Review: Chagrinin’ it in a 2019 Lexus RC 350
Lexus has updated the RC 350 with refreshed styling, a retuned suspension, and smartphone integration. The excellent interior Lexus is known for remains, but the RC does have flaws – it's a beautiful car that could stand some improvement.
We always look forward to getting into Lexus vehicles, as they are the best-selling luxury brand in North America for good reason. They offer unparalleled comfort and interior beauty. They are also, however, beginning to wear a little thin with their general lack of usability beyond mere driving.
For the 2019 model year, Lexus updated the look of the RC series, giving the coupe a stronger visual appeal front and rear. The huge Lexus grille has been tamed somewhat, with less sharpness to its nose and more visual breakup of the mesh. That and light modifications to the rear design of the RC 350 give it a much more sophisticated and less in-your-face look compared to previous years.
Inside, the RC 350 has a wonderful interior in look and feel. It uses a strong design based on the luxurious swathing of front passengers in high-end materials, a Lexus staple. Closer inspection shows the seating up front to be well-designed for long-term comfort. The rear seats, mostly existing for insurance purposes, are nearly useless for anything more than a lap dog. Even children are cramped in the back, and getting into and out of those seats is laborious. The RC 350 is not a four-seat coupe, but a 2+2 instead and should be understood accordingly.
What mars the interior’s beauty and excellence are the details beyond design and comfort. The infotainment system in the RC 350 is, as with all other Lexus vehicles, a serious weak point. The clunky interface requires a lot of attention to use properly. That’s not what is needed in today’s info-rich age. Infotainment should be easy and almost distraction-free. The Lexus system is the opposite of that, requiring multiple looks away from the road and down to the screen or the controls for even the simplest of functions. The addition of Apple CarPlay helps somewhat, but Android Auto is still not available and integration with CarPlay is still hit-and-miss.
Powering the Lexus RC 350 is a 3.5-liter V6 that outputs a healthy 311 horsepower (232 kW) to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available, changing the car to a less efficient six-speed automatic. We drove the latter, though, and found that the engine is nicely paired to the size of the coupe, and that the AWD has other benefits. Although most others in the segment are quicker and perhaps more exciting, the RC 350 is no slouch with 0-60 mph (92 km/h) sprints at under seven seconds being readily doable.
The Lexus RC 350’s six-speed transmission is not afraid to downshift when pressed, and can be controlled readily via the paddle shifters on the wheel. Lexus upgraded the RC’s suspension for better tuning to suit the car, and the F Sport model we drove also included adaptive dampers. We also liked the upgraded instrument cluster that comes with the F Sport model, adding more intuitive sport-focused information in the cluster. The Mark Levinson stereo option is also a nice upgrade, piling 17 speakers into the little RC for maximum audio excellence.
For those wanting to carve roads with abandon, the RC 350 wouldn’t seem like the most obvious choice. It’s a good drive with solid daily metrics and a comfortable appeal. Yet it’s never been on par with the European makes when it comes to true canyon carving, or occasional weekend track day fun. Lexus has taken a step to change that, though, by adding the option for a four-wheel steering system for the truly sport-focused RC 350 rear-wheel drive F Sport model. A more aggressive limited-slip rear differential is also available. We see those as welcome improvements, but would have to experience them firsthand to know if they truly push the RC to the next level.
For most buyers, the RC 350 is more about daily comfort and sport appeal than it is about weekend track days and occasional canyon flights. There is a reason the RC sells so well, and it has little to do with a sport-tuned nature and everything to do with a sporty persona and feel. By those metrics, the RC 350 will not disappoint and is an excellent car.
With several downsides, including the relatively small trunk compared to rivals, its near-useless back seat, and infotainment that leaves much to be desired, the 2019 RC 350 is still a car worth looking at. If those downers aren’t deal-breakers for you, and the idea is to have a wonderful daily car with comfort and luxury as primary focus, the RC is a near-perfect match.
The Lexus RC 350 has a starting price of US$44,075 and was priced at $54,830 as we drove it.
Product Page: 2019 Lexus RC