2023 Lexus RC350 F Sport AWD – Review by David Colman
Stunning Looks and Precise Handling
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
For 2023, Lexus has concocted a "special appearance package" exclusive to the RC350 F SPORT AWD model. This upgrade combines cosmetic tweaks with hard parts to produce an unforgettable look Lexus calls "Incognito." It's a stroke of genius that transforms their already handsome RC coupe into a visual stunner. The process begins with a base exterior gray color called Incognito which is set off by gloss black hood and roof panels. The stealth appearance is furthered by a set of Enkei alloy wheels finished in a subtle shade of dark gray that unifies the look. These Enkei rims measure a whopping 19x8.5J up front, and 19x9.5J rear. They support split size front (235/40R19) and rear (265/35R19) Bridgestone Turanza EL 450 rubber. As the Brits would say, the Incognito package definitely looks the business.
But when you pop open the doors of this two-door coupe, you instantly discover that the interior is anything but incognito. While the seating surfaces of the supremely comfortable F Sport (heated and ventilated) front buckets are black, their side bolsters are covered with bright yellow leather. This contrast theme plays out through the interior, with "W" pattern yellow stitching on the seat cushions and matching yellow stitching across the dashboard. The Pop Art interior totally belies expectations generated by the somber exterior treatment.
Unfortunately, the fold-down rear seats are not adult-friendly. Access is good thanks to the fact that the front seats slide forward automatically when you tilt their seatbacks forward. But there is barely enough room to scoot a child or two back there, let alone an adult. Blame that on the fact that the RC coupe, which is built on the same platform as the IS sedan, is 2.5 inches shorter in wheelbase than the sedan, despite the fact that both vehicles are 185 inches long.
In addition to the special seats, the F Sport package encompasses a lot of useful gear, including power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and aluminum brake, throttle and dead pedals. Cosmetic upgrades include gray interior "streamline trim," muted black front grill and F Sport brake calipers. But it's the suspension upgrades that transform the RC 350 F Sport into a serious back road challenger. To that end, Lexus administers special suspension tuning, utilizing adaptive variable damping. This allows you to fine tune handling via a fat Drive Mode knob on the center console. This magic dial allows you to select the firmness of shock absorber jounce and rebound, accuracy of steering feedback, shrillness of exhaust note, and immediacy of throttle response.
We tackled a 50 mile stretch of coastal back road with the Drive Mode Select set to "Normal" and found the RC350 to be perfectly controllable, and precise in its reactions to the steering wheel, while maintaining a composed and jounce-free ride. If you desire more race oriented reinforcement from the various systems, you can dial up Sport or Sport+ for hair trigger throttle response, louder exhaust note, and a classically firm sports car ride. But you really don't need any of that race theater drama to enjoy the F Sport on a twisting back road. It will take care of your sporting needs either way.
Thankfully, Lexus continues to defy the current industry groundswell to substitute digital screens for fixed cockpit controls. That means you won't have to take your eyes off the road to adjust your fan or heat settings, fiddle with your infotainment volume, or for that matter, select your favorite Drive Mode. All of these functions are easily operable and accessible without the need to plow through menus while trying to plant your bouncing finger on an elusive screen icon. We especially appreciated the separate stalk behind the steering wheel that Lexus provides for cruise control operation. The small touch pad atop the center console works well when tuning favorite SiriusXM stations. The left steering wheel spoke contains station changing and volume altering buttons as well.
We really enjoyed our week long sojourn in this Incognito Lexus. About the only notable items missing from its portfolio were a rear wiper, and a heated steering wheel ($150 extra). Oh, yes, and the 472hp V8 you get if you buy the top line RC F. The engine in our AWD RC350 was a 311hp 3.5 liter V6. Adequate, but if we had to make the call we'd go for the V8-enhanced RC F, a rear-wheel-drive version of the coupe that costs $15,000 more than our $61,430 RC350 F SPORT AWD. The V6 cuts a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds, 1.5 seconds adrift of the RC F's neck-snapping 4.1 second run.
2023 LEXUS RC350 F SPORT AWD
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 19MPG City/26MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $61,430
HYPES: Standout Appearance Package, Smooth Cruiser
GRIPES: Confined Back Seat and Small Trunk
STAR RATING: 9.5 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman