What makes the Lexus RC unique? In a sea of platform sharing, the RC is a refreshing departure – it was developed from the ground up as a dynamic coupe, not a two-door derivative of a sedan. The result is a purpose-built, bespoke chassis with the stiffness and strength to accommodate a sporting yet supple suspension.
This translates into a car that literally gives you the best of all worlds from a ride and handling point of view. The RC chassis architecture takes inspiration from other recent Lexus vehicles: the stiff and responsive front end from the GS, the centre from the IS C for underbody strength, and the traction-aiding rear end from the IS sports sedan.
Despite being a niche, somewhat self-indulgent piece of vehicular kit, the RC nevertheless has an important role to play in the Lexus line-up as Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing for Lexus points out: “As with other recent offerings from the marque, the RC takes Lexus in a new direction with its show-stopping styling and drive experience, and is designed to engage with a younger audience.
“It also provides a clear aspirational target and injects a stronger connection to the brand, while staying true to the Lexus ethos of impeccable quality and innovation.
“Our iconic LFA supercar embodied Lexus’ passion and acted as an emotional drawcard, and as such, it was one of the most important models we’ve ever produced. However, it was off limits to most buyers. This new model brings a portion of LFA’s excitement to a more attainable market segment, and it will boost the brand’s appeal even further. I’m confident it will resonate with a select set of discerning South African customers,” Glenn said.
Internationally the Lexus RC line-up comprises a trinity of models including the RC 200t and the fire-breathing RC F 5.0-litre V8. The local range kicks off with the RC 350 F-Sport and will be supplemented by the RC 200t in EX trim in a few months. For now, the hallowed RC F is not on the cards for South Africa.
A purpose-designed coupe, the Lexus RC successfully marries L’Finesse design language and the now de rigueur spindle grille to create a look that symbolises Lexus’ forward thinking design strategy in a unique two-door body shape.
RC 350’s wheelbase is just 2730mm in an overall length of 4695mm with a roof height of just 1395mm, which highlights the coupe’s purposeful and squat stance.
Its spindle grille is the widest and lowest of all Lexus models and is flanked by wide bumper corners and front flares, as well as a low-set bumper peak to emphasise its low centre of gravity. Being an F-Sport, this RC features an L-mesh grille design. Bold lines flow from the spindle grille across the entire body to create an aggressive appearance. The side design emphasises the car’s low centre of gravity, while the subtly pleated side sills and beltline lend a sophisticated air. The rear styling echoes the shape of the spindle grille while displaying RC 350’s wide track.
While on the subject of showing up the coupe’s sensuous lines, Lexus has introduced a unique five-layer paint process, which marks the first time such a system has been used in mass production, to give RC the deepest, most brilliant finish imaginable – when specified in signature Solar Storm Red of course.
On the light front, the Lexus RC 350 has state-of-the-art multi-LED headlamps, tail lamps and fog lamps, as well as LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) for optimal vision and minimal power usage. LED technology is also applied to the high-mount stop lamp, rear licence lamp, turn-signal lamps in the exterior mirrors and puddle lamps on the underside of the door handles.
The RC 350 has dual LED headlamps (high and low beam) with three LED lamps arranged in a triangular layout and separate L-shaped DRLs. With reference to the latter, these were kept as thin as possible so as not to jar with the fluid coupe lines. The low-beam lamp also adopts an L-shaped design to immediately express the Lexus identity.
The RC 350 F Sport has the added convenience of the Lexus Automatic High Beam (AHB) system – automatically dips for you when an oncoming car is sensed.
The combination rear lamps also adopt the Lexus L-shape motif, which is highlighted when the lamp is illuminated. What’s more, the surface of the tail and stop lamps is raised to create a three-dimensional presentation of the L-shaped motif.
Much more than just a pretty face, aerodynamic tweaks above and beneath the skin of RC 350 assist handling and complement other systems, including engine cooling.
Air ducts, for example, integrated into the corners of the front bumper control airflow to the sides of the body. An aero stabilising guide mounted immediately behind the front bumper diverts airflow entering through the front grille and stabilises it before it enters the radiator to enhance engine cooling efficiency. A front air deflector and groove-shaped front fender liner minimise airflow reaching the front wheels, contributing to aerodynamic efficiency on the side of the vehicle.
The rear air deflector performs the same task for the rear wheels, while a bead has been adopted for the rear fender liner to effectively divert airflow generated by the rotating wheel to the outside, which helps optimise airflow through to the rear.
The rear bumper corners include vertical fins, which smooth airflow. Similarly, the rear bumper’s lower garnish is sculpted to direct airflow to the rear of the vehicle. The RC’s rear combination lamps also feature vertical fins as does the tip of the door frame moulding to provide optimal straight-line stability and to suppress steering wobble.
The boot lid has a sculpted shape to stabilise airflow from the roof of the vehicle. Attention was also paid to the underbody aerodynamic design to enhance efficiency. There are engine, floor and rear floor undercovers to smooth airflow and stabilising fins help to reduce turbulence.
Rounding off the RC’s dynamic profile are F-Sport exclusive multi-spoke 19-inch alloys with overlaid pairs of 10-spoke sets. The outer set of spokes is machine-finished, while the inner set has dark grey metallic paint to create an off-set pattern and add three-dimensional depth.
