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Driven: Look-at-me Lexus RC 350 lands

Infra ready: Lexus says its RC 350 is the first production car to use a special five-layer paint finish with which it intends to dazzle the prestige coupe competition.

Image-freshening “emotional” Lexus RC 350 range arrives priced from $66,000 BOCs


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25 Nov 2014

LEXUS' first new front-engine coupe in almost 10 years has arrived on Australian soil to take on the likes of the BMW 4 Series and Audi's A5, priced from $66,000 before on-road costs.

Based on the IS sedan, the new coupe is charged with taking sales from the established German big-hitters while showcasing the Toyota-owned luxury brand in a new more sporty and “emotional” light.

The extraordinary LFA mid-engined hypercar of 2011 started the company's renewed focus on giving its cars more sex appeal, but with the arrival of its RC 350, customers wanting to be a part of the new-look will pay $634,000 less.

RC 350 chief engineer Eiichi Kusama said the new vehicle's sporty chassis was inspired by martial arts.

“This is relevant to the development of the RC in terms of handling optimisation and also how we respond to our market rivals, who are undoubtedly formidable,” he said.

“We started by creating a unique chassis. The RC 350’s underpinnings are not those of a reconfigured sedan – it has a purpose-built chassis.

“RC 350 is a brand new vehicle we hope will not only make life tough for our rivals, but also attract new buyers to the Lexus marque.” Initially available in three variants, the RC kicks off with the $66,000 Luxury, before moving up to the $74,000 F Sport and topping out with the Sports Luxury, from $86,000.

This starting price keeps it in the same league as the BMW 420i ($70,000), the Audi A5 1.8 TFSI ($68,200) and the Mercedes-Benz C180 coupe ($59,900), but the Lexus features a bigger powerplant.

All versions of the RC 350 are powered by a normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6, which sends 233kW/378Nm to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

A top-performing V8-powered F version will join the RC 350 at a later date but for now acceleration to 100km/h in the V6 variety takes 6.1 seconds with a limited top speed of 230km/h.

Combined fuel consumption stands at 9.1 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions are 217 grams per kilometre.

The quad-cam 60-degree six-cylinder uses tandem fuel injection systems, variable valve timing on both inlet and exhaust camshafts and is shared with the IS 350 sedan.

Lexus says the RC 350's exhaust note is quiet at low speed and sporty at higher engine revs, but the sound is enhanced with an Active Generator that amplifies favourable engine sounds.

Hanging off the back of the atmo V6 is Lexus' Sports Direct Shift transmission that uses a lockable torque converter in all but first gear to reduce fuel consumption and allow downshifts in just 0.2 seconds.

Its Lexus Drive Mode Select lets drivers pick a driving style from Eco, Normal and Sport modes with the addition of Sport S and Sport S+ on F Sport and Sports Luxury variants.

Switching through the various modes offers a balance of fuel economy and driving involvement, depending on the driver's preference. In Sport S and Sport S+ modes, a new G-sensor determines how the vehicle is being driven and further enhances gear selections.

The gear-shift program also uses information from the accelerator position sensor to hold gears after rapid throttle closure and for maximum acceleration response.

In fully automatic mode the transmission can be left to its own devices. Manual selections can be made with the steering wheel shift paddles on all variants.

Despite its relationship to the IS and GS sedans, Lexus says the RC 350 chassis is all new with a bespoke arrangement of double wishbone suspension up front, based on the GS, with middle and rear multilink layouts coming from the IS.

F Sport versions of the RC 350 have Adaptive Variable Suspension that can be altered using the same Drive Mode Select for changing the transmission characteristics for firmer and sportier ride or more comfort depending on the type of motoring.

The system also works in partnership with the vehicle stability system to maintain optimum vehicle control under all circumstances.

The F Sport's electric power steering is also controlled by the DMS with variable steering ratios to permit easy manoeuvring at low speeds or with more feel at higher speeds with a sports mode selected.

Adding to the advanced front-end steering, like the IS 350, the F Sport also has Dynamic Rear Steering to further enhance the steering qualities.

At speeds of up to 80km/h the system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front allowing fast vehicle direction changes, but above 80km/h the rear wheels turn in the same direction to crab the RC sideways in a more stable manner when changing lanes, for example.

Brakes have ventilated discs all round with 334mm rotors at the front and 310mm at the rear, except for F Sports variants, which get larger two-piece 356mm front discs, grippier pads and a servo re-tune.

The RC 350's quintessential coupe styling was carefully developed to achieve stabilising and efficiency-boosting aerodynamics, while creating a “lasting impression and prominent road presence” – a style dominated by the now Lexus trademark spindle grille.

Lexus says its RC 350 is the first car to use a special five-layer paint process that gives the new coupe a deep shine previously seen only on show cars and concepts.

Luxury versions of the RC 350 get 18-inch wheels while sportier F Sport and Sports Luxury variants get larger 19-inch hoops dressed in Bridgestone Potenza tyres.

Lexus says the combination of its chassis tuning, advanced technology and a “track focus” gives the new coupe “an outstanding balance of on-road composure and driving dynamics”.

Despite having just two doors, the RC 350 promises sedan-like features with carefully designed door openings to allow rear passengers to “walk in” and a 60:40 split folding rear seat that allows objects up to 1500mm long. With the rear seats up, the boot has a 423-litre volume.

Interiors have a range of customisation options depending on the specification level. Special upward facing illumination brings a unique touch similar to upward corridor lighting in buildings.

Front seats are leather trimmed with power adjustment, heating and cooling and memory.

Information and entertainment systems are taken care of by Lexus' Remote Touch which uses a 7.0-inch touchscreen, flat track-pad and functions similarly to smartphone operations allowing both front occupants to access a variety of vehicle systems.

Functions are also accessible with the steering wheel allowing control of the various systems including connected smartphones, navigation and local area information.

Luxury variants have an entry-level 256-watt Pioneer 10-speaker sound system, while the top two versions get upgraded to an 835-watt 17-speaker system by Mark Levinson.

Both systems allow Bluetooth, iPod and USB connection, MP3 file playback and voice control.

The RC 350 gets a number of active safety systems with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, active cruise control, cross traffic warning, reverse camera as well as the expected stability control, ABS and traction control.

A Pre-Collision Safety system uses radar to monitor objects ahead of the vehicle and can apply the brakes if a collision is imminent and the driver has ignored warnings.

Headlights are LED and have automatic dipping, complemented by daytime running lights.

Passive safety has similarly good features starting with a high-strength passenger cell constructed using high-tensile steel up to 1620MPa in strength and 'laser screw' assembly methods.

All RC 350 variants have eight airbags with dual-stage main airbags and knee airbags for both front spots, as well as full-length curtain bags for rear passenger protection.

Even people outside the RC 350 are looked after by its passive safety systems with a pop-up bonnet to absorb pedestrian impact to reduce the chances of head injury by 50 per cent.

Specially calibrated sensors can determine the difference between inanimate objects preventing unnecessary deployment.

Lexus RC 350 pricing*
Luxury (a) $66,000
F Sport (a) $74,000
Sports Luxury (a) $86,000
*Excludes on-road costs.

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