It’s a sad story. A great car to drive but no time to truly enjoy it. This is the story of five days with a 2019 Lexus RC350 F Sport, picked up in Orlando, driven to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, used as a commuter to and from the track and then returned to Orlando. Sigh. Between the work of writing about and photographing the 24-hour race, dealing with monsoon weather, the full enjoyment factor got lost.
Born in 2014, Lexus’ RC model offers more than just a pretty face in a two-door, rear-wheel-drive package. This nebula gray pearl RC 350 F Sport boasts a luscious red interior that spices up the blandness of the car’s exterior. Lexus has some interesting, even vibrant hues available for this coupe; unfortunately nebula gray RC’s exterior matched the sky for most of this Florida visit.
Lexus initiated some aggressive exterior changes for the RC’s model year and includes the F Sport package for those with sporting inclinations. In addition to the usual F Sport badging, Lexus includes truly enveloping bolstered front heated and ventilated power seats with triple memories for the driver, rain sensing wipers, a special grouping of drive modes (eco, normal, sport sport s +, snow and custom) and the matte black F Sport grille.
The coupe’s running gear is a more than acceptable 3.5-liter V-6 engine emitting 311 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, 280 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 and produces a 6,750 rpm redline. An eight-speed automatic transmission guides the RC350 F Sport and allows paddle and floor-mount shifting as needed. Suspension is F Sport-tuned double wishbones and multi-links with coil springs front and rear, while fully ventilated disc brakes stop this 3,748-pound coupe with alacrity. Optional F Sport calipers are fitted at no added charge, while the Torsen limited slip differential extracts $390.
Lexus fits P235/40R front and P265-35R rear 19-inch tires on twinned five-spoke alloys that mirror the car’s muted hues. Employing electric rack-and-pinion steering for the RC350 F Sport, this particular coupe also sports Lexus’ dynamic handling with dynamic rear steering and variable gear-ratio steering ($1,900). While this option’s intent is to aid low-speed maneuverability and higher-speed agility, it simply wasn’t that noticeable in good-weather traveling.
The interior of this coupe is strictly businesslike, using an analog tachometer along with a digital speedometer. Temp and fuel gauges surround the central pod. The seats are comfortably snug and excellent for extended travel. Rubber-tipped aluminum pedals give stability in wet weather. The central stack is where the action lies, with Lexus’ $1,080 navigation/Mark Levinson audio package. For infotainment advocates, this is an excellent package that offers many uses.
For starters there’s a 10.3-inch color multimedia display with superb clarity, Lexus Enform dynamic navigation that remembers the last route taken (nice when looking for your AirBnB in a strange town) and is complimentary for the first three years. Lexus Enform destination assist (one year free), Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 835-watt, 7.1 channel surround sound audio with Clari-Fi audio processing is just bitchin’! No matter how much the volume is turned up, the system never loses its clarity.
The F Sport steering wheel (no extra charge) provides audio and phone controls on the left, together with info system panel access (in the gauge cluster), lane departure and radar cruise adjustments on the right. This Lexus uses a separate stalk for cruise control that will be familiar to all Toyota owners. The central stack starts with the nav screen atop – never loses its superb resolution – followed by vents and an analog clock. The up-tilted heating air conditioning and ventilating controls sit atop a CD enclosure and audio controls.
At the base of this stack are heating, ventilating controls, while a circular knob to the right of the shifter handles different drive modes. Lexus uses a touchpad controller for its infotainment system and, yes, once again the phone was difficult to sync, but once accomplished (with the assistance of Lexus personnel on site at Daytona International Speedway) all access was easy. Lexus fits dynamic Apple CarPlay with dynamic voice command, both Siri “eyes free and Google voice control. There’s also Amazon Alexa compatibility on this coupe, together with SiriusXM satellite radio. Two USB plugs lie in the central covered storage.
Pricing on the Lexus RC350 F Sport starts at $51,815 and, with options noted above, along with triple beam LED headlights ($1,160), intuitive parking assist ($500) and the two-way moonroof ($1,100) speeds to a $57,945 total.
Lexus fits a usable 10.4-cubic-foot trunk on the RC350 and there’s a 60/40 fold to the rear seats, which are unusable for all but cargo. Climbing in and out of the rear to take photos was a contortionist’s nightmare. Mileage is rated at 20/28/23 from the 17.4-gallon tank and premium fuel is required.
For putt-putting through the monsoon rains – and not getting anything inside wet in the process – this 2019 RC350 F Sport was a great vehicle but oh, how we wished there’d been an opportunity to wring the thing out, check out the moonroof and generally treat the coupe like it was ours. There was also a missed opportunity to photograph the street RC with the racecar RC F that finished second in its GTD class.
With its daring good looks, capable suspension, brakes, steering and enviable power, this is one super nice machine. Does it have the athleticism promised by F Sport? Well, not really but it’s not the RC F, after all. As an elegant tourer and all-around everyday sports coupe, this Lexus is definitely worth a hard look.
By Anne Proffit