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car review

The RC returns Lexus to genuine two-door touring coupes, not folding hardtops of the recent IS and SC lines. It's a fine daily driver, fully capable on scenic route detours, thoughtfully detailed and quiet; the chief thing it gives up to the competition is choice. (Overall score: 6.7)

Walkaround

RC elicits love/hate responses. There's anger in the front end, moreso in the rear-drive model's grille, and much detail in this Dustbuster-meets-cowcatcher nose: Triple lower lips lead to side scoops, LED running lights are carved in, the headlights recessed toward the center. Snow pack?

Deep scalloping continues along the flanks, the sill crease flattened at the lower wheel opening, and the door handle night lighting is as elegant as any. The roof looks pumped up above the rear seat, presumably for headroom, but the side window arc doesn't quite match, yielding some of the tent-pulled-taut canopy look of the last CL-Class Benz.

I can get past all that, taillights sliced in the trunklid and like the rear contouring, but those big plastic strakes at the corners look like a Hot Wheels toy (sorry, Mattel) and I'd have them off before it got to my garage. (Score: 6.1)

Interior

There's no notion you've seen this interior before, that it's trying too hard or to copy another. Interplay between cabin textures and colors is very nice (two-tone asymmetric armrest anyone?) as is the layered styling on dash and door panels further set off by ambient night lighting. From the armrests to the radio knobs, touch points are amply padded or nicely finished, quality the prevalent impression.

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Heated and ventilated front seats remained comfortable through fuel tank duration, and the driving position is laid back with a near vertical steering wheel. The rear seats are quite good for those who fit, and all-around room is class typical, though taller types may wish the front seats adjusted lower for more moonroof clearance. Rolled glossy wood adds to ambience without adding glare, the console is as efficient as the Germans' but not as boring. I found the temperature sliders less fussy than some - not as good as knobs or rockers.

Outward visibility is good, aided by a frameless inside mirror, potentially offset by large outside mirrors. Trunk space of 295 litres expands with standard split-fold rear seats. (Score: 7.8)

Tech

Active cruise control and updated blind-spot monitoring passed all tests, as did plug-and-pay functions. I didn't need nor look for a 110-volt power outlet, and all the others are handy yet safely concealed. Lefties may have to adapt to the infotainment systems' trackpad and while it did all I asked, some of the graphics and acknowledgement tones recall the 20th century. (Score: 6.8)

Driving

I could easily drive this car coast to coast in a few days, regardless of route. Combine a nice chassis, willing engine and very refined noise levels and you get a capable distance tourer.

The all-wheel drive's standard suspension soaks up bumps and changes direction well with smooth, precise steering. It uses a six-speed auto rather than the rear-drive's eight-speed, a primary driver in the increased fuel consumption. Regardless of model I consistently beat ratings on the highway, but never quite matched city values.

Beyond the eight-speed, rear-drivers also get adaptive suspension, variable-gear steering, rear steering and a TFT instrument cluster, so they cost more. Dynamic reflexes become a bit quicker with artificial feel apparent only at manoeuvering speeds, but either RC provides a supple ride and idiot-proof handling. A few times I thought too much so, with very conservative stability control engaging far before any slide or tire squeal.

Lexus' 307-hp V6 is linear, refined and emits the most subtle exhaust purr. I don't think power will ever be an issue, but relative performance relates to the all-wheel drive's eight-speed automatic and heft. The RC feels rigid and tight, and eliminates almost all wind and road noise. (Score: 7.2)

Value

All probable alternatives–Audi A5, BMW 435, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q60 and Mercedes C–circle the same price bracket and there's always Lexus' ownership experience to consider. All-wheel drive is the least expensive, but also offers the most options. However, most alternatives offer a thriftier four-cylinder engine and/or manual gearbox the RC does not. (Score: 5.8)

Conclusion

The RC350 stakes its claim with distinctive looks and a standard V6, yet the enticing cabin and effortless driving experience stand out more. Call it a personal luxury coupe, grand touring car, or merely a very pleasant way to get around with as few irritants as possible. Just don't call it light or cheap.

Autofocus.ca is a Canadian automotive website dedicated to making car shopping easier and driving more fun. Follow Autofocus on Facebook and Twitter.

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