Behind the Wheel

2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport Review: A bit of personality but not much pizzaz

The coupe is a comfortable car whether commuting, running errands, or diving into corners on rural roads.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Every automaker, whether through millions of dollars in marketing spend, through design, or simply through the type of people who buy their cars, has an image.

Ferrari is for folks who are passionate about racing heritage, soul and emotion. McLaren is for people who are enamored with technical wizardry and an uncompromising attention to detail and precision. Lamborghini is for... people who like scissor doors and showing off.

2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport The car features many of the same design characteristics as other models in the Lexus lineup.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Stereotypes can be a bit unfair, but there is often more than a bit of truth underlying the basic premise. That's why it's easy to think of Lexus as the boring, reliable luxury car brand — because it is.

You know what you're going to get when you walk into a Lexus dealership. Impeccable reliability, terrific engines, exceptional comfort, and not a lot of thrills. A Lexus is like a fancy Toyota, right? A way to get from point A to point B quickly and easily in something beige, bland, and boring.

Not so fast.

The Lexus RC 350 F-Sport, my test car for this week, would like to have a word about this particular stereotype. My first clue was when I opened the door and my optic nerves were assaulted with brilliant yellow accents on the seats. Think of the most yellow thing you can imagine, then make that a bit more yellow, and that's what this color was.

2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport The F-Sport variant of the RC includes more performance-focused equipment and tuning.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

But it was subtle. It wasn't overwhelming. It was like walking into your grandmother's sitting room and seeing a Moooi Horse Lamp standing there — something so out of place, but yet so perfect, that you can't help but smile.

(The Horse Lamp is a life-size black horse statue with a lamp sticking out of its head. You might have run into it at the British Airways First Class Lounge at Heathrow. It's bonkers and wonderful and costs as much as a decent used car.)

Back to the car. The Lexus RC is a grand tourer, with 2+2 seating and, naturally, the rear seats are totally and utterly useless except for maybe holding an overnight bag. My test unit was the RC 350 AWD F-Sport, meaning it sported a larger engine (3.5-liter V6 making 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque) and all-wheel drive. Rear-driven variants are available if you don't anticipate needing the extra traction.

It's not particularly fast, going from zero-to-60 mph in six seconds, but it's also not particularly slow either. It's also extraordinarily heavy, tipping the scales at nearly two tons. Yet even with the bulk, it handles superbly on the road. The engine (and I love Lexus engines) is always responsive and it makes a lovely purr when you wind it out. But again, it's subtle. It doesn't shout or bark like some other sports cars might.

The suspension is firm but not intolerable. The seats are supportive but still comfortable. The exterior is sporty but not shouty. It's still a Lexus after all.

The large center infotainment screen sits high above everything else, easy to see, but far out of reach. There's no touchscreen here which means you're forced to use the awful trackpad. Newer Lexus models are adopting touchscreens, which is good, but this RC is a bit too old for that. No matter. You have CarPlay (which is even featured in the press shots for the car, suggesting Lexus might know how bad its infotainment system is), and that's fine. There's no good place to put your phone, however.

2020 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport The car is available with fun upholstery colors.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Then there's the weirdest thing of all: there's a large hump on the floor of the driver's side, inconveniently placed right where your right leg should be. It's only on the all-wheel-drive variant, thanks to the placement of the transmission and the front drive shaft. But why would it be in the worst place possible for the driver?

And then, of course, I remembered that Lexus is a Japanese company and the Japanese drive on the right. The hump was out of the way if the driver is on the right side of the car. But here it was, giving me a place to rest my calf in the US-spec car. At first I was annoyed, but the hump grew on me. Much like the yellow accents all over the interior.

This car had a bit of personality after all. It was a boring, beige luxury car. It had a bit of flair. Sure, the RC 350 is a Lexus — but don't fall for the stereotypes. There's more than a bit of excitement to be found in this beast.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Torsus Terrastorm will provide off-roadinng capability in a short bus format.

Photo courtesy of Torsus

Torsus made headlines earlier this year when it unveiled the world's first heavy-duty 4x4 bus. The Praetorian is a modern engineering marvel - made to go pretty much anywhere and take a group of people with it. Now, the company is expanding their roster with a new model.

