Lexus came to market with a pair of all-new luxury performance sport coupe models in 2015 that fall in the realm between the GS and IS in terms of size, but will reign supreme in the performance department. The base model is the Lexus RC 350, with a Lexus RC 350 F-Sport variant, followed by a high performance model Lexus RC F.
Both the RC 350 and RC 350 F-Sport are powered by a 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V6 engine featuring VVT-I, Stoichiometric Direct Injection with secondary port injectors, and delivering 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, while generating 277 pound feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Motive energy will be transmitted to either the rear wheels or to all four via an – 8-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for rear wheel drive models, or a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic gearbox with intelligence (ECT-i) with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters for AWD (Lexus is calling AWD All Weather Drive). The F-Sport is distinguished by exclusive exterior design and interior features, and it ups the performance ante with a standard Adaptive Variable Suspension system and the available Lexus Dynamic Handling system, which includes rear-wheel steering.
Next up is the super high-performance RC F Coupe with a 5.0-liter DOHC, 32-valve V8 engine for power, with VVT-iE (electric), Direct-to-cylinder injection system with secondary port injectors. Power output is 467 horses at 7,100 rpm, with 389 pound feet of torque generated in a range between 4,800-5,600 rpm. The Lexus RC F comes only in a RWD configuration, gearing motive force through an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic with paddle shift and manual mode.
The chassis of the Lexus RC lineup is unique, despite the fact that it draws from the architecture of other Lexus vehicles. Its front end is based on the Lexus GS, which set new standards for stiffness and chassis response in a mid-sized sedan.
The rear of the RC platform is based on the new-generation IS sport sedan, noted for its performance and handling mettle. In the middle, the structure needed to maintain rigidity with its two large door openings, so Lexus borrowed this section from the IS convertible structure.
None of these platform sections was taken directly from the other cars, but rather, each contributed more than the sum of its parts to the overall chassis package. The resulting platform was fine-tuned by Lexus to provide the specific high-performance character sought for its new coupe.
The eight-speed Sports Program Direct Shift transmission debuted in the IS F high-performance sedan. The SPDS transmission blends torque converter smoothness with the shifting speed of a dual-clutch unit when shifting manually. A long-travel damper for the lock-up torque converter boosts fuel economy and ensures smooth, quiet lock-up.
The SPDS transmission features three driver-selectable modes ? NORMAL, SPORT and MANUAL, which have full torque-converter lock-up from second to eighth gears for ?clutchless? manual shifting. Downshifts are made in just 0.10-second in M mode, with the transmission?s throttle blipping control matching the engine speed to the gear. The transmission?s eight ratios were chosen to balance performance driving and fuel efficiency. Compared to the Lexus six-speed automatic transmission, first gear is 8.5 percent shorter and top gear is 2.9 percent taller.
The transmission?s SPORT mode includes G-sensor AI-Shift control, which uses information from the G-sensor on driving status to provide the optimal gear ratio for sporty driving. NORMAL mode provides fuel economy and seamless acceleration. It utilizes all eight gears for optimum fuel economy.
Using a dial on the console, the driver can literally ?dial in? the performance response and feel desired from the car through the Drive Mode Select system. Drive Mode Select tailors the vehicle?s powertrain, electric power-assisted steering assist curve, air conditioning and, on F SPORT, suspension response. Modes include NORMAL, SPORT S and ECO in the RC 350. The F SPORT adds a SPORT S+ mode for maximum handling performance from AVS suspension and the available Dynamic Handling System. RC 350 F SPORT takes handling capability to the next level with its Adaptive Variable Suspension system and the Lexus Dynamic Handling system with Dynamic Rear Wheel Steering.
