A Luxury Sports Coupe for Lovers of the Open Road
Only buy the 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport if you promise to occasionally take it on curvy roads. The thought of using this fine performing and handling luxury sports coupe only as a grocery-getter makes one’s spine tingle. And not in a good way.
The 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport comes standard with rear-wheel drive (RWD), with all-wheel drive (AWD) optional. Running on 91 octane, both drives come with a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 311 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Power gets to the wheels though an eight-speed sport direct-shift automatic for the RWD, and a six-speed electronically controlled automatic for the AWD. Both transmissions have paddle shifters and driver selectable drive modes.
Ready to lean in
The engine and transmission combinations are not designed for the RC F Sport to be a seriously fast sports car, but it does just fine with 0-60 times around 5.8 seconds for the RWD and 6.0 for the AWD. If you are looking for a true sports car version, opt for the 2021 RC F Fuji Speedway Edition, with the 5.0L V8 that clocks 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. Now that is fast!
The EPA rates fuel economy for the RC 350 F Sport at 20 city/28 highway/23 combined. (Ed. Note: The RC 300 and RC 300 F Sport RWD models offer the best fuel economy at 21/31/25.) Over 652 miles of mixed driving through Southern California we averaged 23.9 mpg. In two all-freeway runs of 150 miles each, with the dynamic radar cruise control set at 65 mph, we averaged 31.6 mpg. This fuel economy, aided by the low .29 Coefficient of Drag (Cd), is a sign the RC 350 F Sport can be both a sporty performer and a long-range tourer. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience. Your numbers may differ.
Out and About
Clean Fleet Report drove the RWD RC 350 F Sport, enjoying the smooth shifts as it pulled strong through the gears with the engine winding-up nicely from 2,000 rpm to wring-out some fun with maximum torque at 4,800 rpm. Handling chores were aided by adaptive variable sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip rear differential, Bridgestone Potenza 235/40 all-season tires mounted on 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and dynamic rear steering. This last technology adjusts the angle of the rear wheels by up-to two degrees to help with agility and stability. All of these combined to provide no tire slippage or a point where we felt a loss of traction while tossing around the 3,748-pound coupe, even under the hardest cornering.
Putting the sport in sport coupe
The automatic has driver selectable drive modes of Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+. We opted for Normal for around town and Eco for freeway cruising, but Sport S and Sport+ were our true first choices. These Sport modes–or using rev-matching manual mode and blipping through the gears with the paddles–made whipping through curvy roads a blast. We took advantage of the throttle response and the steering input that was tailored to specific needs of the selected drive modes, especially Sport S and Sport S+.
When you really get on it, the lush engine note is amplified into the cabin. It is not faux noise like on some other cars, but just the regular induction noise amped-up a bit. It is very satisfying.
The balance on the RC 350 F Sport was very good and the steering feedback, through the electric power steering, was neutral, with the car never feeling heavy or cumbersome. We can only guess the AWD RC 350 F Sport would handle even better.
Luxury Coupe Design
The 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport stands out from its few competitors in the luxury sports coupe class. Our Black Line Special Edition even more so, as Lexus says they were going for “striking style with a muscular form and aggressive stance.” Redesigned in 2019, the RC is a stylish premium coupe with a ground-hugging, aerodynamic look. Lexus invites you to “Experience Amazing” and says the RC 350 F Sport “demands attention…with features that are pleasing to the eye.” Clean Fleet Report agrees.
The first impression is the car looks as if it is leaning forward. Up front is the Lexus signature, mesh pattern spindle grille, centered by the Lexus “L” badge that makes a statement of big and proud. The Lexus grille is a not a favorite with everyone, but it looks fantastic on the RC. Framing the grille are sleek triple beam LED headlamps, with integrated daytime running lamps, in the form of an “L” that wraps the front edges.
The lines say sport
From a side silhouette, the sloping line from top of the windshield to the front grille is as raked as you will find. Moving your eye from the roof’s apex, it is a smooth slope to the short trunk lid, ending with a smallest-of-small integrated spoiler. The attractive LED tail lamps continue the “L-shape” theme with the rear finished-off by the dual, rectangular chrome exhaust tips.
A distinctive design feature on the RC 350 F Sport are its modestly flared quarter panels. Giving a muscular look as they encase the rear tires, the flares enhance and reinforce the visual sense of style and elegance in this sport coupe.
