“Lexus has built a strong following because of the high quality, bulletproof reliability the brand offers, with an ever-present luxury feel.”

Toyota has suffered criticism in the past that must sting: some if its designs have been called boring or vanilla.

Things are changing at Toyota – just look at the much more dynamic designs placed on the small Corolla or mid-sized Camry, still practical but much better looking.

The same criticism was levelled at the Toyota luxury brand, Lexus.

Here too, the designers have taken a dramatic shift in the way the cars look and feel. The RC coupe is an all-new category for Lexus and one they call “sexy”. There was a retractable hardtop Lexus IS convertible that tried to double as a coupe but nothing can replace the real thing. This is a long, low, wide take on a coupe. Much better-looking car that that old IS.

Looks

One area that Lexus has focused on is the front grille and aggressive stance of many of its latest vehicles. This grille is what Lexus calls a “spindle” grille, made to replicate a fabric spindle. Why, you ask? Well, the Toyoda family was in the fabric loom business before they started making military trucks and then cars. This is a fun tip-of-the-hat to the origins of the business.

On some cars it looks a bit forced, on this RC it certainly looks well integrated and sleek. What are hard to see are two pin-lights imbedded in the grille that act as driving lights. The back has cheese-grater looking faux vents behind the rear wheels that serve no function and look a bit busy. The FC is sold as a rear wheel drive (RWD) model or all wheel drive (AWD) plus it is sold with Lexus F Sport trim packages that enhance the wheels and add extra go-fast looking trim pieces. The car seen here is the 350 AWD without F Sport.

Inside

Lexus continues the overhaul inside the RC cabin. The dash really looks and feels cockpit-like, with a high centre console and sporty looking trim. There is a new touch pad between the front seats that lets the driver scroll around the centre screen just as one would on a laptop. To enter a setting, the driver pushed the track pad, all very intuitive. The F Sport models get a special centre speedometer cluster that has the single dial move to one side for quick reference information. The non- F Sport models get a small screen to use instead. The seats are nicely sculpted and trimmed in leather, plus the back seats are roomy enough for adults if the front seats are moved slightly forward, children will fit easily. What is impressive is the use of soft-touch materials and a level of finish and that should be experienced firsthand.

Drive

Most Canadians will gravitate towards the RWD RC 350 not just because of the added traction but also because of the lower starting price. It’s odd that the RWD car starts at $57,650, where the AWD starts at $54,600. The RWD F Sport car is a more performance-oriented with an 8-speed automatic transmission and adaptive front and rear suspension and all-wheel steering system; the AWD gets a 6-speed auto and a passive shock system. Both use the same 3.5L V6 engine with 307hp. The AWD car seams to be set up as a touring car, not getting away from the Lexus roots planted firmly in the luxury camp. It would be a good idea to try the more dynamic F Sport model back-to-back with the AWD to see if the softer model is to your tastes. The power from the engine can be rather fun but the driver needs to really kick the throttle to wake the car from its luxury slumber, this also is the only time the engine sounds particularly exciting.

Verdict

Lexus has built a strong following because of the high quality, bulletproof reliability the brand offers, with an ever-present luxury feel. The F Sport models offer a more aggressive design and improved on-road dynamics. With an eye on making the brand more exciting, the designers did a fine job inside and out. The AWD model doesn’t stray too far from the traditional Lexus formula or producing comfortable and luxurious transportation, this time in a much more stylish wrap.

Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 3.5L V6 with 307hp

Fill-up: 12.6L/9.1L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $54,600

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