Think of the 2017 Lexus RC350 F Sport as James Bond without his trademark marksmanship or Frank Sinatra sans his famous low notes. It’s handsome, but handsome only takes you so far.
Key to the Lexus RC350’s character is its Frankenstein’s Monster chassis that’s made up of pieces from three different Lexus models: The front subframe is sourced from the mid-size Lexus GS sedan, the rear end is procured from the compact Lexus IS sedan, and the center section is based on the structure of the now defunct IS C convertible. Despite this strange amalgamation of parts, the RC’s unibody structure is as stiff as a martini made with four parts of gin for each part of vermouth. Road imperfections are crossed with nary a shudder, and the car’s two oversize front doors close with a solid thunk.
Such rigidity doesn’t come without compromise, though, and the RC is a relative heavyweight against the Lexus IS that can be considered its sedan analogue. Our 3816-pound Nebula Gray Pearl RC350 F Sport carried an extra 111 pounds more than the last IS350 F Sport we tested. Compared with the luxury coupes that the RC350 F Sport competes with, though, the two-door Lexus’s heft is generally par for the course, with the 3560-pound Cadillac ATS V-6 coupe being the lone lightweight left in a field that has been effectively taken over by welterweights.
Affable if Not Effable
This six-cylinder F Sport is not to be confused with the V-8–powered RC F (which is regarded as its own model), although its 306 horsepower place it well clear of the 241-hp turbocharged four-cylinder RC200t and the 255-hp AWD-only V-6 RC300. Even so, this F Sport is not quite as hard-edged as the Mercedes-AMG C43 that occupies a similar ’tweener slot in its model line. The RC350 competes with more relaxed six-cylinder coupes such as the 320-hp BMW 440i, the 335-hp Cadillac ATS V-6, and the 300-hp Infiniti Q60 3.0T.
Although the Lexus V-6’s ponies may be able challengers on paper, its thoroughbreds struggle in practice. A zero-to-60-mph time of 5.7 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 14.2 seconds at 101 mph are both 1.3 seconds slower than the figures we extracted from a 440i. Even the 252-hp, all-wheel-drive Audi A5 is quicker than this Lexus, needing just 5.0 seconds to hit 60 mph and 13.6 seconds to cover the quarter-mile.
The RC350 is plenty quick for most users, however, and what it lacks in accelerative ability, it compensates for by the sweet sounds of the V-6 and the smooth shifts of the eight-speed automatic transmission. While the automatic can be hesitant to downshift in its Normal mode, switching to Sport alleviates the issue; using the standard steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters or tapping the gearshift lever will summon Manual mode for full control. Using the lethargic Eco setting is best avoided, always.
Not the F, Sport
As Bond and Sinatra can attest, looks and good manners only go so far. Earning a place at the top requires something extra. For Bond, it’s his skilled marksmanship; Sinatra, his baritone; and for compact luxury coupes, it’s finding the perfect blend of comfort and driving engagement. While the 2017 Lexus RC350 F Sport is handsome and well mannered, it’s devoid of a dynamic je ne sais quoi that would elevate it above its peers. It would feel livelier in its responses and more enticing to drive if it shed some of its excess mass and had its chassis tuned as sharply as that of the IS350 F Sport that so impressed us a few years ago.