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Lexus RC350 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Premium coupes are everywhere, but none of them are quite like the Lexus RC350, featuring a naturally-aspirated V6, beautifully-trimmed cabin and some funky chassis tech like all-wheel steer.

It's 2019 and the Lexus RC has been with us for four years which means it's time for a mid(ish)-life update. A glance at the specifications and tech details for its very low-key, late 2018 arrival suggests not much has changed. And let's be fair, it hasn't.

The mild refresh has brought a few changes in spec (in the right direction), price (the wrong direction, but few things are free in this life), and styling (you be the judge).

Lexus RC 2019: RC350 F Sport
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.4L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$77,171

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

While you can have an RC300 in the mid-sixties, the F Sport starts at $77,529, $200 extra than before. On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more.

You get 19-inch alloys, a 17-speaker stereo, four-wheel steering, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, electric heated and ventilated front seats, leather everywhere, a limited-slip diff, variable ratio steering, adaptive dampers, keyless entry and start, and an improved safety package.

  • On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more. On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more.
  • 19-inch alloys come standard. 19-inch alloys come standard.
  • The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not. The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not.

The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not; controlled from the console by a touchpad, it's hard to use and a pain to navigate. It has Bluetooth and USB connectivity with terrific sound, but it requires patience to operate - which includes the time to get the required qualifications (okay, slight exaggeration). And there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to take the edge off. Pity.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

As a whole, I've always thought the RC to be handsome, but the headlights - as on the IS - always made me wince a bit. There's too much going on, which is weird because the rest of the car is very easy on the eye.

As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear. There's a revised bumper, tweaked mesh pattern in the spindle grille, and a much better looking set of headlights - with much cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights. They're still a bit much, but they're not jarring.

  • As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear. As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear.
  • There's now a much better looking set of headlights - with cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights. There's now a much better looking set of headlights - with cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights.
  • The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work. The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work.

The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work. Along with new wing mirrors from the gorgeous LC coupe and new wheel designs, it's a subtle update, but a good one.

Inside is little-changed, which is good and bad. A new brushed-aluminium dash inlay, a new (naff) analogue clock, and not a huge amount else. The switchgear has a lovely damped feel, nothing clicks or snaps and it really is very serene indeed. Few cars can match a Lexus interior for feel and touch.

Some of the design decisions are confusing, though. A rotary dial to change driving modes looks more like it should be used to control the media system, and the media system's touchpad is really annoying.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

As ever, a sports coupe is the not the place to consider starting your DIY career, but front seat passengers luxuriate with plenty of space. A good-sized glove box joins two cupholders in the centre console which also has a decent-sized bin for hiding things, as well as a sensible place to put your phone (no wireless charging, sadly).

  • Front seat passengers have plenty of space, and a good-sized glove box. Front seat passengers have plenty of space, and a good-sized glove box.
  • Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable. Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable.
  • The boot is a very useful 423 litres. The boot is a very useful 423 litres.

Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable. Two more cupholders back there, but really, nobody will use them.

The boot is a very useful 423 litres.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The RC350 packs Lexus' creamy 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6, a step up from the RC300's turbo four-cylinder. Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic.

Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic. Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic.

The RC350 cracks the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, which isn't bad considering it's a hefty beast at over 1700kg.

The RC300's turbo four spins up 180kW and an impressive 350Nm if you're keen to save a few dollars upfront and on running costs.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

Lexus says the 350 will manage 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle but I scored a rather less convincing 12.8L/100km. Again, that's probably not bad considering its weight. The tricky dash display had me thinking it was an amazing 7.8L/100km, but it was km/L...

There is no stop-start, cylinder-on-demand or battery regen tech to save fuel - features its European rivals all have at least one of.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The RC comes with 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.

There are two top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX fittings in the back.

ANCAP has not tested the RC but it scored a 'Good' rating from the US IIHS test regime.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 100,000 km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Unlike parent company Toyota, Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. Also unlike Toyota, you don't get an absurdly cheap deal on servicing, and there's with no capped-price regime. Lexus wants to see your car every 12 months or 15,000km.

Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty.

To soften the blow of no capped-price servicing, Lexus will either give you a loan car or, even better, come and fetch your car from you before returning it vacuumed, washed, and serviced.

You also get a fairly comprehensive four years of roadside assist and a few other perks.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride. Even the way the doors open is relaxing: swinging wide open like the hinges are made of butter, (except butter that doesn't melt or sag). Look, I'm trying to avoid saying smooth again.

Engine start-up is barely audible and while pottering about the engine remains just as subdued. It's up to the digital dashboard, with its instruments clustered into a single dial with a digital speedo, to let you know what's going on. Few cars outside of the Lexus stable are this relaxing to drive.

As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride. As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride.

What I don't remember from the last time I drove an RC was all-wheel steering. Either I wasn't paying attention or Lexus snuck it in - but it really makes a difference. It's not as aggressive as, say, the bonkers RC F or Renault Sport Megane, it's just there to help bring the heavy car around. It also seems better sorted than the same system in the bigger LC500. And the steering's variable rack works well with it as a partner, too.

The RC's adaptive suspension is so good at what it does. It never over-tightens the suspension but does make a difference in Sport+. It's not really in the 350's nature to take it out for a good thrashing, but it's certainly capable - if held back a little by its portly kerb weight and soft brake pedal feel.

Verdict

The RC's time on my drive was preceded by a cheaper, V8-powered Mustang, so it was fascinating to compare the Japanese approach to the American. They're not really competitors, obviously, but the Lexus' ability to cosset the driver while still showing a good turn of speed was an interesting counterpoint.

The 2019 RC350 isn't a step-change - if you want one of those, double your money and get the delightfully nutty RC F - but the changes inside, outside and underneath will certainly please the fans even if it doesn't bring in new ones in huge numbers.

Does anyone still even notice luxury coupes? If you do, is Lexus even on the radar?

Pricing Guides

$117,424
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$69,516
Highest Price
$165,332

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RC F 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $137,729 2019 Lexus RC 2019 RC F Pricing and Specs
RC F Carbon 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $151,929 2019 Lexus RC 2019 RC F Carbon Pricing and Specs
RC F ENHANCEMENT PACK 1 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $138,771 2019 Lexus RC 2019 RC F ENHANCEMENT PACK 1 Pricing and Specs
RC F ENHANCEMENT PACK 2 5.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $138,771 2019 Lexus RC 2019 RC F ENHANCEMENT PACK 2 Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$77,171

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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