Executive Sports Coupe
What comes to mind when someone says “sports coupe,” other than by definition it only has two doors? Do your eyes close and the mind imagines having reached the point where rear doors are unnecessary, and you have no interest in following the crowd and getting a crossover SUV? If you have had your eye on a few for some time and now, is this when you say, “I’m going for it!” ? If this describes you, then the 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport should be on your list.
The 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport is available with two very different powertrains. The base engine is a 2.0-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder that puts out 241 horsepower (hp) and 258 pounds-feet of torque (lb.-ft.). The 2.0L is mated to an eight-speed sport direct-shift automatic with paddle shifters. The optional 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 delivers 260 hp and 235 lb.-ft. of torque in the RC 300 AWD and 311 hp in the RC 350. Both have electronic fuel injection and run on 91 octane fuel. The EPA rates the RC 300 F Sport,with the 2.0L turbo, at 21 mpg city/30 highway/24 combined. In a 200 mile all-freeway run, with the dynamic radar cruise control set at 65 mph, we averaged 32.9 mpg. This fuel economy is a sign the RC 300 F Sport, while sporty looking, really is a long-range tourer.
Clean Fleet Report spent a week in the RC 300 F Sport with the 2.0L engine, putting it through the paces of some rigorous Southern California driving, traversing freeways and local mountains. To get the mettle of a sports coupe, it needs to be tested as a touring car over long freeway distances, as well as mountain sweepers and even a few demanding twisties.
Out and About
The rear-wheel drive 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport with the 2.0L turbo was matched perfectly with the eight-speed automatic for smooth shifting as it pulled through the gears and the torque band. The engine itself is not high-performance, but it is possible to wring-out some fun. The F Sport, with an adaptive variable sport-tuned suspension and the Dunlop Sport Max 265/35/19 summer tires, were key to tossing around the 3,737-pound coupe. The automatic has driver selectable drive modes of eco, normal, sport, sport+, snow and custom. We didn’t need normal, snow or custom. Spending most of our time in eco—for freeway cruising—and sport and sport+, when whipping through curvy roads, we took advantage of the throttle response and steering input tailored to specific needs of the selected drive modes.
The balance on the RC 300 F Sport was very good and the steering feedback, through the electric power steering, was neutral with the car never feeling heavy or cumbersome.
The front and rear fascia have been redesigned for 2019, as has the grille, headlamps and tail lamps. The result is a stylish premium coupe with a ground-hugging, aerodynamic look. The 19-inch wheels allow the F Sport’s orange brake calipers to almost glow as they peek-out through the distinctive five spoke design. Lexus invites you to “Experience Amazing” and says the RC 300 F Sport “demands attention…with features that are pleasing to the eye.” Clean Fleet Report agrees.
The first impression is the car looks as if it is leaning forward. Up front is the Lexus signature mesh pattern spindle grille, centered on the Lexus “L” badge, making a statement big and proud. Framing the grille are sleek triple-beam LED headlamps with integrated daytime running lamps in the form of an “L” wrapping the front edges.
In silhouette, the sloping line from top of the windshield to the front grille is as raked as you will find. Moving your eye from the roof’s apex, it is a smooth line to the short trunk lid, ending with the smallest-of-small integrated spoiler. The attractive LED tail lamps continue the “L” shape theme, with the rear finished-off by the dual rectangular chrome exhaust tips.
A distinctive design feature on the RC 300 F Sport are the modestly flared quarter panels. Giving a muscular look as they encase the rear tires, the flares enhance and reinforce the visual sense of this stylish and elegant sport coupe.
If you are the shy type, then the optional Circuit Red and Black Nuluxe interior might make you gasp upon first approach. Clean Fleet Report isn’t shy, and we thought it was a diversion from what many might think a Lexus is—or should be. The colors compliment each other in a way that are both exciting and intriguing at the same time. It is very pleasing to the eye and to be around.
Sliding into the comfortable heated and ventilated front seats, the driver gets 10-way power adjustments with two-way lumbar and memory, while the passenger seat is heated and ventilated with eight-way power adjustments. We won’t talk about the rear seats except to say there are two sculpted seats, which must be there purely for show. I don’t expect their leather surfaces getting much, if any, wear as it is not a place an adult would want to venture. Oh, and the storage in the cabin is curiously lacking. Some cars have cubbies, dual glove boxes, shelfs and multiple cup holders. None of these are on the RC 300 F Sport.
The infotainment system in our RC 300 F Sport was the optional Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 835-watt surround sound system with navigation. All the standard features were there, such as AM/FM/HD/CD and SiriusXM, and as can be expected with a system like this, the sound was excellent. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration are included.
However, the touchpad control was touchy, unpredictable and infuriating at times. In an era where driver attention to the road is being addressed by government regulation and auto manufacturer innovation, this interface means taking your eyes from the road to adjust the radio. Lexus should go to a simpler system with a volume and channel knob, and easy-to-set channel buttons. It can be a touchscreen, but does not need to be frustrating or distracting. Simple is best when it comes to the question of form over function.
The cockpit design is driver friendly, starting with the leather-trimmed F Sport steering wheel, which has controls for audio, telephone and cruise control as well as the paddle shifters. Interior features include a dual-zone automatic climate system with dust and pollen filters, digital and analog clocks, Homelink and a first aid kit. Additional features are a power moonroof, power windows with one touch up/down, power door locks, Smart Access with push button stop/start technology, 12V and USB power outlets, folding and heated, outside power side mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Safety and Pricing
The 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport is well-equipped with active and passive safety features through the Lexus Safety System. We advise getting your car with as many advanced driver technology and safety features as possible, so be sure to speak with your sales representative about the full suite.
The 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport with the 2.0L engine has a base MSRP of $47,860. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had $4,500 in optional packages for a final price of $52,390. All pricing does not include the $1,025 delivery charge. Other RC’s available include the 300 AWD and 350 with the more powerful V6. the entry-level model starts at $41,145.
Observations: 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport
The Lexus coupes are among the best-looking on the road. They are sleek, dynamic, modern and unique without being over designed. And the 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport (RC stands for Radical Coupe) is a case in point, where the attention to detail is shown throughout the exterior and interior.
The 2019 Lexus RC 300 F Sport is pleasant to drive and ride in, and there is a premium level to the car. But, while it is sporty in design and has many of the right pieces to aid in performance driving, it really isn’t a true sports coupe. It will provide fun on curves, but is more at home on long road trips. This makes it more like a grand tourer or an executive coupe. Nothing at all wrong with this; it is actually a plus. You could opt for the Corvette Stingray with better performance, but the Stingray sacrifices road comfort that the Lexus RC 300 F Sport has coming out its twin tailpipes.
Visit your local Lexus dealer and take the different models for lengthy test drives. Only then will you fulfill your dream by saying “I’m going for it!” out loud when they hand you the keys.
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Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
Photos: Lex Adams
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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