Lexus Quality Interior
The all-black interior on our RC F Sport had tasteful contrasting brushed aluminum and ash wood accents. Leather abounds with comfortable and supportive heated and ventilated F Sport-specific bolstered front seats, that give the driver 10-way power adjustments, with two-way lumbar and memory, while the passenger seat is heated and ventilated with eight-way power adjustments. The rear seats are sculpted and should be reserved for the smallest-of-small adults as there isn’t much room back there. Storage in the cabin is lacking the cubbies, dual glove boxes, shelfs and multiple cup holders found on most cars. There just isn’t room. But not to worry about stowing away your bags for a long weekender, as the 60/40-split rear seat folds flat to about double the area of the trunk space.
All about the driver
The infotainment system in our RC 350 F Sport was the Lexus Premium, 10-speaker surround-sound system with navigation. All the standard features were there, such as FM/AMHD/CD and SiriusXM. As can be expected with a system like this, the sound was excellent. To really kick-up the sound experience, the optional 835-watt, 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system will set you back $1,080.
Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration are included and a shout-out to Lexus for the volume and channel knobs, and easy-to-set channel buttons. The Bluetooth voice control worked well for making and receiving telephone calls. The audio bundle includes a wide array of features through the Lexus Enform app suite which includes 4GB WiFi for a 90 day trial.
The 10.3-inch monitor was not a touch screen, and the finicky touchpad control was touchy, unpredictable and infuriating at times. Simple is best when it comes to the question of form over function. Clean Fleet Report expects a serious updating of the audio system in the next RC generation, as well as add a head-up display.
The cockpit design is driver-friendly, starting with the leather-trimmed F Sport steering wheel, which has audio, telephone and cruise controls as well as the previously mentioned paddle shifters. Interior features include digital and analog clocks, Homelink and a first aid kit. Additional features are power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start technology, USB power outlets, folding and heated outside power side mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The dual-zone automatic climate system, with dust and pollen filters, has a smog-sensing feature that automatically switches into recalculation mode to keep the cabin air fresh.
A special perk that comes with the RC 350 F Sport Black Line is a two-piece luggage set from Zero Halliburton. Very cool.
The style badge
The 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport is well-equipped with active and passive safety features through the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. Features include seven air bags, remote keyless entry, a theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system, stability assist and traction control. Standard and optional safety technology includes pre-collision braking, intuitive parking assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control. The Lexus Enform Safety Connect allows for emergency help to be summoned with the push of a button.
We advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible, so be sure to speak with your sales representative about the full suite. This is not an area to try and save a few dollars.
The 2021 RC 350 has not been rated by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), but did receive an overall Good rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Tight quarters for humans
All prices for the 2021 Lexus RC 300 and 350 include the $1,075 delivery, processing and handling fee.
RC 350 RWD $46,325
RC 350 AWD $48,490
RC 350 RWD F Sport $50,795
RC 350 AWD F Sport $52,405
RC 350 RWD F Sport Black Line $52,690
RC 350 AWD F Sport Black Line $54,300
RC 350 F Fuji Speedway Special Edition $98,225
Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Lexus RC F Sport RWD, with $7,510 in optional packages, had a final price of $58,055. (Ed. note: The similar-styled RC 300 with a four-cylinder engines starts are several thousand dollars less than the RC 350 model.)
Observations: 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport
Comfort. Sport. Luxury. The firm but compliant ride and sweet engine note are tips you are in a luxury sports coupe. Remember, this is a Lexus, which means the reliability and ownership experience will be much higher and satisfying than most other brands.
Ready for a long ride
What comes to mind when someone says “sports coupe,” other than by definition it only has two doors? For Lexus, its coupes are among the best-looking on the road–sleek, dynamic, modern, and unique, without being over-designed. The 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport (RC stands for Radical Coupe) is a case in point, where the attention to detail is shown throughout the exterior and interior.
The RC 350 F Sport is pleasant to drive and ride in, with an instantly appreciated premium level to the car. Its sporty design has many of the right pieces to aid in performance driving, but also is an ideal car for everyday driving. It will provide fun on curves, but is equally at home on long road trips, making it more like a grand tourer or an executive coupe. Nothing at all wrong with this, it is actually a plus.
When the time comes to stop buying cars with rear doors, and you have had your eye on a coupe, maybe you will say “I’m going for it!” If this describes you, the 2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport should be on your list, but the only way to know is to visit your local Lexus dealer and take the RWD and AWD out for lengthy test drives. You might also look at the Lexus RC 300 F Sport which does not have the same performance, but is an equally fine car.
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Story and photos by John Faulkner.
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