Another Step: 2015 Lexus RC350

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus RC350
The 2015 Lexus RC350.
As both our Executive Editor and Publisher and I have been telling you for some time now, Lexus is on a march. The destination: To be taken seriously as a competitor to German sport-luxury cars.  25 years ago, the original Lexus LS sedan knocked the Mercedes-Benz S Class off its perch---a $20,000 lower base price helped---but winning the hearts and minds of Audi and especially BMW intenders has not been such an easy task.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus RC350
2015 Lexus RC350.
The past few years have seen some great strides in the right direction---the IS350 F SPORT comes to mind---and Lexus is doing away with its perception as isolation chambers on wheels.  But the brand needs visual excitement beyond the device of putting the spindle grille on every car and SUV it makes.

Enter the RC350.  In terms of styling, it's the most in-your-face mass production vehicle Lexus has ever introduced. It loudly proclaims that the limited-edition run of 500 LFAs was not a one-off or a fluke, but that the Lexus brand can and will create desirable machines.

But if you're expecting performance that matches those looks, well...

Don't get us wrong, the 3.5-liter V6 that is in virtually every Lexus is perfectly adequate with its 308 horsepower, and mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, delivers a strong 19 miles per gallon city/28 miles per gallon highway fuel economy estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Those wanting the strong stuff are directed to the new RC F coupe, with the same body style, 467 horsepower from a 5-liter V8 and a $62,400 price tag.

Interior view of 2015 Lexus RC350
2015 Lexus RC350 interior.
Keeping $19,210 in your bank account---the RC350's base price is $42,790---gets you the aforementioned quick yet relatively economical powertrain, driver mode select---ECO, Normal, Sport & Snow---18-inch alumninum wheels, LED headlamps, dual chrome exhaust, the Lexus Enform safety connect system, genuine wood trim, a heated 10-way power driver's seat and an 8-way power seat for the front passenger, 60/40 folding rear seats, a multi-information display, Bluetooth and a premium audio system with real-time traffic and weather, Gracenote album art, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB and a CD player---rapidly becoming a rarity in new cars.

Our test vehicle also had options.  A blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert ($600), foglamps ($410), navigation with a backup camera, the Lexus Enform infotainment app suite, voice command and Lexus Insider, intuitive parking assist ($500), an optional paint color called Infrared ($595), and a moonroof ($1,100).  With $925 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price was $48,450.

Lexus' genius is in building cars that work flawlessly and that make you feel as though you are in a car that costs far more than it does.  The RC350 feels like a $60,000 sport coupe for considerably less. Lexus takes another step toward its goal.

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