While Lexus has cranked out a few impressive sporting models over its lifetime, “performance” is not a term that’s synonymous with the brand. Instead, Lexus seems to evoke words like “reliability,” “luxury,” and “high resale values” from the collective consumer mindscape. However, the brand does do dynamics. You can log onto its website right now and discover that most of its fleet offers enough horsepower to make getting a ticket easy enough. It also has performance F variants of the GS, LC, and RC for customers of discerning tastes and the need for a 5.0-liter V8 powerplant.
Interested in going the extra mile to prove itself, Lexus plans to unveil a refreshed RC at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, along with a special Track Edition of the already high-performance RC F.
Lexus is hopping on the black craze by offering a new appearance package, starting with the RC F Sport. Limited to only 650 units, the brand’s “Black Line” special edition is also only available in one of two colors: Caviar (black) and Atomic Silver (orange). Additional visual enhancements include matte black wheels, orange or black brake calipers, and darkened chrome. The upgrade also includes Lexus’ navigation and Mark Levinson premium audio packages — as well as a moonroof, parking assist, and triple beam LED headlamps.
Extensive orange stitching differentiates the Black Line from the standard cars and appears on everything from the seats to the dashboard and doors. The vehicles also receive an exclusive wood-trimmed steering wheel that features “distinctive shades of black” created by a 200-year old Japanese calligraphy shop.
With the aggressively styled LC 500 garnering most of the Lexus coupe headlines, what with its eight-cylinder engine and look-over-here sheetmetal, its RC stablemate often gets short shrift. Meanwhile, the more attainable Toyota 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S) seems to make headlines for not offering extra horsepower than for anything else.
America is not a forgiving place for coupes these days.
Still, which of these rear-drive Toyota-built coupes holds the most appeal to a buyer? The 86’s handling and youthful intentions aside, it’s arguably the RC, as Lexus’s coupe offers more interior room, horsepower, and clout. Even the base RC 200t, which becomes the RC 300 for 2018, brings a 241-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter to the table, handily besting the 86’s turboless 2.0.
Of course, it’s not really a fair comparison. The price gulf between the two models is quite significant. Or is it?
First things first: Lexus is hardly the only automaker deserving of blame for unintelligibly altering model nomenclature. Moreover, Lexus continues to offer some models for which the badge makes sense. A Lexus LX570, for example, is an LX with a 5.7-liter V8. The Lexus IS350 we tested earlier this month utilizes a 3.5-liter V6.
How sensible. How obvious. How traditional.
But for 2018, the Lexus IS and its RC stablemate will muddy the displacement waters that were already complicated in 2017 by a detuned 3.5-liter V6 that wore IS300 and RC300 badging. In 2018, while the mid-range car continues to make its power from a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 (not the upgraded 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 of the IS350 and RC350), the 2.0-liter turbocharged mill that was previously under the hood of the IS200t and RC200t is now the engine under the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS300 and RC300.
Confused? Yeah, we are, too. Let’s try that again.
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?
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