In terms of their visual and emotional appeal, all Lexus RC (let?s have this stand for ?Racy? or ?Radical? Coupe) models display specific treatments of the signature ?Spindle? grille as a starting point. Front air inlets and fog lamps take on a different persona from model to model. The curved nose of the RC Coupes flows up and over the sharply raked windshield, slipping down to the short deck that?s accentuated by the integrated decklid spoiler and curving inward and emphasizing the minimal rear overhang. Exhaust treatments differ as well, with long oval shaped V6 outlets, and staggered or canted twin dual round tips. In profile, the Lexus RC in any of its versions is sleek, aerodynamic and sexy.
The Lexus RC could be described as emphasizing cool over function, with no design compromise. The RC is a pure 2+2 coupe, with the comfort priority placed on the front seats. There?s room in the rear seat for diminutive types, but the RC was designed first and foremost to favor the driver and front passenger.
The low profile and wide-stance of Lexus RC models with their short wheelbase and large diameter wheels was penned to generate instant admiration..
During the press launch, auto journalists were split into two groups ? one driving road routes, while the other took to the challenging NOLA Motorsports Park road race course. Lexus RC 350 F Sport models (there were no RC 350 base units available for the program) were used for the more mundane, yet still spirited traditional road driving, while the track models were Lexus RC F vehicles ? some with the optional Torque Vectoring Differential feature.
Pricing ranged from a low of $42,790 for a Lexus RC 350 to a high of $63,325 for the Lexus RC F. Colors are vibrant and consist of 7 exterior colors for RCs and an additional three for F Sports. Four interior color treatments are available. The Lexus RC F color pallete is the same, with stunning shades, with names like Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0, Molten Pearl and Infrared metallic. My most recent test vehicle was the 2016 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport, which wore an exterior finish of Molten Pearl and sported a Black Interior. The base price was set at $42,790. While the [rice as tested came to $53,140.
SUMMARY: The 2016 Lexus RC 350, 350 F Sport and RC F are all stunningly gorgeous to look at, and all are exhilarating to drive, but the RC F takes first prize trophy on the street or on the track. Yes, there are other great looking cars in this market category and price range, but we?re not making a comparison here with other vehicles folks, just providing the facts.
The V6 powered RCs are more than adequate performers and are certainly more affordable, but the V8 RC F is the most stimulating to drive in a controlled track environment. All are impressive in either the automatic or manual mode, but the exhaust note of the RC F?s V8 is stimulating to say the least, and the automatic throttle blipping is totally worth its weight in gold.
The RC F?s transmission provides a newly expanded version of the SPORT mode with four settings: Normal mode for regular VDIM control; VDIM SPORT mode to give priority to driver control; a new EXPERT mode, which only intervenes to prevent a spin with VDIM off, and finally, an OFF setting, with no control by the VDIM system.
Safety, connectivity and entertainment features abound as well, with all the usual fare ? Mark Levinson, Enform, etc. We didn?t spend a lot of time with the nuts and bolts of these areas though, because we were actually focused more on the joy of driving these latest gems from Lexus.
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?[wptabtitle] SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport Coupe [/wptabtitle]
|Price as Tested:||$53,140.|
|Engine Type and Size:||3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve with VVT-I, Stoichiometric Direct Injection with secondary port injectors.|
|Horsepower (bhp):||306 @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque (ft./ lbs.):||277 @ 4,800 rpm|
|Transmission:||8-speed Electronically Controlled automatic transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.|
|Drive Train:||Longitudinally mounted front engine / RWD or AWD.|
Front – Double wishbones with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Multilink, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS, EBD, BA, VSC and TRAC – all systems integrated with Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system.|
|Tires:||Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 235/40 R19 96Y All-Season front mounted on 10-spoke (5 bright ?V? over 5 gray ?V? alloy wheels / 265/85 R19 94Y rear.|
|Length Overall:||184.8 inches|
|Width:||81.5 inches ? with mirrors unfolded.|
|Height:||54.9 inches- RWD|
|Curb Weight:||3,748 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity:||17.4 gallons|
|EPA Mileage Estimates:||19-mpg city / 28-mpg highway|
|Drag Coefficient:||Not listed.|
|0 – 60 mph:||5.8 seconds RWD / 6.0 seconds AWD|
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.