Numbers can be cruel. Especially so to Lexus, it seems. For the second year running Toyota’s premium arm occupies the bottom rung on the $50-100K ladder yet, just as with last year's IS350 F Sport, in this case the numbers don't paint a fair picture of the RC350's abilities.
Put simply, as the only car in its class without some form of forced induction, Lexus's new two-door isn't particularly fast, and at $74,000 it's not particularly cheap, either – not a promising recipe for BFYB success.
Its pace isn't helped by the fact that at some point in its development process the RC350 was clearly given free rein with the buffet; its 1680kg kerb weight is just 50kg shy of the twin-turbo, all-wheel drive Nissan GT-R.
As a result, Lexus's latest coupe scrapped with Renault Sport's Megane Trophy R for the straight-line wooden spoon, but whereas the Trophy R then set a blistering time around the track, the best the RC350 could manage was a 1:42.9. Not bad, but certainly nothing to write home about.
As mentioned up front, however, what the numbers don't reveal is that the RC350 F Sport is a very entertaining steer, to the point that you'd really have to think long and hard about whether you wanted to spend another $60,000 on the V8 RC F.
The 3.5-litre atmo V6 might not be a powerhouse with 233kW/378Nm, but it howls like an old-school touring car and with eight gears to play with, it's not too much of a task to keep it revving in its 4000rm+ happy zone.
Likewise, the RC350 might've gone too hard on the donuts during development, but there's little sense of its mass on track. There is heaps of grip – its minimum corner speed in Winton's famous sweeper was a competitive 108.01km/h – and the variable ratio steering means most corners are dispatched with little more than a quarter-turn of lock.
The only real chink in its armour is the lack of a limited-slip diff. Why manufacturers persist in building powerful rear-drive performance cars without LSDs is beyond us, as more often than not having one fitted transforms the on-limit behaviour of the car.
As it is, care must be taken (and vital tenths are lost) on the exit of each tight corner lest the inside rear wheel lose traction and spin all the power away. Flick it in under the brakes and the rear slides wide beautifully, but try and hold it on the throttle and all too often the power diverts to one wheel halfway around the bend and the drift dies dismally.
Its behaviour at 10/10ths can be frustratingly inconsistent and it was marked down by the judges accordingly. Please put a diff in the RC350 Lexus, it'll make it faster and more fun – it'd be cruel not to.
FOOTNOTE: As part of its MY16 update Lexus has now made a limited-slip differential standard on Lexus RC350 F Sport – hooray!
0-100km/h – 6.08sec (7th)
0-400m – 14.12sec @ 164.34km/h (7th)
Lap time – 1min42.90sec (7th)
Bang Index – 52.4
Price - $74,000
Bucks Index – 89.8
BFYB Index – 104.7
Campbell 7th – “On track it tries hard and is surprisingly agile. But ultimately prefers cruising to attacking.”
Morley 6th – “A sporty Lexus that finally is. Still a road-car first, though”
Newman 5th – “Impressive, and fun, but lacks that final tenth and needs an LSD”
Spinks 7th – “Great electric steering and old-school V6, but imagine if RC were 100kg lighter”
Luffy 5th – “What a fantastic car. The chassis balance and amount of front-end grip on turn-in is unbelievable; it really rotates well in the corner. One of its biggest let-downs is the lack of a limited-slip diff. It also does everything right, but it needs more power to unleash its true potential.”
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