.

[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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48 Comments on “2016 Lexus RC 350 F Sport Review – Slower Than It Looks, Better Than It Looks...”


  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    While the interior has a ‘dash’ of 80’s Toyota retro tech look to it, the Tangier-reem Dreamed exterior is just too much hatchet swipes and odd lumps for me to warm up to. Also, weighing in at 4k it’s about 3-350 pounds heavier than any coupe should be.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I love Lexus dashes of late (gadgets aside), but yeah, just too many try-hard bells and whistles on the outside.

      Maybe the redesign/MCR will feature a more toned-down design. I can’t believe I’m saying Lexus has to exercise restraint!

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I’m a big fan of the interior. It just screams Japanese to me in a very good way. Definitely agree on the exterior though, as well as the weight.

    • 0 avatar

      Damn, Lexus! 1990 interior design and ergonomics much?

    • 0 avatar
      mpersiano

      Stop…this is how the F cars perform.

      The Fsport is a nice car, but it’s not an “F.”

      Watch Ben Collins (STIG) give them a go.

      http://www.carscoops.com/2016/06/former-stig-reviews-lexus-lfa-plus-rc-f.html

      The RC F is truly amazing, world-class car, outshining the torque-induced oversteering M4. If you have not lived the Ms and the Fs, you really have no idea of how Lexus has redefined the luxury, high-performance market with these cars. Weight–what weight? Get in an RCF Carbon TVD, place it in track TVD setting, Sport+, and disengage VSC by moving to the “happy” mode and hold on.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Interesting review, the ability of the car to grow on you despite falling to the Germans on performance is a different take. This car still seems badly conflicted to me. The styling is shouty, the paint job is shouty, the cabin is an aggressive cockpit, but the motive and cornering performance fails to live up to it.

    I’m curious how the LC500 will pan out.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I don’t love this car, but I respect it. I remember reading somewhere that Toyota demands every car be engineered to run 250,000 miles. I’ve always guessed that’s the reason every sporty Toyota model ever offered in this country had engine specs that read great on paper, but delivered class-trailing acceleration on the road. But you know what? With proper maintenance, they generally will go a quarter-million miles (and don’t tell me “any modern car will do that.” Bull pucky).

      If you care about stoplight drag races, yes, buy elsewhere. But how different really is the subjective sensation of going 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, 6 or 6.5? When it’s my money, I like the idea of the car not being stressed within an inch of its life.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        If they put it in a wrapper that reflected their restrained, tasteful engineering approach I’d be all for it.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Because bragging rights! Never mind that in 80% of my stoplight pull aways, I am usually first off the line in my uber-speedy base Ford Escape!

        And I can’t speak for many other makes and models when it comes to reaching 250k, but I can look at my son’s driveway and see is 1997 Tercel that he refuses to part with (though he can easily afford to) that has 230k on the original engine and trans with no issues.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Which is why Toyota has been incredibly slow to upgrade the out-dated power-trains on its Lexus models (the LS460 still has that 4.6L V8 putting out 380HP – which is less than what higher trim midsize luxury sedans have).

        Also the reason why the GS-F has been sitting on dealer lots while the 2016 MY run on the CTS-V has been sold out.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Its proportions and stance make it obvious it’s a sedan turned into a sports coupe. Beltline and shoulders are just too high off of the ground. But it looks like it belongs to a fun person who just wants to be wild. Someone who isn’t obsessed with being “understated,” as self-conscious as Audi or Benz drivers. As if light-up badges were understated, anyway. I can’t wait for the LC coupe! Take risks, people! Be a Snapchat, not an generic overfiltered Instagram!

  • avatar
    Joss

    Alfa Miata for looks. Focus RS for fun. 350 F for reliability & residual hmmm..

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The GS loses 1/3rd of it value in the hands of Edmund’s. That is very poor residuals for Lexus.

      http://www.edmunds.com/lexus/gs-350/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-lexus-gs-350-inspected-and-sold.html

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        70% residual in three years is very good, I think the ES/RX line was about 82% in two years. Domestic luxury cars are typically in the 50s in the same three year period, there was a reason the MKZ was a recommended buy to Church followers.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The GS hasn’t really been popular since the ’90s – nobody thinks of it, and the RWD and similar size to the ES are not a + to the average consumer who doesn’t care.

        I had a very hard time explaining to my boss the reasons for choosing a GS over an ES when he saw the price difference.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        in 2013 before a market existed for the F-Sport this one time Edmunds got a bad resale. Try a more statistically valid sample if you want me to take you seriously. Better yet, go buy me a 10 month old GS F-Sport for .66 of MSRP. I’ll pay you a finders fee if the condition is excellent.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    That color would be glorious spread across a ’58 Impala of just about the same curb weight as this Lexus, maybe a little less.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This car is about as confused as Infiniti was in the late 90s. An IS seems like a much better buy by all measures.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Oh dear. 3,900 lbs and a 3.5L NA motor? Wow.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      That was my takeaway. How on Earth does this thing weight 3900 lbs?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      3.5 is enough for that weight if it’s got VQ power figures. But the Toyota 3.5 does not. So I bet it’s sort of slow/average feeling.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      The RC F has a V8 and 467HP… after reading this review I might prefer the balance over the gusto. Assuming someone can find me one for 2/3 MSRP at 1 year old.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Yeah. Just to wave the Panther banner one more time this Fourth of July weekend, that’s only about a hundred pounds less than a Mercury Grand Marquis of the Aero generation (92-97). But the latter has about one-third more displacement (4.7 Mod motor), and doubtless thrashes this in both performance and classic styling, as opposed to a lot of busy-ness to try to portray that the care has more, in some vague undefined way.

