Even as the sales and popularity of utility vehicles climb, manufacturers continue to entice consumers with passenger cars that blend styling, performance and technology into a nifty package.
A case in point is the 2017 Lexus RC 350 F Sport, which even on ordinary urban-area roads delivers spirited driving on a solid chassis. The car’s basic feeling for the road is enhanced by the powertrain and complemented by features that help keep the driver focused on the road and the traffic around the car.
The RC 350 is a coupe, which really does mean the car has only two doors. But while Lexus parent company, Toyota Motor Co., has received a substantial amount of criticism over the years for designing cars with too many disparate elements, the basic exterior styling of the low-slung RC 350 is sleek and harmonious.
The front fascia sports the Lexus spindle grille that onlookers either seem to accept or hate and lines at the rear of the run to the angular. But the side views are most elegant when the car is standing still or in motion and endow the car with sophisticated appearance.
Drivers and passenger do have to bend a bit – something I suspect motorists buying new vehicles are less inclined to do nowadays – to move in and out of the RC 350, which sits low to the ground. However, once you are in the driver’s seat the interior is exceptionally well made.
The racing style driver’s seat in the F Sport is comfortable. The leather wrapped steering wheel is a pleasure to grab and to hold, while the rest of the interior offers a nice balance between functionality, luxury and craftsmanship neatly displayed by the execution of the inner door panels.
The luxury touches inside the RC 350 flow from the quality of the materials used starting with the headliner and the leather and wood used inside the cockpit and around the passenger seat as well as the bright aluminum gas and brake pedals.
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In addition, the instrument panel is laid out quite simply with a center console, carrying the map and entertainment options, recessed into the dashboard. The position and the layout of the screen give the driver a chance to glance at a map without taking an eye off the road for too long of an interval, which is one of the design flaws in the placement of screens in a large number of vehicles today.
One caveat is the Lexus RC 350 in equipped with a small touch pad that allows the driver to click on features such as the radio. The system is relatively easy to understand and to use but is still something of a distraction in a moving vehicle.
The RC 350 also comes with a rear seat. But while it could certainly be used to carry children, its main use is likely to serve as a carry all for work papers and small packages.
Lexus also has loaded the RC 350 with plenty of technology such LED headlights and running lights, HD and XM Radio, Bluetooth, multiple air bags to protect the driver and passenger and driver assistance features such rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot detection and dynamic radar cruise control and a drive-mode selector.
One of the drawback on almost any two-door car built in recent years is that the doors themselves are so heavy they can be difficult to push open, particularly if you make the mistake of pulling to the side of the road with the car is resting on something of slant and you are pushing the door uphill. The doors on the RC 350, however, seem lighter and easier to open.
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At the heart of the RC 350 F Sport, with its variable suspension, is its overall performance, which is very is smooth and quite responsive.
The 3.5-liter engine is matched up with an eight-speed transmission and the combination produces 306 horsepower and 277 foot pounds of torque, which is plenty of punch thanks to the car’s relatively modest weight. Lexus has pulled back from offering manual transmission but the RC350 is equipped with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for those who prefer to find their own shift points.
Overall, I found the RC 350 with its F Sport, which included adaptive variable suspension – the names speaks for itself – and the Lexus Dynamic Handling with dynamic rear-wheel steering, kept the car flat in through tight curves, while the electric powered steering system offered the driver a feel for the road, making it an excellent handling cars out on the freeway or highway.
The RC 350 performance makes the car enormously fun to drive because even at relatively modest speeds, it provides the kind of tactile feedback that makes driving fun even on dark and damp days.
The F Sport version of the Lexus RC 350 comes with 19-inch wheels with a distinctive 10 twin-spoke design to create a deeply sculptured shape and distinctive black calipers.
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All and all, the RC 350 F Sport is an impressive vehicle that is great fun to drive and surprisingly comfortable but the world is changing and I do wonder if it will ever get the kind of attention it deserves.