The Torsus Terrastorm is a heavy-duty off-road capable 4x4 short bus.

2021 Torsus Terrastorm The Terrastorm takes the notion of a traditional short bus up a notch.Photo courtesy of Torsus

"At Torsus, we are breaking new ground by designing, developing and manufacturing the world's toughest off-road buses," said Vakhtang Dzhukashvili, founder and CEO of Torsus. "In the all-new Terrastorm we signal our ambition to set new standards in the heavy-duty 4x4 minibus market across some of the toughest industries known to man. We built Torsus to be a trailblazer and redefine the way people think about commercial vehicles, and the Torsus Terrastorm is the next step on our journey to make this reality."

It's built on a Volkswagen Crafter 4Motion chassis that has been upgraded to feature a more robust suspension.

Torsus says that new EURO VI (diesel) engines replace the van's traditional 2.0-liter TDI engine. Torsus has shoed the van with BF Goodrich tires. It also has a ladder and spare tire out back, and a brush guard up front.

The Crafter chassis is capable of supporting a three- to five-ton van. This makes it a model able to be used for conversion to an ambulance or off-road rescue vehicle, or, perhaps, an adventure-ready tour bus.

2021 Torsus Terrastorm The model rides on BF Goodrich tires.Photo courtesy of Torsus

Torsus will offer the model in a variety of configurations.

More information about the Torsus Terrastorm will be revealed later this month. Sales will start in Q3.

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The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross takes its name from the beloved cars.

Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

I wasn't a big car guy growing up. Some kids can tell you the horsepower and engine and endless stats about every car on the road. Or they'll notice the difference in taillights between individual model years, or any of a million other nips and tucks that carmakers do to differentiate their cars.

These days, it's my job to know that stuff, but when I was in high school, I didn't know much — but I knew what a Mitsubishi Eclipse was. As I got ready to write this review, I went back and watched perhaps the most famous 90's-era Mitsubishi Eclipse you could find: Paul Walker's bright green ride in "Fast and the Furious".

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The car is more traditional up front than it is in the back.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

The second-generation Eclipse, built from 1995 to 1999, was the best-known (and best-looking) of all the cars, and became a vehicular icon for my generation in no small part to the role it played in "Fast and the Furious". Though I remember the car, I'd forgotten how terrible this movie is. The dialogue is cringeworthy, the cars are absurd (how many gears does that thing have?), and the story is outlandish. But it's still a hoot, and I may end up rewatching the whole series.

But then in 2011, Mitsubishi ended the Eclipse line for good. Or so we thought. Now we have a new one, only the sporty looks and movie-star glamour is long gone. It's called the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and it's... a compact crossover SUV of no particular importance.

That might be a little harsh. It's actually quite an interesting looking vehicle, which is more than can be said for most crossovers. Though the front isn't particularly exciting, the rear has more going for it. There's a dual-window design on the rear tailgate, with a light bar running across the middle. It's very much a love-it-or-hate-it design, but at least it's not boring.

There's a crease running up the doors to the back as well, which looks particularly sharp on the Red Diamond review unit that Mitsubishi sent me for a week. It stickered for $32,720 on the SEL trim, though you can likely negotiate a nice chunk of change off of that at your local Mitsubishi dealer.

2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross The touch screen is okay but the trackpad that is used to navigate it is detrimental.Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors

Feature-wise, the Eclipse Cross is well-equipped, with a tiny 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. That's not a ton of power, but for a family crossover it's plentiful and turns in a combined 25 miles per gallon.

Mine had the $2,100 Touring Package, which kicks in a lovely panoramic sunroof, the ever-important adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection and auto-braking, a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, and some other minor additions.

If you look at the feature list, the Eclipse Cross is a solid vehicle. The interior design is a little rougher, with hard plastic everywhere and not-so-luxurious touch points. The trackpad to control the screen is terrible, as are the up/down buttons to control the dual-zone climate control (though the heated seats work excellently).

The infotainment screen could be bigger, and the dash screen needs some polish. The engine gets the job done, but it's not exactly quiet. It's a middle-of-the-road crossover. It does what it's supposed to do. You can get it for a good price and it's well-equipped.

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