Currently Driving: The 2021 RC 350 F SPORT


For the next week, we are driving a 2021 Lexus RC 350 F SPORT AWD, courtesy of Lexus USA. From SC to RC to LC, Lexus’ history with coupes has been an interesting one, with the RC being the brand’s most affordable and approachable coupe to date.

Positioned between the entry-level RC 300 and the range-topping RC F, the RC 350 F SPORT sits in the middle of the lineup as the highest volume RC model. Just how good is it? We are going to drive in the city and the highway, Eco mode and Sport+, and everything in between to find the answer.

While we have the RC, is there anything specific you want to know about it? Questions or comments? Let us know on the Lexus Enthusiast forum and we’ll answer your questions in our final review.

Specifics

2021 RC 350 F SPORT All-wheel drive with an Infrared exterior and White Nuluxe interior. It’s equipped with the Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio package and the All Weather package.

Individual Options include premium triple-beam LED headlights, moonroof, Intuitive Parking Assist, and the all important F SPORT heated steering wheel. Total MSRP including destination and delivery ($1,205): $58,705.

Lexus RC: First Generation

Gecko

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My only question is how will you manage to not keep that thing? It's gorgeous!!! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

It has certainly confirmed that if I'm ever to buy an IS 500, it will be Infrared! I didn't know what color the car would be (I was expecting black or gray for some reason), so when I saw Infrared I was very, very pleasantly surprised.
 

Gecko

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24 hours in and I'm having a hard time understanding why this car tends to get a bad rep? "Bad" might be an overstatement, but I don't think the RC has gotten a lot of love from the media over the years.

This is a really nice car to drive in a day-to-day setting. It's very well rounded and I'm becoming quite enamored with it ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
 
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24 hours in and I'm having a hard time understanding why this car tends to get a bad rep? "Bad" might be an overstatement, but I don't think the RC has gotten a lot of love from the media over the years.

This is a really nice car to drive in a day-to-day setting. It's very well rounded and I'm becoming quite enamored with it ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Mostly because it's sluggish by today's standards.
 

sl0519

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24 hours in and I'm having a hard time understanding why this car tends to get a bad rep? "Bad" might be an overstatement, but I don't think the RC has gotten a lot of love from the media over the years.

This is a really nice car to drive in a day-to-day setting. It's very well rounded and I'm becoming quite enamored with it ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
Dynamically not as capable as the Germans, sluggish acceleration across the whole line-up, dated interior and technology. (those are the critical points from most journalists not my words)
If they can make the LC so desirable, why can't the RC? They can surely do better than that.
 

Gecko

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Mostly because it's sluggish by today's standards.

I am having a hard time seeing that, personally. This car has the 6AT because it's AWD, and while it might be a tad soft from a stop, in stop and go and low speed passing/accelerating, it will throw you into your seat with authority. Being NA and high revving, it also pulls just as hard at the top end and on the highway. I have a bit of a hunch on this, but no proof: We all remember when the 2GR-FSE was released with the 6AT and the IS 350 was doing 0-60 in 4.8-5.1 seconds. It was a monster. As Lexus later revised the engine to 2GR-FKS and added the 8AT, we all know it got a lot softer. 0-60 increased a half second to full second from earlier IS 350s.

Since the IS 300 AWD and RC 350 AWD still use that same old 6AT, I wonder if that is why this car feels so much quicker to me and sometimes, noticeably more savage than the last IS 350 I drove. It makes me recall the recent Motor Trend review that called the IS 300 AWD a sleeper with performance that basically matched the 350.

Ride quality is really good for an F SPORT vehicle and the roads here are awful. I think the handling could be a little more natural in SPORT/SPORT+ (it becomes artificially heavy, IMO), but having been in a few C300 coupes and A5s, I don't see either of those as better than this RC.

I can understand someone wanting a different styled interior. I don't have a good/bad opinion on that because I still like the 90s retro Japanese look even though we've seen it since 2014, but looking at the LC, I can certainly see how it could be upgraded and more luxurious. The interior does need a touchscreen though.
 

GNS

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I am having a hard time seeing that, personally. This car has the 6AT because it's AWD, and while it might be a tad soft from a stop, in stop and go and low speed passing/accelerating, it will throw you into your seat with authority. Being NA and high revving, it also pulls just as hard at the top end and on the highway.

I have a '19 IS350 AWD F-Sport. It may lack the initial burst of torque that turbocharged 4 cylinder rivals have, but that's about its only downside (in my opinion, plus the fuel economy isn't the most awesome).

I like that it pulls all the way to it's near 7k redline and makes a more pleasing 6 cylinder note. This engine should be kept at 3500+ for the best acceleration, I often get the car moving along to about 3k rpm in first gear, manual and Sport S+ mode, then floor the gas. Then it will really take off with enough convincing oomph.

That said, I think that if the T24A-FTS is slated to replace the V6 (along with an updated 8 speed) and if it can be tuned to make more power than the 2GR, we're going to see a dramatically improved IS and RC in terms of 0 - 60 and instant gratification from all that torque down low.

I would miss the V6, but I think I would like a 5s / high 4s IS with (more or less) the same reliability as the current one, especially if Lexus is really planning on reworking a TNGA platform for it.

