2021 Lexus RC 350 F Sport AWD vs. 2021 BMW 430i xDrive Coupe vs. 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe: Which is the most fun for 60 grand?
This week? Lexus
Price: $57,785. Sunroof, $1,100; All-Weather Package, $220; F Sport heated steering wheel, $150; intuitive parking assist, $500; other items mentioned below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “racy styling, smooth ride for a sports coupe, roomy interior for front-seat riders,” but not the “tight rear-seat space, fussy infotainment touch pad, we wish it were quicker.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Experience amazing.”
Reality: Not just fun, but smooth and comfortable as well.
What’s new: Not that much, but I’ll tell you this: Lexus really wants you to buy one. Either that or they really want to make Mr. Driver’s Seat happy.
The 2020 model tested was the fourth RC they’ve sent me since 2015, the year of its introduction. (Model year 2021 is identical except for a new trim level; even the media pictures are copied from 2020 to 2021.) I do enjoy them, but come on now. I run out of things to say.
Fortunately a glance at the price sticker shows me it’s about the same as the BMW 4 Series Coupe and the Corvette, so I smelled a comparison coming on.
It did get a fresh look outside for the 2019 model year, along with steering enhancements and packaging changes.
Keeping things straight: Don’t confuse the RC F Sport with the RC F (I confess I usually do). The latter comes with a 5-liter V-8 and gets to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The RC 350 F Sport AWD takes forever to get to 60 - 6 whole seconds. The wait was absolutely intolerable, trust me.
But those 311 horses do their best.
As an aside, an RC 300 comes with a 2.0-liter turbo four, but that should hardly be discussed in the same column.
Driver’s Seat and Passenger Seat: The Lovely Mrs. Passenger appeared in a review of the RX 450 SUV commenting that she should have known it was a Lexus, because it was so comfortable.
She said almost the exact same words again, even despite this being a much smaller, lower vehicle.
The F Sport bolstered seats in the RC are sporty and firm, but they’re just right for the car, and not too hard. The ride itself is also smooth, although Sport+ mode does enhance the bumps pretty mightily. The F Sport package also heats and ventilates the seats as well.
On the road: The RC 350 wants to be pushed. I’m not sure I ever found its limits — corners could be taken at 30 mph, and country roads could be swallowed up in a heartbeat.
Highways are also a delight in the RC 350, especially compared to most sports cars. Road seams are not too hard on the occupants at all, although rough roads can be difficult.
Shifty: The all-wheel-drive version suffers from a six-speed shiftable automatic, while rear-drive versions get an 8-speed. Still, the gearbox does its job well, and shifting is easy and has good feel both from the shifter or the paddles.
Friends and stuff: The backseat is somewhere in the middle ground between pitiful and painful. But it’s a sports car, so you expected that. The dogs will fit back there nicely, at least.
Cargo space is a squeezy 10.7 cubic feet.
Play some tunes: Though a recent test in an RX 450 SUV revealed some Lexii offer a touchscreen, no such luck for RC buyers. It’s touch pad city here near the ground, and it works about as well as ever — which is to say, not that smoothly.
Dials for volume and tuning do help immensely, though. And sound from the Mark Levinson Audio Package ($2,725) is delightful, as it is almost throughout the Lexus line, an A. But for near three grand, I’d expect no less.
Or don’t play any tunes: The RC 350 sounds pretty cool in Sport+ mode. Yes, it’s a recording. Hey, so what.
Keeping warm and cool: Buttons control almost all the operations, except for weird sliders for temperature control on each side.
Night shift: The triple beam LED headlights ($1,160) actually sit fairly low and can be hard to see by.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 15 miles per gallon in the short time I drove the RC 350. It was averaging about 19 mpg before I got my mitts on it. Feed the RC 350 only the best, please.
Where it’s built: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
How it’s built: Consumer Reports offers no data on the RC, but a Lexus gets the benefit of the doubt.
In the end: If you’re shopping for a sports car, this little machine should definitely be on your list. It’s a lot of fun and pretty nice to ride around in as well.
Next week: 2021 BMW 430i xDrive