My connection to the Lexus brand was established in the early 2000’s, when the Lexus IS200 and IS300 were released. I liked the in-line six cylinder engines, rear wheel drive layout and how the instrument cluster resembled a chronograph watch. Other cars that stood out for me in the Lexus range included the original IS F and the magnificent V10 LFA.
The list of cars featuring naturally aspirated engines have certainly diminished in recent years, as manufactures make the move to smaller capacity turbocharged engines, in an effort to improve fuel economy and efficiency. Lexus, however is still a manufacturer that fortunately still offers naturally aspirated engines.
Being a fan of naturally aspirated six cylinder engines and rear wheel drive, it’s a great opportunity to test a Lexus RC350 F Sport, featuring a 3.5 Litre V6 that sends power to the rear wheels. This Lexus is a late 2018 model finished in White Nova and is the first facelift for this car since its 2014 release.
The updated model includes a new brushed-aluminium dash inlay, new analogue clock and an updated palm rest with added stitching. The F Sport upgrade on this car includes upgraded front electric seats and they are excellent, offering the driver a range of adjustments to get the ideal driving position. In the rear, however leg and head room isn’t a strong point for the Lexus.
The integration of the 10.25 inch screen in the dash is excellent and much better than a lot of other cars previously tested. It’s refreshing to see a screen that isn’t just stuck onto the dash like an afterthought. The LFA inspired instrument dials are a highlight and I like how the tachometer lights up red when nearing the rev limit.
At first, it was hard to use the Lexus navigation panel to operate menus and sub-menus but this became easier with time. Another quirky item is the parking brake, with it being located to the left hand side of the footwell. It was hard to find at first, with most modern cars having buttons for electric handbrake operation on the centre console. The boot is quite a good size for a coupe at 423 litres.
The facelift includes a new grille mesh pattern, vertically arranged triple LED headlamps and new L-shaped LED clearance lamps. There’s also a duct on the rear bumper to improve air flow. Wing mirrors are also shared with the beautiful LC coupe. The mirrors are excellent and give you a great understanding of your surroundings.
In my opinion, the RC350 F Sport is a very good looking car and better looking than the IS models from Lexus. Particular highlights of the styling for me include the flared rear wheel arches and how the rear spoiler is amalgamated into the boot.
The 19 inch wheels are a new design on this model and look good and are well suited to the overall proportions of the car. It runs on Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres; the front tyres are 235/40/19 profile while the rear tyres are 265/35/19 profile.
The RC350 F Sport has keyless entry and start, four-wheel steering, 17-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, electric heated and ventilated front seats, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, active cruise control, satellite navigation, a limited-slip differential, variable ratio steering and adaptive dampers.
There are also eight airbags (including knee bags), ABS, stability and traction controls, active bonnet, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB and forward collision warning. A four year/100,000km warranty is also offered.
Eco, Sport s and Sport + functions are offered in the Lexus RC350 F Sport. There is also a drive mode customisation setting where the driver can set Powertrain to power, normal or eco, Chassis to sport or normal and Climate to normal or eco. Sport + mode offers a more responsive chassis and sharper throttle response.
Driving impressions and performance
The facelift hasn’t just been to the exterior and interior, with the new car offering improvements to tyres, suspension, engine response and steering feel. There are new shock absorbers and stiffer suspension bushings for more dynamic handling.
Lexus, thank you from the bottom of my heart for offering this car with a gearbox that holds its gears when in manual mode. It’s nice to be able to hurry the car along with the gearbox working with you and not constantly hunting for gears that you don’t want. The eight speed automatic shifts were fast in manual mode, but a bit sluggish in auto mode.
The 3.5 Litre DOHC V6 develops power and torque outputs of 232kW/380Nm respectively and puts power to the rear wheels. It’s an engine that doesn’t feel like it has much torque down low in the rev range and only really comes alive once you hit 4,000rpm, with strong power all the way through to the 6,400rpm redline. The engine sounds better the harder you push your right foot. Being naturally aspirated, power delivery is instant although it certainly doesn’t have the low down torque of the twin-turbo V6 Kia Stinger GT previously tested. The Stinger develops 510Nm of torque from 1300-4500rpm, whereas the RC350 F achieves its 380Nm at 4800rpm. The 0-100km/h time of six seconds seems justified, although is slower than the Stinger GT and Volkswagen Arteon.
The variable ratio electric steering system offers great feedback to the driver. It’s a fast, effortless and safe car to cruise with but seems a bit out of its depth when dealing with twisty roads with rutted surfaces. The car is a heavy 1710kg and can be a bit reluctant at making sharp direction changes.
Considering the weight of the vehicle, the ventilated discs front and rear are very effective at stopping the car. Front brake diameter is 334mm while the rear brake diameter is 310mm, with four piston calipers up front.
Fuel economy is 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle, relatively efficient for a car with a relatively large naturally aspirated engine.
For an expensive prestige car, it’s a surprise that the RC350 F Sport doesn’t feature a Head Up Display, Apple Carplay or Android Auto, wireless charging or start/stop engine system, some of which are offered on the new Toyota Corolla that costs roughly half as much.
The RC350 F Sport starts at $77,529 and this compares favourably with its main competitors, including the Infiniti Q60 and BMW 440i, both of which are turbocharged.
I really enjoyed this car and wish I had more time with it. The facelift has certainly enhanced the car’s exterior, interior and overall performance, however for a car in this price range it lacks some technology seen in cars much less expensive.
The RC350 F Sport is a safe, comfortable and relaxing car to drive on long distances, but more suited to cruising than outright performance. Being naturally aspirated, it also offers a different experience to the flood of turbocharged cars on the market and that’s something that should be commended.