White Plaines New York- All new to the Lexus lineup, the 2015 RC is more than just a refreshing name. As Lexus Corporate Marketing Manager Brian Bolain explained at a media preview outside New York City, "RC was built from the Asphalt up to deliver thrilling performance."
While the lettered couple 'RC' may spring thoughts of 'Royal Crown' Cola to a demographic of a certain era, folks at Lexus, Toyota's upscale luxury division, employ a fizzier connotation; "Responsive Coupe." Lexus projects a healthy 50 percent of RC buyers will be conquest, new entrants to the Lexus brand.
The all-new RC premium luxury coupe comes in two highly caffeinated flavors, the six-cylinder RC 350 or the V-8 inspired RC-F. Niche performance coupes like the BMW M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and now RC-F make up just six percent of the entire luxury segment; but serve important public relations duties, drawing onlookers to brick-and-mortar dealerships and gracing Buff-Book covers. Expect the all-new RC to Chicago-area dealers by mid-November 2014.
Historically, two-door, four-seat transports targeted young singles, but RC may find lookers from empty nesters as well. Whereas the V-8-inspired RC-F targets track enthusiasts with a need for speed, the V-6 RC 350, with a lower starting price, will have a broader appeal. The Lexus crystal ball foresees 2,500 unit sales annually from the track-specific RC-F V-8 and 15,000 from the RC 350 and RC 350 with optional F SPORT package. Both engines require premium, 91-octane fuel to fill the rather large 17.4-gallon tank.
While simply labeling RC a two-door version of Lexus' performance -oriented IS entry luxury sport sedan would be easy, the devil is in the detail. RC has a dedicated all-new ultra-stiff platform uniquely engineered and balanced combining suspension characteristics borrowed from Lexus' mid-size GS sedan. Consider the A-pillar forward borrowed from the GS with the rear portion based on the latest-generation IS sport sedan. Large RC side door openings get their mojo from the low-volume IS convertible.
The RC coupe measures 2.5 inches shorter in wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) than the performance IS sedan, which debuted back in 2000. Consider RC a smallish, mid-size coupe.
Select the V-6 RC 350 and expect 306 horsepower from the 24 valve 3.5-liter V-6. It's similar to what Lexus offers in IS and GS sedans. Horsepower jumps to an impressive 467 with the 5.0-liter direct-to-cylinder fuel-injected V-8, the fastest and most powerful V-8 yet for Lexus.
The V-6 RC 350 is available in performance rear-drive coupled with an eight-speed, port direct shift automatic transmission or Chicago-friendly all-wheel drive teamed with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. The Lexus AWD system uses an automatic electronically controlled center differential retaining a rear-wheel bias (20 percent torque front :80 rear) to as much as 50:50 when conditions merit. The track-inspired RC-F with standard V-8 is strictly rear-wheel drive with eight-speed sport direct shift automatic. The "F" stands for Fuji Speedway, where Lexus conducts much of its high-speed development. No manual transmission is available.
The standard seven-inch multi-function screen gets set back from the rest of the dash, well shaded from the sun. An old-school, round, analog clock prominently stands out front and center in both trims. Standard, push-button start button resides at a slight angle to the steering wheel's left. The instrument panel layout varies depending on the powertrain chosen. Back seat quarters remain tight with no more than two riders at a time.
A circular, drive-mode select knob including normal, eco and sport mode resides between front bucket seats in RC 350. The V-8 RC F adds a sport plus mode.
Firm front bucket seats envelope drivers with bolsters along the back sides and cushions and a low-to-the-ground posture. Front seats disperse body pressure the instant occupants sit down. Second-row seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split, gaining access to a relatively small trunk region with 10.4 cubic feet of wiggle room.
Both RC 350 and RC-F include the new face of Lexus, an attractive 'spindle grille' resembling a truncated hourglass. Flanking the grille's narrow waist are check-mark-shaped groupings of daytime running LED lights below triangle-inspired headlight housing.
The V-8 RC-F sports quad exhausts along with functional hood and side vents for cooling the engine and brakes respectively. Side vents sport a "F" icon. The lower grille also sports vents for cooling engine oil.
Pricing starts a $42,790 for a rear drive six-cylinder RC 350; $45,025 with all-wheel drive. The V-8 inspired RC F lists at $62,400. Expect a fair number of stand-alone and package options in both engine selections upping the bottom line.
The F SPORT option package, available only in the V-6 is an additional $3,985. This package features sport-tuned suspension, aluminum sport pedals, mesh front grille, busier instrument panel, high-friction brake pads and adaptive variable suspension. The F SPORT's take rate has averaged 50 percent in other participating Lexus models.
The track-specific V-8 RC-F features an optional torque-vectoring deferential (TVD), distributing rear-wheel torque during cornering. As the vehicle turns a corner, torque is gradually transferred from the inner to the outer wheel. The transmission offers four selectable modes: normal, sport S, sport plus and clutch-less manual.
Pushing the RC-F to its limits took place at the Monticello Race Club, a relatively new facility two hours from downtown Manhattan. It's similar to the closed circuit Autobahn Country Club in Joliet; a serpentine playground for car enthusiasts. Monticello provided ample opportunity to test the torque-vectoring differential; keeping RC-F poised and driver planted when powering through the many curves.
Both V-6 RC 350 and V-8 RC-F offer a four-quadrant remote touch-sensitive interface pad for interactions with the four-color multi-function screen when ordering the optional ($1,600 or so) navigation package with high-definition backdrop. If the pad is not your speed, a conventional twist dial is available in RC 350 in place of the touch pad. Both positioned behind the transmission shifter, left of dual, inline cup holders.
In V-8 RC Fs expect a black dash and black seats each embossed with "F" badging. A rioja red seat pattern is optional as is carbon fiber trim. The V-6 inspired RC 350 offers an assortment of interior colors including playa, flayen black and optional Rioga red in the F SPORT package.
The ventilation and sound system include a small row of buttons: one button for selecting fan direction by continuously pressing until the desired mode arrives, two buttons for increasing and decreasing fan speed. Along the sides are touch-sensitive vertical bars. Swiping down lowers the temperature while an upward ride raises degrees. Smartly, All RCs include volume and tuning dials for audio controls, working in tandem with secondary buttons on the three-spoke steering wheel.
The up level V-8-inspired RC-F offers fewer options, but consider the $5,500 carbon fiber top and speed-activated rear spoiler adding a nice contrast to body-style hues.
A rear-drive RC 350 is expected to check in at 19 mpg city and 28 highway; subtract 2 mpg highway if opting for all-wheel drive. Opt for the V-8 and expect 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.2015 Lexus RC
At a Glance
Starting Price: RC-F V-8: $62,400
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches
Overall Length: 184.8 inches
Overall Width: 72.4 inches
Overall Height: 54.9 inches
Fuel economy: 16 mpg/25 mpg
Powertrain Warranty: 72-month 70,000 miles