Shapely two-door luxury sport coupe exude vitality and youthfulness. No, they DEMAND vitality and youthfulness. Each time "Drive...He Said" tries on a new coupe it's hard to ignore ground-scraping seat height, Olympian lat and tricep challenging frameless doors, and mouse-size access to shoe box rear quarters.
Luxury sports coupe attracts vital and enthusiast car buyers. The kind who [automakers hope] develop brand allegiance. A fact which Lexus, top purveyor of gentleman's luxo-barges and suburban ladies luxury crossover-utes, had dozed-off to.
Recently the Japanese luxury brand awoke from it's vitality slumber with a brilliantly focused 2014 Lexus IS350 AWD compact executive sedan. Suddenly yuppie enthusiasts started noticing Lexus again.
To dig deeper into the well of younger clientele, a 2-door luxury coupe variant simply had to follow.
WHAT: 2016 Lexus RC350 F-Sport
RC = Radical Coupe. The new RC sports coupe (XC10) is a Dr. Frankenstein amalgamation of the front underpinnings from the current GS-sedan (L10), the mid-section floorpan from the outgoing IS-Convertible (XE20) and the rear platform from the current IS-sedan (XE30).
WHAT (A) DIFFERENCE:
Over The Sedan: Shorter wheelbase' longer with overhangs; About 150 lbs. >
In Looks: F-Sport trim boasts a sinister exaggeration of Lexus trademark bulging lattice spindle grille to date; Longer hood, more raked windshield and backlight than the IS-sedan lend seductive fastback silhouette; Rear trunk lid curves upward for handsome integrated spoiler; Tapered rear light housings are more dramatic than in IS-sedan; Larger rear overhangs with diffused corner ducts recall images of Porsche's fabled 959; Overlapped tuning fork 19" alloy wheels deliver on the BBS-look.
WHY: Lexus' oldest customers are handing in their driver's licenses and the LC-F supercar wasn't attainable to yuppies
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late fall 2015
WHERE: Lexus new car dealers
WHERE MADE: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
HOW STRONG: Base powerplant is a liquid intercooled, turbocharged 16V DI gas I-4 mated to a rear-drive 6-speed paddle shifting automatic gearbox. AWD is standard with a middle ground 255hp 3.0L DOHC gas V6 variant. The RWD standard (AWD optional) 3.5L DOHC engine features both Sequential and Direct Injection and variable Atkinson cycling. Throttle response and sounds made are gutsy; Feels slower off-the-line than lighter IS350; It's happy to linger for awhile at the upper part of the rev band. Lexus' own 8-speed slushbox transitions a tad smoother than some ZF units and will instantly downshift 3 gears with nary a complaint.
HOW LIMBER: Variable electric assist steering rack (opt.) spins with track duty speed and is abetted by meaningful heft; Road feel passes to the helm; Staggered 3-season front to rear tire fitments on 19" track straight at triple-digit speeds; Rear plants well, but nose plows charging into corners threatening understeer; Electronic variable damping is supple until switched to Sport Plus mode where the chassis approaches Corvette Z51 stiffness. Springing nearly up to handling extra mass yielding slight roll past 8/10ths; 4-Piston front calipers on 2-piece rotors crack down on oversized discs for some serious stopping force.
HOW FAR: 3.5L V-6 / 8-spd. autobox combo nets a reasonable 21 combined miles-per-gallon. Not out-of-line with what the turbo-charged competition delivers.
HOW BIG: A loooong compact sports coupe. Blame the GS sedan's donated front undersection required to hold the small-block V-8 in the RC-F model.
HOW LITTLE: This long coupe remains compact inside. Adjust the driver's seat for a sight line to clear the high fenders and long deck and heads are nearly butting the ceiling. The monolithic center stack imposes. Despite a rear seat about as accommodating as a Ford Mustang fastback's, and power sliding front seats, it's the Mustang which is easier to climb in back of.
HOW USEFUL: Shallow trunk since Lexus [thankfully] hasn't adopted runflat tires, retaining mini-spare; Not a whole lot of door pocket storage and none at the bottom of the center stack; 2x USB port and 1x 12V power outlet are inconveniently stashed inside aft-located front center armrest;
HOW SAFE: coveted IIHS 2015 Top Pick Plus winner: 8 airbags, Reinforced aluminum skin doors; Driver assist technology: √ Radar adaptive cruise control, √ Forward Collision avoidance braking, √ BSW, √ Park Assist F+R w/ rear camera, √ Rear Cross traffic warning.
HOW FRIENDLY: Sport seats wrapped in convincing NuLuxe cocoon slimmer bodies, relieving lower back pressure, offending wider bodies; √ Sport-sized leather wrapped perforated helm power tilts and extends generously; Redundant spoke controls are Toyota-ish; Center stack features conveniently placed controls such as chalk textured audio dials and sublime capacitive touch climate adjustment sensors; Sparse spun aluminum & metallic plastic trim do little to warm up starkly cold cabin; Whispering power window motors & soft thud door closing reveal billet-like assembly.
F-Sport package yields the unique motorized TFT color customizable single analog gauge which slides to reveal trip & performance and infotainment data; Night gauge backlighting = serious white on black; In this day & age a 7"-inch HD 3-pane LCD display is small for luxury segment; Not sure if Remote Touchpad controller is improvement over joystick unit; Menus are intuitive whether for GPS SD navigation, infotainment and apps or climate settings √ Contrasting white-stitching practically everywhere the eye can see ; √ Soft touch materials wherever fingers and elbows will venture;
HOW "APP" -LICABLE: For the money Mark Levinson mobile audio rules with crisp highs and warmth. Waiting for a next generation infotainment interface, ubiquitous Lexus Enform suite is populated with plenty of apps to stimulate ear drums, whet palates and reserve tickets for Saturday night show.
HOW MUCH: $54,815 for a close to loaded 2016 Lexus RC350 F-Sport RWD 8-speed automatic.
WHAT'S MISSING: B-pillar front seatbelt extension arm; Greater back seat space; Lower weight; Slimmed-down grille; Manual transmission option [but we wouldn't hold our breath for either]; IS350 F-Sport sedan feels nimbler.
ANY COMPETITION: BMW 435i M-Sport is more mature yet imparts warmer, fuzzier feeling; Current Audi's A5, is that gracefully aging exquisite feline; Mercedes-Benz' new C-Class coupe now stands at the forefront of driver assistance technology and cabin opulence; But as comparably optioned Euro luxo coupes will > $60K ceiling, real challenge will be arrival of re-designed 2017 Infiniti Q60 with all-new twin turbocharged gas V-6s powerplants.
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