What makes the Lexus RC unique? In a sea of platform sharing, the RC is a refreshing departure – it was developed from the ground up as a dynamic coupe, not a two-door derivative of a sedan. The result is a purpose-built, bespoke chassis with the stiffness and strength to accommodate a sporting yet supple suspension.
This translates into a car that literally gives you the best of all worlds from a ride and handling point of view. The RC chassis architecture takes inspiration from other recent Lexus vehicles: the stiff and responsive front end from the GS, the centre from the IS C for underbody strength, and the traction-aiding rear end from the IS sports sedan.
Despite being a niche, somewhat self-indulgent piece of vehicular kit, the RC nevertheless has an important role to play in the Lexus line-up as Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing for Lexus points out: “As with other recent offerings from the marque, the RC takes Lexus in a new direction with its show-stopping styling and drive experience, and is designed to engage with a younger audience.
A purpose-designed coupe, the Lexus RC successfully marries L’Finesse design language and the now de rigueur spindle grille to create a look that symbolises Lexus’ forward thinking design strategy in a unique two-door body shape.
Its spindle grille is the widest and lowest of all Lexus models and is flanked by wide bumper corners and front flares, as well as a low-set bumper peak to emphasise its low centre of gravity. Being an F-Sport, this RC features an L-mesh grille design. Bold lines flow from the spindle grille across the entire body to create an aggressive appearance. The side design emphasises the car’s low centre of gravity, while the subtly pleated side sills and beltline lend a sophisticated air. The rear styling echoes the shape of the spindle grille while displaying RC 350’s wide track.
On the light front, the Lexus RC 350 has state-of-the-art multi-LED headlamps, tail lamps and fog lamps, as well as LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) for optimal vision and minimal power usage. LED technology is also applied to the high-mount stop lamp, rear licence lamp, turn-signal lamps in the exterior mirrors and puddle lamps on the underside of the door handles.
The RC 350 F Sport has the added convenience of the Lexus Automatic High Beam (AHB) system – automatically dips for you when an oncoming car is sensed.
The combination rear lamps also adopt the Lexus L-shape motif, which is highlighted when the lamp is illuminated. What’s more, the surface of the tail and stop lamps is raised to create a three-dimensional presentation of the L-shaped motif.
The front end of RC 350 is based on the highly acclaimed Lexus GS, which set new standards for stiffness and chassis response in a mid-sized sedan and is capable of containing both a 3.5-litre V6 engine and a world-class hybrid package. The centre of the RC is inspired by the Lexus IS C convertible with larger rocker panels that contribute to high body rigidity. The rear is based on the recently released IS Line and is designed specifically to accommodate a rear wheel drive package in which traction and power delivery is a priority.
This ‘dream team’ combination provided engineers with a rigid platform featuring a wide stance and optimum length to deliver the dynamic and handling traits ideally suited to a grand touring coupe. Note however that none of the three designs are directly taken from these vehicles, though all are regarded as contributing more than the sum of their parts to the RC 350’s overall chassis package.
It 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.
The front suspension has a 15 per cent stiffer spring rate than the GS chassis on which it is based and there is a new calibration for the bushings, springs and dampers, which is aimed at achieving less roll angle while maintaining ride comfort. Numerous suspension components are new, including front upper support, coil spring, damper, stabiliser bar and bushing, and lower number two bushing. The rear coil springs, dampers, upper number one arm, lower number two arm, stabiliser bar and stabiliser bushings are also new. The toe control arm from the GS Line has been adapted to optimise rear grip.
Additional body strength was the decisive factor in achieving the high performance suspension upgrades. RC 350 is considerably stiffer than the chassis that contributed platform technology, enabling higher damping forces and larger diameter front and rear stabiliser bars. These enhancements improve handling without affecting ride quality.
The RC 350 F Sport is fitted with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which electronically controls and monitors all four dampers simultaneously to suit certain conditions and driving preferences.
It aids ride comfort when driving on rough roads by lowering the damping force but can also deliver a sporting drive with greater response and handling stability by increasing the damping force when SPORT S+ mode is engaged via Drive Mode Select.
AVS also interacts with RC 350’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) to optimise damper rates to prepare the vehicle during potentially hazardous driving situations.
Lexus RC 350 has electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering (EPS) for agile driving, responsive steering feel and confidence-building straight-line stability. The F Sport model has the additional feature 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.
RC chassis engineers set three goals for the new coupe: excellent steering response and smooth roll transfer during initial turn-in, minimal roll and rapid yaw-rate gain for agile turning mid-corner, and smooth steering feel with smooth sprung mass (body) movement from corner to corner.
RC 350’s excellent steering response makes it easy for the driver to aim for the corner exit. Steering feel and response have been further optimised by adopting a new, high-rigidity gear-mounting bushing for the steering rack.
Development also focused on obtaining smooth and accurate vehicle response to small steering inputs to correct changes in the road surface, cross winds and other conditions, to ensure straight-line stability and help achieve a high-quality ride.
The EPS integrates with the Drive Mode Select to adjust steering response for the different drive modes. The steering power-assistance curve can be varied to increase steering feedback, for a more direct steering feel – this occurs in SPORTS S+ setting.
The F Sport model has the added feature of Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), which controls steering ratio according to vehicle speed and steering operation. The latest-generation Lexus VGRS has the actuator unit on the steering column with an integrated rubber damper to reduce noise and vibration.
