• Lexus RC300

Review: 2018 Lexus RC 300 AWD

The relentless pursuit of gorgeousness

Lee Bailie By: Lee Bailie June 13, 2018


    • What’s Best: Great mix of sexy styling and lots of content.
    • What’s Worst: Typical coupe drawbacks – long doors, tiny back seat.
    • What’s Interesting: The LFA supercar is long gone, its instrument cluster lives on in the RC.

I have soft spot for coupes.

Yes, I am aware of the drawbacks – the long doors, cramped back seats and general lack of practicality – but as a coupe owner, I’ve grown quite fond of their inherent charms in spite of traits that are sometimes annoying.

The curves, flowing lines, flared haunches and small windows provides a feeling of donning a form-fitting automotive body suit as soon as you slide behind the steering wheel of a coupe.

There isn’t much room for others – people, stuff, whatever – but I think that’s what enhances the appeal. Driving a coupe is a more personal experience, and that’s what makes them more alluring.

Sure, convertibles can convey a similar feeling, but honestly, does a convertible ever look as good with the roof up? Not a chance, whereas a coupe looks great all the time. Rain or shine.

2018 Lexus RC 300

As much as many of us grew up dreaming of owning an incredibly cool, sexy and powerful coupe – I had a Lamborghini Countach poster over my bed for most of my teen years – they’ve become a bit of a dying breed these days.

Sure, exotic manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini still build a healthy number of coupes, but the number of two-door cars becomes thin among more affordable brands.

In that regard, it is pleasing to see several great coupes in the lineups of luxury brands such as Lexus, which builds the stunning RC, RC F and LC.

I’m fortunate to have driven all three and recently I spent some time behind the wheel of a 2018 RC 300 AWD, the focus of this review.

The RC line in Canada consists of two variants, the regular RC 300 and the more powerful RC 350. Both cars are powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 that is paired with a 6-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive.

In the RC 300, the 3.5 produces 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft. of torque, while the 350 gets a bump to 311 and 280 respectively.

Because the infrared-coloured tester I drove is a press vehicle, it is loaded with some optional kit with the biggest line item being the F Sport package ($7,100).

While I’m hesitant to say F Sport is an appearance package only – there are some mechanical add-ons included such as front and rear adaptive suspension – most of the extra stuff is primarily cosmetic in nature (19-inch wheels, sport seats, LFA-style instrument cluster, upgraded audio / navigation system, etc.).

The gorgeous, deep red infrared exterior finish will also set you back a bit ($650), but it’s a box worth ticking for a car like the RC 300.

Overall, the F Sport package and premium finish add some extra style to a car that already has loads of it.

The RC – which means radical coupe according to Lexus – was first introduced in 2014 as a 2015 model and hasn’t changed much over the past four years. It shares platform architecture and powertrains with the compact IS sedan, but the RC is longer and rides on a shorter wheelbase.

As evidenced in the photos, the RC 300 is a beautiful, long-hood, short-deck coupe with clean lines that flow and integrate nicely with the car’s proportions from end to end. Lexus’ signature spindle grille is large and runs at somewhat extreme angles, anchoring wedge LED headlights and LED daytime running lights.

The RC 300 is flared at the haunches slightly, but not in a way that’s too bodacious – just enough curvature to get your attention while still exuding a regal flair. Front and rear overhangs are relatively short, with small air inlets notched into the fenders on all corners.

On the inside, the RC 300 is comfortable, stylish, well-equipped and handsomely finished. As mentioned, some of that is due to the upgrades the F Sport package provides (seats, steering wheel, LFA-style instrument cluster, etc.), but Lexus designers have done a good job of not forgetting about functionality and logical placement of heavy-use controls, knobs and switches.

I still think the trackpad controller for the multimedia display is a bit cumbersome and lacks intuition, but it works and shouldn’t present too much of an obstacle for most users.

2018 Lexus RC 300 interior

The RC’s back seat is classic coupe – small, hard to access and not designed for adults, but it’s there and can handle two additional occupants in a pinch. The trunk is a decent size (295 litres) for a two-door car, however.

On the road, the RC 300 is a comfortable, composed, quiet and fairly speedy cruiser when you put your foot into it. The 3.5-litre V6 doesn’t really sound glorious, but the muffled growl one hears when the sport and sport+ driving modes are engaged in more dynamic driving situations is pleasing nevertheless.

The 3.5 is a workhouse mill in the Lexus / Toyota family which means it isn’t really designed for performance, but it suits a car more aimed at touring – like the RC 300 – just fine. If you’re so inclined the 6-speed automatic has a manual mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but those features aren’t real selling points for a car like the RC 300. Frankly, I don’t think they’d be missed if Lexus decided to drop them for both RC models. They just seem out of place in a car with the RC’s temperament.

If you really want a performance-oriented RC, I suggest you check out the V8-powered, rear-wheel drive RC F. Now that’s a car designed with the track in mind.

But if you’re more in the mood for a sexy, stylish and well-equipped coupe that can serve as a good daily driver and won’t break the bank, the RC 300 is worthy of consideration.

Just be sure to mind those long doors. And reserve the back seats for grocery bags, instead of people.

2018 Lexus RC 300 AWD

BODY STYLE: Two-door coupe
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.5 L V6 Power: 260 hp @6600 rpm; Torque: 236 lb-ft @4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: (Premium) 13.1/9.8/11.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined
PRICE: $50,550 (base) as tested $58,300
WEBSITE: lexus.ca