      And FWIW, Panthers easily top 300K all day long, and twice on Sundays.

      And that color looks like it was stolen from a John Waters trailer park front yard Pink Flamingo.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How much Mary Kay do you have to sell to get that as your reward?

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Just, what does this offer over an IS, which isn’t so offensive looking, and is lighter? Unless you’re stuck on buying a coupe, this just seems like the best way to declare loudly to the world you have a gentle excess of money in place of taste.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Not a fan of the styling.

    Someone in my suburb has one of these. In person it draws my attention but there are too many bends/curves for me to ever call it beautiful. That and the big gaping maw doesn’t help.

    And the fact you could get beaten in some stoplight stupidity by a rather pedestrian BMW 335, and even a 228, makes it seem less than a bargain.

    Car and Driver (yeah, I know) says the 2015 version does a 0-60 in six seconds and a quarter of 14.5.
    http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2015-audi-s5-vs-cadillac-ats-coupe-36-lexus-rc350-f-sport-final-scoring-performance-data-and-complete-specs-page-5

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It’s a peach nightmare.

    Looks much better in regular guise, and in dark colors, so the slats/vents/cuts blend in a bit more with the paint.

    Either way, it’s not a dignified conveyance, which is what a big V6/8 Lexus coupe should be. The SC400 weeps quietly.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I find it to be a “sort of” in terms of appearance. I basically like it but would prefer a more subdued version. It has a bit too much of that, “Hey, look at me!” boy racer thing about it – the color in particular; surprising for a Lexus in my estimation.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    A nightmare. That is the same color as the inside of a healthy large intestine. And the styling appears to hark from about the same location.

  • avatar
    newlexusowner

    So the consensus is, no one likes the styling! Well, I agree with the venom towards the color. I just bought the same car (RC 300, even slower, with the F Sport package) in Pearl White with the Black/Red interior. I like it. A lot. Let’s agree it is polarizing.

    I also like the handling, a good balance of sportiness and decent ride quality. I drive from Hartford CT to NJ every week, and couldn’t deal with a car that had too stiff a ride. For me, there is plenty of power.

    The downsides? It shares the same downsides as every coupe, if you want practicality, get an Accord (I had one, great car). Also, the gas mileage is not good, 24 tops on the highway. The radio/nav system is difficult to use with the track pad controller. That’s about it.

    All of the cars I compared it to, other coupes, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, does anyone have confidence those will be even on the road after 150,000 miles? Leasing cars isn’t an option for me, with the mileage I put on.

    At any rate, I’m happy with my purchase, and I’d recommend it after 3,500 miles.

  • avatar
    fr88

    I roundly applaud the bold use of color from a mid-century palette – most cars on the road today are painted some gradation of metallic dirt. But dear God, even that great color can’t disguise the fact that this thing is frighteningly ugly! It truly mars the landscape with pointless, graceless “styling” details. And for all its aggressive ugliness, it appears to drive like a mild-mannered Camry. I just don’t see the reason for this car’s existence.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    Isn’t that just a gussied-up GT86 (or whatever they call this little coupe Toyota produces in conjunction with Subaru)?

    That said, the upcoming Lexus LC500 coupe looks really great in the first videos, minus the outrageous taillight and headlight styling.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      That was my impression too – it closely resembles a Scion.
      The grille and the wheels are too large and the windows are too small, and the weight is way too high. Lots of new designs are that way, though, so they’re just following a trend.
      The interior looks like a very nice place to be, though.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      No, it’s a Frankenlexus made up of a GS, IS, and previous-generation IS convertible.

  • avatar

    In other words – people looking for a sport coupe won’t want it because it’s not sporty.

    People looking for a luxury car won’t want it because it’s too sporty.

    So basically, nobody will buy it.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I find the RC pointless. I’d much rather have a GS even if it has the dreaded back doors. But Lexus may be on to something. My wife, the queen of understanding Regular People’s Car Tastes, likes it — and prefers it to any of the Lexus sedans. They seem to be selling well here on the Coast of Japanese Cars, both in 350 and F form.

    It’s just really too bad about that weight. The LC500 is not going to weigh much more than this, and the RC F will struggle to distance itself from the LC500’s performance.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I love this color.

    If I ever build a custom pickup, I’m gonna have to have the paint shop mix up some of this!

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    So let’s see. Carry over engine. Outdated autobox. AWD system that is in no way competitive with Quattro or xDrive. $43K starting for “NuLuxe” vinyl seats and an otherwise Avalon grade interior. 3800 pounds of fat due to three different chunks of other cars that have been unceremoniously welded together. Gundam Wing styling that is backed up with nothing. Arguably the worst, most laggy turbo 4 in the luxury biz. Stupid touch pad that’s impossible to use while driving.

    But uh….. reliability?

  • avatar
    Fred

    My late 2cents, from 2 years ago, not much has changed, except the front end is a little worse. I like the engine, but it needs a manaul so you get it to rev and go. Same with the 250. The interior with that wide consule is cramped. Those AC vents seemed out of place. Worse is the price comparisons with the competition there is no reason to compromise at this level.

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