Which leads to my first question - do you think we'll see the IS and RC get redesigned onto a TNGA-N platform at some point?

. I have a bit of a hunch on this, but no proof: We all remember when the 2GR-FSE was released with the 6AT and the IS 350 was doing 0-60 in 4.8-5.1 seconds. It was a monster. As Lexus later revised the engine to 2GR-FKS and added the 8AT, we all know it got a lot softer. 0-60 increased a half second to full second from earlier IS 350s.

Since the IS 300 AWD and RC 350 AWD still use that same old 6AT, I wonder if that is why this car feels so much quicker to me and sometimes, noticeably more savage than the last IS 350 I drove. It makes me recall the recent Motor Trend review that called the IS 300 AWD a sleeper with performance that basically matched the 350.

Second question - people often deride the 6AT for being old and slow, and it is, but I have noticed that it doesn't gear hunt, it shifts fast enough in auto mode, and the manual shift speeds get much quicker if you're driving it hard. Is this the case for this RC?

And final question - I've noticed that my car will not downshift to 1st in auto mode (even in Sport S+) if I'm going at 35 kmh or faster (22 mph). If I'm making a turn at that speed, straighten the car out and then floor the pedal to get going, it'll stay in 2nd and feel kind of slow, when it really should be dropping to 1st. 34 kmh and below are fine - it'll drop to 1st no problem. I have ways to get around this with the paddle shifters, but I was wondering if Lexus had updated the tuning in newer vehicles.
 
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Faisal Sheikh

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RC is considered compact size since mid-size coupes are like the E-series in the Mercedes.

Back in the day, I drove an RC350 F-Sport and IS350 F-Sport both back to back at a Lexus test drive event. They would not let me test drive the RCF they had parked there so they offered me the IS350 and RC350 so I took it. While I agree, it was a pleasing to drive, but the powertrain was not well matched with the chassis very well especially with the RC350 F-Sport. The powertrain felt better suited to the IS350 F-Sport than it did to the RC350 F-Sport. It was mostly because base RC platform rigidity is higher and also the RC350 was a bit heavier/wider than the IS350. This made the car feel slower than it actually was both in a straight line and around turns because there was no drama. Taking the same turns in the IS350 and RC350, the IS350 would feel dramatic while the RC350 would make it feel slower at the exactly same corner speed. The one I drove did not have rear wheel steer system.

Also, the 6 speed auto was a disappointment, As I will probably be purchasing an IS350 F-Sport in the near future, the 6 speed auto kind of worries me, but I guess it will be fine for my daily commute. Wish it had the 8 speed auto like the RWD had it.

I purchased the RCF about 1 year after I drove the IS350/RC350. For RCF, Lexus started with the base RC platform and it ended up being 70% different in terms of suspension, powertrain, chassis, technology etc. Best way I can describe it, an RC350 F-Sport in Sport+ mode feels like an RCF in ECO/NORMAL mode when the HP is reduced quite significantly. Once you dial the RCF up to SPORT+, it feels like a different car.
 
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Gecko

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I have a '19 IS350 AWD F-Sport. It may lack the initial burst of torque that turbocharged 4 cylinder rivals have, but that's about its only downside (in my opinion, plus the fuel economy isn't the most awesome).

I like that it pulls all the way to it's near 7k redline and makes a more pleasing 6 cylinder note. This engine should be kept at 3500+ for the best acceleration, I often get the car moving along to about 3k rpm in first gear, manual and Sport S+ mode, then floor the gas. Then it will really take off with enough convincing oomph.

That said, I think that if the T24A-FTS is slated to replace the V6 (along with an updated 8 speed) and if it can be tuned to make more power than the 2GR, we're going to see a dramatically improved IS and RC in terms of 0 - 60 and instant gratification from all that torque down low.

I would miss the V6, but I think I would like a 5s / high 4s IS with (more or less) the same reliability as the current one, especially if Lexus is really planning on reworking a TNGA platform for it.

Which leads to my first question - do you think we'll see the IS and RC get redesigned onto a TNGA-N platform at some point?

Agree with 100% of what you posted. I do not expect IS or RC to go onto the current version of GA-N (Mirai) as it's too heavy and poorly packaged. There have been rumors of a new/revised RWD platform or one shared with Mazda, so we will see what the future holds.

Second question - people often deride the 6AT for being old and slow, and it is, but I have noticed that it doesn't gear hunt, it shifts fast enough in auto mode, and the manual shift speeds get much quicker if you're driving it hard. Is this the case for this RC?

And final question - I've noticed that my car will not downshift to 1st in auto mode (even in Sport S+) if I'm going at 35 kmh or faster (22 mph). If I'm making a turn at that speed, straighten the car out and then floor the pedal to get going, it'll stay in 2nd and feel kind of slow, when it really should be dropping to 1st. 34 kmh and below are fine - it'll drop to 1st no problem. I have ways to get around this with the paddle shifters, but I was wondering if Lexus had updated the tuning in newer vehicles.

Well said. You're right - this transmission doesn't hunt for gears at all and it feels easy to always hit the right gear when you slam on the skinny pedal. That behavior makes the transmission feel a little more direct than the 8AT, in my opinion.

I have not noticed that it's impossible to downshift to 1st, but it wouldn't surprise me knowing how Lexus tends to program these things to protect their reliability.