As mentioned at the outset, the Lexus RC 350 has been designed from the ground up as a coupe, but it takes engineering cues from other Lexus models.
The front end of RC 350 is based on the highly acclaimed Lexus GS, which set new standards for stiffness and chassis response in a mid-sized sedan and is capable of containing both a 3.5-litre V6 engine and a world-class hybrid package. The centre of the RC is inspired by the Lexus IS C convertible with larger rocker panels that contribute to high body rigidity. The rear is based on the recently released IS Line and is designed specifically to accommodate a rear wheel drive package in which traction and power delivery is a priority.
This ‘dream team’ combination provided engineers with a rigid platform featuring a
wide stance and optimum length to deliver the dynamic and handling traits ideally suited to a grand touring coupe. Note however that none of the three designs are directly taken from these vehicles, though all are regarded as contributing more than the sum of their parts to the RC 350’s overall chassis package.
The new chassis also benefits from six strategically placed braces, each of which reinforce and stiffen the entire platform in critical areas, including: radiator support, sub frame brace, underfloor A-brace (from firewall to engine sub assembly), transmission tunnel brace, trapezoidal brace (under rear floor), and fuel tank brace (running front to rear).
Other measures to increase stiffness include body bonding, laser screw welding and, for the first time in a Lexus, high rigidity glass adhesive that allows window glass to be treated as a structural member of the chassis.
RC 350’s suspension delivers a focused driving experience while enhancing ride quality. It has front and rear coil-spring independent suspension with monotube dampers and ball-joined stabiliser bars to enhance cornering potential. The rear suspension has a double wishbone assembly and a multi-link system with a castor-locating rod for maximum rear grip and balance.
The front suspension has a 15 per cent stiffer spring rate than the GS chassis on which it is based and there is a new calibration for the bushings, springs and dampers, which is aimed at achieving less roll angle while maintaining ride comfort. Numerous suspension components are new, including front upper support, coil spring, damper, stabiliser bar and bushing, and lower number two bushing. The rear coil springs, dampers, upper number one arm, lower number two arm, stabiliser bar and stabiliser bushings are also new. The toe control arm from the GS Line has been adapted to optimise rear grip.
Additional body strength was the decisive factor in achieving the high performance suspension upgrades. RC 350 is considerably stiffer than the chassis that contributed platform technology, enabling higher damping forces and larger diameter front and rear stabiliser bars. These enhancements improve handling without affecting ride quality.
Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS)
The RC 350 F Sport is fitted with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which electronically controls and monitors all four dampers simultaneously to suit certain conditions and driving preferences.
It aids ride comfort when driving on rough roads by lowering the damping force but can also deliver a sporting drive with greater response and handling stability by increasing the damping force when SPORT S+ mode is engaged via Drive Mode Select.
AVS also interacts with RC 350’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) to optimise damper rates to prepare the vehicle during potentially hazardous driving situations. For example, AVS will increase front damper force to prevent dive during emergency braking. It also monitors steering operations and road conditions and adjusts the dampers to suit, monitoring inputs on vehicle posture including roll, dive and squat.
Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS)
Lexus RC 350 has electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering (EPS) for agile driving, responsive steering feel and confidence-building straight-line stability. The F Sport model has the additional feature of Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) on the front wheels and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) on the rear as part of a three-fold Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) strategy.
RC chassis engineers set three goals for the new coupe: excellent steering response and smooth roll transfer during initial turn-in, minimal roll and rapid yaw-rate gain for agile turning mid-corner, and smooth steering feel with smooth sprung mass (body) movement from corner to corner.
RC 350’s excellent steering response makes it easy for the driver to aim for the corner exit. Steering feel and response have been further optimised by adopting a new, high-rigidity gear-mounting bushing for the steering rack.
Development also focused on obtaining smooth and accurate vehicle response to small steering inputs to correct changes in the road surface, cross winds and other conditions, to ensure straight-line stability and help achieve a high-quality ride.
The EPS integrates with the Drive Mode Select to adjust steering response for the different drive modes. The steering power-assistance curve can be varied to increase steering feedback, for a more direct steering feel – this occurs in SPORTS S+ setting.
The F Sport model has the added feature of Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), which controls steering ratio according to vehicle speed and steering operation. The latest-generation Lexus VGRS has the actuator unit on the steering column with an integrated rubber damper to reduce noise and vibration.
VGRS has three benefits: fewer turns of the steering wheel are needed to achieve maximum wheel turning angle at very low speeds (parking or making a U-turn), reducing driver effort; light, easy-to-handle steering at moderate speeds – for urban driving or winding roads; and a firm steering feel and reduced turns lock-to-lock for optimum control at higher speeds. It improves driving feel during lane changing and on winding roads by correcting the vehicle’s response lag in accordance with steering-angle velocity.
RC 350 F Sport also has Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) which provides the benefits of four-wheel steering while maintaining the feeling of a conventional two-wheel steer vehicle. Depending on speed, this feature turns the front and rear wheels in the same or opposing directions to help provide optimal agility.
These three features – EPS, VGRS and DRS – have been collectively dubbed the Lexus Dynamic Handling (LDH) system. Working in unison this system enhances manoeuvrability, reduces steering effort at low speed, increases steering responsiveness and intuitive steering feel at medium speeds, and improves overall stability and vehicle posture for increased safety and comfort at high speeds.