RC 350 F Sport also has Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) which provides the benefits of four-wheel steering while maintaining the feeling of a conventional two-wheel steer vehicle. Depending on speed, this feature turns the front and rear wheels in the same or opposing directions to help provide optimal agility.
These three features – EPS, VGRS and DRS – have been collectively dubbed the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system. Working in unison this system enhances manoeuvrability, reduces steering effort at low speed, increases steering responsiveness and intuitive steering feel at medium speeds, and improves overall stability and vehicle posture for increased safety and comfort at high speeds.
The 3.5-litre Lexus dual-injection 2GR-FSE V6 in Lexus RC 350 delivers a rare, charismatic concoction of power, torque and responsiveness for a thoroughly engaging driving experience.
The 2GR-FSE engine has intelligent dual variable valve timing (VVT-i) for inlet and exhaust camshafts, an intelligent electronic throttle, and the Lexus D-4S system of direct and port fuel injection. The quad cam V6 engine has two petrol injection systems, including high-pressure direct injection.
Lexus designed the all-alloy 60-degree V6 for a combination of high performance, fuel efficiency, package efficiency, reliability and serviceability, coupled with light weight, low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), and low emissions.
It delivers 233kW of power at 6400rpm and 378Nm of torque at 4800rpm, equating to a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6,3 seconds, topped off by a maximum speed of 230km/h.
It produces fuel economy figures of 9.4-litres/100km combined, CO2 emissions of 217g/km and is Euro-5 compliant.
The 2GR-FSE engine is matched to an eight-speed transmission with M Mode, allowing full torque-converter lock-up from second to eighth gears. The RC 350 transmission is linked to the Lexus Drive Mode Select function, with its Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport S+ settings. Normal mode provides the fuel economy and seamless acceleration traditionally associated with a Lexus electronically-controlled transmission.
Sport and Sport S+ modes include newly adopted G-sensor AI-Shift Control, which uses information from the G-sensor on driving status to provide the optimal gear ratio for performance driving. The system selects the suitable gear for sporting driving by monitoring the status of the vehicle’s G-sensor, with shifting selection biased towards the lower gears to draw out the full potential of the 3.5-litre engine. The transmission uses G-sensor information to automatically downshift during hard braking to set up for a corner, hold a lower gear through the corner for greater control, and then give the driver a greater power response on corner exit by selecting a suitably low gear.
While on the subject of Drive Mode Select, modes can be adjusted via the circular knob beside the gear selector and instrumentation changes colour or theme to reflect the selected mode. In addition to controlling throttle opening and engine output control, SPORT S+ optimises chassis elements including Variable Gear Ratio Steering, Lexus Dynamic Handling (on F Sport variants only) and Adaptive Variable Suspension output to provide RC 350’s most dynamic and focused driving experience.
In true F Sport cockpit style, traditional instruments are replaced with a display inspired by the instruments of the LFA supercar. An eight-inch TFT LCD displays the tachometer and other vehicle systems in detail, and the dial and indicator can be viewed in blue, white or red depending on personal preference. The meter ring also slides across to reveal a menu just like that of the LFA when the multimedia system is activated via the steering wheel switch.
The seven-inch electro multi-vision navigation (EMVN) display screen is centrally mounted in the dash, reducing the need for eye movement away from the road. It provides navigation and audio information and works in conjunction with the new Lexus Remote Touch (LRT) Interface with touch pad. The LRT functions in a similar way to a smartphone touchscreen for intuitive operation.
The steering wheel also places a range of controls at the fingertips of drivers: audio, telephone, voice recognition (for SatNav and phone and iPod functions), Multi Information Display (MID), cruise control, Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and gear shift paddles.
The RC F Sport features a 256-watt Pioneer 10-speaker system as standard, for unparalleled clarity and tone. The audio system incorporates technology that compensates for compressed sound sources such as MP3, enabling premium audio playback quality. Additionally the system features advanced Bluetooth capabilities, including Bluetooth audio streaming and automatic phonebook transfer, as well as iPod and USB connectivity with voice control for iPod to provide ease of use while driving.
The new Lexus RC 350 has a comprehensive passive safety package. It has a high-strength safety cell body structure, head and hip/abdomen-impact protection interior cabin features, ISOFix child restraint anchorage points and the added pedestrian-safety measure of a pop-up bonnet.
The RC is equipped with eight SRS airbags – a dual-stage driver’s airbag, dual-stage and dual-chamber front passenger airbag, driver and front passenger’s knee airbags, large-sized front-seat side airbags to better protect the occupant’s hip and abdomen, and full-length side curtain-shield airbags.
The RC 350 F Sport also boasts 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). In F Sport guise, the RC features larger, two-piece front brake rotors, high-friction brake pads and a unique multistage booster for optimised control, response and feel.
VDIM anticipates any loss of traction and ensures the traditionally separate active safety systems of vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control and ABS anti-lock brake system as well as the aforementioned support systems work in concert to correct any potential emergency. The Lexus VDIM functions also include Hill-Start Assist.
The RC 350 F Sport also comes standard with Lane Departure Alert (LDA) and Auto High Beam.
The sharply styled RC F Sport offers equally sharp pricing. It carries a price tag of R730 900 – no options required or offered as everything is standard.