Used 2015 Lexus RC 350 Review

Edmunds expert review

Based on the IS sedan platform, the 2015 Lexus RC 350 distills the brand's traditional refinement into a sporty two-door package. It's a satisfying result, but a few other rival luxury sport coupes are more desirable overall.




What's new for 2015

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 is an all-new model.

Vehicle overview

After years of only having German entry-level luxury sport coupes to pick from, you're finally getting another option to consider from Lexus: the 2015 Lexus RC 350. Derived from the Lexus IS sedan, the RC 350 certainly makes a statement with its rakish good looks. And just like the IS 350, the RC 350 features a silken 306-horsepower V6 engine with available all-wheel drive. There's no 250 version at this point, but there is the extra-strength RC F version with a 467-hp V8 if you've got a serious need for speed.

This Lexus coupe's strengths are most readily apparent in the RC 350's interior, though. The RC 350's dashboard design is attractive and contemporary, and just about every surface you can find or touch is finished with high-quality materials. We're also fond of the comfortable and supportive front seats complemented by suspension tuning that does a great job of smoothing out rough pavement. For general commuting and daily driving, the RC 350 is an excellent companion.

Alas, there are weaknesses as well. Given the reduction of doors and seating capacity of only four, you might hope for sharper performance, but the RC 350 is no quicker than the regular IS 350, a car that's already slower than its similarly powered rivals. In our handling tests, we found that the RC 350 with the optional F Sport package and variable-ratio steering doesn't live up to its racy billing: The standard calibration is the better value in our opinion. We're also not sold on the infotainment system in navigation-equipped RCs due to a fiddly controller that requires you to move your fingertip on a touchpad in mouselike fashion.

Overall, though, the 2015 Lexus RC 350 merits real consideration as a luxurious, well-equipped luxury coupe, which is why it earned an Edmunds "B" rating. The 2015 Audi A5 and S5 and the 2015 BMW 4 Series are still our favorites in this class given their superior athleticism, but you'll pay a premium for one with six-cylinder power. Elsewhere, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C350 coupe remains a strong option in its final year of production, while the new 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe is a fresh new face from Detroit. But if the 2015 RC 350's avant-garde styling strikes your fancy, chances are you'll be pleased by what lies beneath.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 is an entry-level luxury sport coupe available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It's offered in a single well-equipped trim level.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels with all-season tires, selectable drive modes, LED headlights, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a 10-way power driver seat, an eight-way power passenger seat, heated seats (AWD only), leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, real wood and aluminum trim and a 60/40 folding rear seat with armrest.

Standard electronics features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch color display, voice controls (including Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users) and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and iPod/USB connections. Also standard is Lexus Enform Remote, which provides access to common functions, vehicle status reports and GPS location via a smartphone app.

A number of options packages are offered, although availability can vary depending on the region in which you live. The Premium package includes heated and ventilated front seats as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Luxury package includes those items along with auto-dimming side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, perforated leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with a heated rim on AWD models) and driver memory settings. The All-Weather package (AWD only) includes headlight washers and a windshield wiper de-icer.

The Navigation package adds a console-mounted touchpad controller, a navigation system, upgraded voice controls and smartphone app integration (including Bing, Yelp, Pandora and iHeartRadio). The Navigation/Mark Levinson package adds a 17-speaker surround-sound audio system.

The F Sport package includes the Premium package features along with a mesh grille, a unique front fascia, 19-inch wheels with summer (RWD) or all-season (AWD) tires, adaptive sport-tuned suspension dampers, upgraded front brake pads (RWD only), sport front seats, perforated leather upholstery and trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with a heated rim on AWD models), driver memory settings and a special instrument cluster.

Stand-alone options include a power sunroof, LED foglights, variable-ratio steering with a four-wheel steering system (RWD F Sport only), adaptive cruise control (bundled with a collision mitigation system) and front and rear parking sensors.



Performance & mpg

The 2015 Lexus RC 350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 generating 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for rear-wheel-drive models, but a six-speed automatic is used for all-wheel-drive cars.

In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive RC 350 F Sport accelerated to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, which is a few tenths behind the C350 and about a full second slower than the six-cylinder BMW 435i. Even the four-cylinder 428i did the deed in 5.4 seconds.

While we managed 24 mpg on our mixed-driving Edmunds evaluation loop, the EPA estimates that the RC 350 will deliver 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) with RWD and 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) with AWD.

Safety

The 2015 Lexus RC 350's standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is Lexus Enform Safety Connect, an onboard emergency telematics system that incorporates collision notification, a stolen-vehicle locator and roadside assistance.

The optional Premium package includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The adaptive cruise control option is bundled with a collision mitigation system that can initiate braking automatically if a frontal impact is deemed imminent.

The 2015 RC lineup earned the top rating of "Good" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-impact tests; it also scored the top rating of "Good" in side-impact, rollover performance and whiplash protection from its front seats.

At the Edmunds test track, we measured a 120-foot simulated panic stop from 60 mph in an RC 350 F Sport. This distance is disappointing and longer than average for a sporty coupe, especially one equipped with grippy summer tires.

Driving

The 2015 Lexus RC 350's 3.5-liter V6 is a reasonably potent engine with a silky-smooth power delivery, though it lacks the eager thump in the back that you get with torque-rich turbocharged alternatives. The eight-speed automatic is similarly accomplished, providing timely and seamless gearchanges along with responsive paddle shifters for manual operation. Use the throttle with gusto and the soundtrack perks up prominently, adding to the enjoyment. Yet at a steady cruise, the RC remains remarkably quiet, with little in the way of road or wind noise to mess with your Zen.

The suspension is sprung tautly enough to remind you that you went for a sport-oriented coupe, but it's by no means stiff-legged or crashy over broken pavement. The F Sport's adaptive suspension dampers actually enhance comfort, giving the RC one of the smoothest rides of any entry-level luxury sport coupe. On the other hand, we've found that the F Sport's rear-wheel-steering functionality, especially when paired with the optional variable-ratio steering system, results in darty, unpredictable handling behavior in spirited driving. We recommend forgoing this steering package if you want to get full enjoyment from the RC, as it provides rewardingly sharp steering by default.

Interior

The 2015 Lexus RC 350's four-seat cabin is trimmed in consistently high-quality materials. The upper dashboard, armrests and even the sides of the center console (where knees tend to rub) are swathed in dense padding. The front seats are impressively supportive yet supple, but those with larger frames might feel slightly snug -- particularly in the F Sport's thickly bolstered chairs. The rear seats are very short on legroom and best left for kids or cargo. Headroom isn't much better.

The multi-tiered cockpit is peculiar, but attractive and contemporary overall, with a terraced layout and subtly upscale touches. The audio and climate controls are steeply angled, reinforcing the RC 350's sporty vibe, and the buttons and knobs are generally easy to use.

The one notable foible is the touchpad controller that comes with the navigation system. Inspired by a computer trackpad, this controller is the primary method for making audio and navigation selections, and it's far from ideal. Although the 7-inch display is sharp, cursor control with the touchpad is wobbly, particularly when you're on the move, not to mention the fact that all the icons are the same color. Thankfully, there are a few redundant console-mounted hard buttons, but a conspicuous absence of one for a shortcut to the map screen.

As far as carrying stuff, the RC 350's trunk provides 10.4 cubic feet of capacity, an average figure. It's expandable via the 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.