Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
6 minute read
6 Aug 2015
9:00 am

Lexus RC 350 F-sport comes to SA

Mark Jones

Lexus has brought its stylish all-new RC 350 F-Sport to play in SA and we got to drive it in the beautiful Western Cape this past week.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

Why I am being model specific is because this is the only offering you can purchase right now. A lower EX spec 2.0 turbocharged version will be here before the end of the year, but unfortunately for the out and out performance fans the potent RC F will not be coming. Lexus points out that what makes the Lexus RC unique is the car was developed from the ground up as a coupe, not a two-door derivative of a sedan, as is the case these days with platform sharing by manufacturers.

And what this means is the RC chassis architecture takes its inspiration from other recent Lexus vehicles – the front end from the GS, the centre from the IS C and the rear end from the IS sports sedan. This combination is said to offer strength coupled to a stiff, responsive front end and grippy rear end. On first impression, I would have to agree with this statement. The RC 350 was an easy and comfortable car to drive fast, it never felt like it was going to dry and deposit you into the fauna and flora at the mere prod of the accelerator pedal and work the traction control light into a panic at every opportunity.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The car has front and rear coil-spring independent suspension with monotube dampers and ball-joined stabiliser bars to enhance cornering potential. The rear suspension has a double wishbone assembly and a multi-link system with a castor-locating rod for maximum rear grip and balance and is considerably stiffer than the chassis that contributed the platform technology. You also get as standard kit an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which electronically controls and monitors all four dampers simultaneously to suit certain conditions and driving preferences, and is controlled via a rotary switch located on the centre console.

The RC 350 features an electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering (EPS) along with the addition of Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) on the front wheels and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) on the rear as part of a three-fold Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) strategy that results in quite a light steering but a car that is easy to set up and get to where you want to be in a corner.

Where things go a little off the boil for me, especially for such a good-looking and dynamic coupe that comes in at R730 900, is in the power department. The RC 350 still makes use of the naturally aspirated 3.5-litre dual-injection 2GR-FSE engine that delivers a decent 233kW of power at 6 400rpm and 378Nm of torque at 4 800rpm on paper, which is claimed to get the car to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of only 230km/h.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

But we all know when one takes away roughly 18% of power this car will lose when it gets up on the Reef and those numbers will come down. Sure, throw in a set of twisties and you won’t have to fear much, but when you have your premium competition using mostly more powerful, more economical forced induced engines, the RC 350 is going to have its work cut out for it trying to keep up at those all -important Sandton traffic light grands prix.

I asked the question why it would seem Lexus is slow to adopt force-fed technology for their high-end vehicles and the simple answer was America is the brand’s strongest market and the Americans have a big appetite for larger capacity naturally aspirated power plants. Unlike the Europeans, who are more CO2 aware and opt for smaller capacity turbocharged power plants. But as the world changes, so too will the Americans be forced into these more fuel efficient cars and, as such, Lexus will shift their powertrain strategy to suit this demand. So for now I have to say the 2.0 RC T that is coming just could be the pick of the bunch.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The 2GR-FSE engine is matched to an easy shifting eight-speed transmission, with M Mode that holds the gear to a limiter, but unfortunately kicks down automatically when you floor the accelerator. It is not the fastest shifting unit on the block, but it is well matched to the performance offered by the car. The eight internal ratios have been chosen to balance the needs of sporty driving and fuel economy – with a low first gear ratio for initial acceleration, closely spaced ratios in the intermediate gears for performance and city-driving economy and a tall eighth-gear ratio for open road economy.

The interior of a Lexus is always a good place to be and the RC 350 is no different. Featuring decent all-new, purpose-designed seats that get nice and low in the cabin and offer plenty grip when you are having fun to soft-touch textures punctuated with tasteful metallic accents adorning the doors and dashboard.

Another sporty touch is the traditional instruments are replaced with a display inspired by the instruments of the LFA supercar. A cool eight-inch TFT LCD displays the rev counter and other vehicle systems in detail, and the dial and indicator can be viewed in blue, white or red depending on your personal preference. There is a seven-inch electro multi-vision navigation (EMVN) display screen that provides navigation and audio information and works in conjunction with the new Lexus Remote Touch (LRT) Interface with touch pad.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The steering wheel also places a range of controls at your fingertips, such as audio, telephone, voice recognition (for SatNav and phone and iPod functions), Multi Information Display (MID), cruise control, Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and the gear shift paddles.The RC 350 is wrapped up in a comprehensive passive safety package. It has a high-strength safety cell body structure, head and hip/abdomen-impact protection interior cabin airbags, ISOFix child restraint anchorage points and the added pedestrian-safety measure of a pop-up bonnet along with an impressive suite of active safety features, all coordinated by the Lexus Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system.

These electronic safety measures include vehicle stability control, traction control and ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, with the additional support of the Adaptive Variable Suspension system (AVS), Variable Gear Ratio steering (VGRS) and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS), as mentioned already. The RC 350 also comes standard with Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Auto High Beam – which means you get a warning when you are about to cross a lane without indicating – while a windscreen-mounted camera continuously monitors the tail lights of preceding vehicles as well as the headlights of oncoming vehicles and automatically dips the headlights for you.

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

The new Lecus RC 350 F-Sport comes to SA. Picture: Supplied

As said, this sharply styled Lexus RC 350 F-Sport comes in at R730 900 with no options required or offered, as everything is standard, along with a four-year/100 000km Lexus Distance Plan, complete full maintenance plan and four-year/100 000km warranty.

All in all, it is a good-looking car that’s great fun to drive in the city and out on the mountain passes. I just wish it had a little more under the hood to truly excite a real performance enthusiast.