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  • 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport Test Drive Review

  • Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    The Lexus RC had been a staple of the Lexus lineup since 2015, and has grown to offer a choice of three engines. Base RCs get a 2.0-liter turbo, range-topping F models sport a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8, and with a punchy 3.5-liter V6, the RC 350 aims to be a kind of Goldilocks version. That's the one I recently spent a week with, and safe to say, it's as fun as it looks. 

    Since the exterior styling was refreshed across the line in 2019, and the RC line carries over into the current model year mechanically unchanged. But for 2021, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are now standard on all models.

     

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    2021 Lexus 350 F Sport Exterior

    Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    Overall, the RC 350 is a tidy looking sports coupe, with clean exterior lines, and an aggressive front fascia which is dominated by the famous Lexus "Predator" grille. While that's a polarizing style point, I'm a fan, but your opinion of the grille will disproportionately shape your opinion of the sheet metal. That said, I also really appreciated the creases over the front fenders, the gentle slope of the roofline, and the spoiler integrated into the rear decklid.     

    There's nothing over-styled about this car, and I think that's the reason the optional F Sport brake calipers pop so much. These were probably my favorite exterior detail, and if I were checking boxes on the order sheet? I'd absolutely spring the $300 for them. The 19-inch split-five spoke alloy wheels also looked trick, and complemented the Sonic Chrome exterior finish well.

     

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    2021 Lexus 350 F Sport Interior

    Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    The cabin of the RC 350 is decidedly cockpit-like, and feels snug, but not cramped. Given the Lexus badge on the nose, you'd expect the fit and finish to be fantastic -- and you wouldn't be disappointed. I particularly liked the thick feel of the steering wheel, and appreciated the little bits of flash, like the aluminum gas, brake, and dead pedal, along with the prominent analog clock in the center of the dash. 

    My tester was equipped with the Mark Levinson Audio system, which packs an 835-watt amp and a whopping 17 speakers into the cabin, and the sound quality was excellent. This is the kind of setup which makes you realize just how much better a CD player is than Bluetooth streaming, so as a music nerd, I'd recommend taking it for a test listen. That said, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported, as is Amazon Alexa, and Sirius Satellite radio.       

    As someone who types like a gorilla, the Lexus infotainment system takes some getting used to, because the 10.3-inch display is controlled by a touchpad in the center console. Fortunately, there are physical controls for radio volume and climate control. Like most sports coupes, the back seats are too tight for adults, and are best suited to carrying groceries or other light cargo.

       

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    2021 Lexus 350 F Sport Performance

    Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    Shortly before the Lexus RC arrived at dealers back in 2015, I had the opportunity to flog both V6 and V8 versions at the launch event at Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York. The heart of the facility is a twisty, 4.1-mile road course with plenty of elevation changes and a nice long straight, so I've gotten to see what this sports coupe would do when pushed. And I came away impressed. 

    Truth be told, at the time I was mostly angling for seat time in the RC F, as the 5.0-liter V8 packs a wallop and makes a killer noise. That said? I've often remarked that you really don't need more than 300 horsepower on the street, and with its 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the RC 350 is proof of that. Importantly, the chassis of the RC is well-balanced and forgiving, so while it provides for oversteer, you don't have to be an expert to have a blast behind the wheel. 

    The steering is also well-weighted and communicative, and it was a hoot to take the RC 350 down some of my favorite Northwest backroads. Even with the adaptive suspension in its most aggressive setting, the ride wasn't bone-rattling, and while purists might prefer a stick, the eight-speed automatic responded well when driving spiritedly. Of course, there are paddles if drivers want to take a more active roll. But they're not something I'd really use around town.

     

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    2021 Lexus 350 F Sport Safety

    Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    As of press time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not tested the RC 350. This is not unusual for upscale sports coupes. 

    Every Lexus RC comes with Lexus Safety System+, a robust suite of driver aids which includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Automatic High Beams.

     

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    2021 Lexus 350 F Sport Overall

    Exterior view of the Lexus 350 F Sport

    When I spoke with the Lexus engineers present at the launch, they stressed they wanted to make a car that was both approachable and fun to drive, and in my opinion, they succeeded. So while the RC 350 might not have the grunt of the RC F, or be as track-focused as the range-topping RC F Fuji Speedway Edition, folks looking for a solid performance coupe with daily driver potential should be pleased with the RC 350. 

    The base price for my RC 350 F Sport was $49,520, and my tester was fitted with a host of options which increased the total cost. The biggest ticket items were the Mark Levinson Audio package ($2,725), the Black Line Special Edition package ($2,145), and the Dynamic Handling with Rear Steering package ($1,900). Now, that last one might be tough to feel unless you drive versions without it back to back, so make sure to inquire about that on a test drive. All told, the as-tested price came to $60,310.

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    John Coyle  | May 13, 2021

    2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport Specs

    Layout

    2-door, 2+2 RWD

    Engine/Transmission

    3.5L V6
    311 hp, 280 lb-ft
    Eight-speed auto

    Mileage

    20/28
    (city/hwy)

    NHTSA Rating

    N/A


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