|The RC 300 F Sport poses a striking design that turns heads wherever it goes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In the U.S. Lexus is considered a Tier 1 luxury brand, along with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi; we don’t really have such a ranking, or at least I’ve never been able to find anything suggesting it. Strong sales numbers have a lot to do with their top-tier placement, but it also comes down to their near full range of models. For a relatively new brand, such a wide assortment of models and body styles means that some don’t sell well enough to make much if any money, but instead provide important branding that trickles down to enhance higher volume cars and SUVs.
|The RC 300 F Sport’s rear styling makes it look supercar fast. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The stylish new two-door hardtop model only managed to pull in 526 luxury buyers last year, which while more positive than the 415 mid-size GS and 95 flagship LS luxury sedans sold during the same 12 months, is a far cry from the 4,765 BMW 4 Series delivered through 2016. Granted, BMW makes three different 4
|The F Sport package adds a larger more aggressive spindle grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
A similar scenario is playing out for 2017, with only 486 RCs down the road after 11 months of availability compared to 3,481 4 Series models, while Audi’s redesigned A5 has catapulted from a mere 1,516 deliveries in 2016 to 3,491 thus far in 2017, whereas Lexus archrival Infiniti pushed Q60 sales up from just 422 units last year to 1,066 by the end of November this year thanks to an effective redesign.
|Extremely unique LED lighting helps the RC stand out in a crowd. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
They might try advertising it a bit more. After inundating us with poetic Kit Harington (a.k.a. Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow) ads throughout 2016, Infiniti’s Q60 Red Sport 400 can now be regularly seen blowing away the RC 350 F Sport in a 15-second YouTube short, but the RC might simply need more time on the market in order to build up a following.
Lexus’ has been spending more time and money in the SUV arena, with its RX and NX benefiting. In fact, the RX led sales for the Japanese brand as well as Canada’s entire mid-size SUV segment last year with 8,147 deliveries, whereas the fresher NX
|The F Sport upgrade adds these sensational 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Just the same, we can’t discount the importance of sports models like the RC when it comes to brand image as noted earlier, and the beautiful Infrared painted 2017
|The LED taillights are almost as complex as those up front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Many thought the 2.0-litre RC Turbo, currently available in the U.S., would’ve been added to the Canadian lineup for 2017 in order to drop the price and hopefully attract more buyers, but Lexus appears to want its northernmost coupes fitted with all-wheel drive and that car is only pushed from the rear, so the $49,050 RC 300 AWD is base here in Canada,
|LFA supercar? The RC 300 AWD F Sport’s details make it look ultra-premium. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s arguably better looking with the $4,700 as-tested F Sport Series 1 package (there is no Series 2 package for this model, in case you were wondering) that adds a new front fascia with a larger, bolder grille and unique lower fascia detailing with integrated fog lamps, as well as other exterior styling upgrades, plus unique 19-inch alloys wrapped in 235/40 performance tires (although my tester was fitted with winters), an adaptive sport suspension, a powered tilt and telescopic sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, rain-sensing wipers, front sport seats, NuLuxe pleather upholstery with contrast stitching, memory for the driver’s
|The RC’s cabin is impressively finished.(Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The only other notable option is a dealer-added F Sport performance exhaust system integrated within a fabulous looking rear bumper diffuser (for about $2,050 and change). Lexus claims the upgraded exhaust reduces backpressure for increased torque, which might be noticeable given the RC 300 AWD’s modest engine output.
Despite its considerable 3.5 litres of displacement, the base V6 makes just 255 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque for fairly relaxed performance due to the coupe’s
|Upgrading to the F Sport adds a sportier design and more features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
So how does it feel? Better than you might expect. Its base powertrain gets the RC off the line effortlessly and its gearbox operates as smoothly as the big V6, plus includes steering wheel paddles in F Sport guise. It makes a nice rasp at full throttle too, especially in Sport or S+ mode, sounding much more convincing than any of the four-cylinders on offer, and there’s something intangible about a V6 when it comes to delivering premium feel. That engine note likely makes it seem faster than it really is, but in reality its 6.3-second jog to 100km/h is merely ok in comparison to its peers.
|The F Sport’s configurable gauge cluster was inspired by Lexus’ LFA supercar. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
This can really be felt in the handling, the RC a tad lethargic when attempting to flick it through tight fast-paced corners. It doesn’t deliver the same level of “tossability” as the Germans, and comes up short on road surface connectivity as well, the steering not as direct and somewhat numb. It rides comfortably, however,
|It looks complicated, but the RC’s centre stack is easy to sort out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Instead, I recommend the RC 300 AWD for those less interested in canyon carving and more into high-speed cruising, not to mention looking good while tooling through town. It’s ideal for both situations, as it provides plenty of comfort from a very impressive cabin. All the expected soft surfaces and high quality switchgear are present, as is a superbly designed mostly digital gauge cluster and an excellent infotainment display, while a stylish analogue clock reminds that premium
|The sculpted sport seats are comfortable, yet not as adjustable as those in competitive models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The rear seats were an afterthought, as is the case with most cars in this class. They suffice for smaller adults in a pinch, and are plenty useful for younger kids, but 2+2 seems an appropriate term in the RC’s case. This said the trunk is a disappointment, with just 295 litres (10.4 cubic feet) of space and only 60/40-split seatbacks for stowing longer gear, most of its competitors offering the convenience of a 40/20/40-split pass-through.
|The rear seating area isn’t as spacious as some rivals, but nicely finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I don’t have specific intel regarding the RC, but this drivetrain has served Lexus reliably for more than a decade, while the brand rates higher than most rivals overall when it comes to dependability. I know I’m arguing pragmatism in a class that normally sells on passion, but let’s not forget that even the dreamiest of sports cars can turn into a nightmare if always in the shop. That shouldn’t be an issue with the RC.
Still, I can’t guarantee that purchasing an RC is the smartest move. In order to maintain
|Its 60/40-split rear seatbacks aren’t as convenient as competitors’ 40/20/40 designs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In the end it’s a tough call, so buy the car you want. The RC 300 has a lot going for it, unique, sharp styling being one of its strongest suits. I certainly would understand why someone might choose this car over its competitors, even if only for its exclusivity. You won’t be seeing one of these coming around every other corner, and there’s something to be said for unique appeal in luxury circles. It’s like showing up at a Christmas party wearing a Grand Seiko, albeit with ten times the flash.
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