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 U.S.-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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A diamond mesh grille fronts the 2022 Kia K8.

PhPhoto courtesy of Kia Motorsoto courtesy of Kia Motors

Goodbye, Cadenza. Hello, K8. The Kia Cadenza is one of those cars that is easy forgotten about (if you ever knew about it in the first place) and frequently passed over in favor of the Toyota Avalon or the like. Still, most every automotive journalist who has driven it likes it.

So, Kia's taking the lessons learned from the Cadenza and some from the K5 and Stinger, and rolling them into a new large sedan, the 2022 Kia K8. This week the company unveiled the first official images of the car ahead of its debut. This is the first vehicle named the K8 in Kia history.

2022 Kia K8 The K8's headlights have integrated turn signals.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

2022 Kia K8

"Following our recent company rebrand, we keep moving toward our new brand values with a new model – the K8. This modern sedan has been designed with innovation and elegance at its very core," said Karim Habib, Senior Vice President and Head of Kia Global Design Center. "While paying homage to the K7, the K8 looks to the future. Its progressive exterior takes on character and emotion, and combines those qualities with an expressive looking front and a dynamic swooping rear, giving the K8 a high-quality, premium presence that takes direct inspiration from some of the world's most technically advanced yachts."

As seen in the photos, the car wears Kia's new logo on its badging, and has design lines reminiscent of the vehicles it has taken lessons from. There's a frameless tire nose grille with diamond lattice, turn signals integrated into the headlights, an elongated side profile, chrome finish along the bottom of the doors, and a roofline that trails off into the trunk. It's all very much from the Kia sedan lineup.

Kia promises that the car will have a "first class" interior that establishes "new benchmarks in premium quality". The sedan will deliver a high-performance driving experience yet be comfortable to ride in, according to Kia messaging.

The rear of the Kia K8 features elongated taillights.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia K8 is expected to arrive in showrooms later this year but the U.S. might not get it until after it's arrived in Korea and Europe.

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The Nissan GT-R probably isn't the first supercar that comes to mind, but it's worthy of consideration if you're not all about being seen.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

You put the pedal down. A confident growl busts out the back end. The wheels may squeal, and you might too. It's not all about the power, though it has plenty. The 2021 Nissan GT-R delivers the type of drive experience that you're never going to get from an electric vehicle - and it's magnificent.

Godzilla has been in production since 2007 with nips and tucks and add-ons here and there along the way. It's not as sleek or stylish as the Audi E-Tron GT or even Audi's R8. There's no giant wing out back à la McLaren and certainly nothing Italian about it. The GT-R is it's own man.

Even areas of the country that are supercar-heavy, aren't heavy with GT-Rs. A Ferrari or Lamborghini is a bigger status symbol for adoring eyes. It's the real drivers out there who know that a GT-R is perhaps the better investment for someone who wants a supercar to drive, not just to be seen in. Its unique looks are subtle but properly athletic.

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium The car is capable as a daily driver but it can also push the limits during a track day.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium

The reason for that starts but doesn't end with Nissan's 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6. It rests below the hood, not behind your ears, and delivers 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque creating a visceral acceleration experience. It's enough to satisfy you, bring a smile to your face, impress those around you, and make you realize that Godzilla really is a beast.

The six-speed dual-clutch transmission in the GT-R Premium ($113,540 base price) manages the power nicely and shifts relatively smoothly - it's no Ford 10-speed automatic and that's okay. If you want a GT-R with a manual transmission, you'll have to upgrade to the NISMO model. Don't "save the manuals" me. So few people are buying them that they're becoming extinct despite your bumper sticker saying and hashtag. Most supercars don't have them. Nissan is just simply following an industry trend and the DCT is perfectly fine for drivers not spending the majority of their time on a track.

All wheel drive is standard on the model, meaning that the GT-R sticks to the road as you put it through its paces. That also means that you don't need to head home every time there's rainfall or snow in the forecast, and you can take corners a little faster than the local constabulary may prefer.

The car has athletic looks despite not conforming to the typical supercar design language.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

2021 Nissan GT-R Premium

Proper engineering has made the GT-R a great daily driver. It's fun to push it around the twisties on a winding road in the country during a long weekend, but it's also not a bad car to commute or run errands in (it has a real trunk!). Like any good supercar, the GT-R goes right where you want, when you want it, whether you're doing slow speed maneuvering around a neighborhood or putting the throttle down on the highway. The speed-sensitive steering calibration is spot-on.

Parts of the interior are dated, especially when compared to other vehicles in its price point. But none of those parts are enough to make the GT-R even the least bit undesirable. The seats are surprisingly comfortable and the ride isn't too harsh. Analog dials are a nice break for the eyes.

But the real reason you're in the GT-R isn't because of the the amenities. It's because you love to drive. Because you're confident enough to go with Godzilla rather than a flashy Italian or German. Because you understand that the car nicknamed after a fictional monster, and its gasoline-powered ilk, are in danger of going extinct as carbon neutral priorities seem keen on removing the type of visceral fun that internal combustion engines provide.

The car has analog dials in front of the driver.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If we're going to have to make concessions to make the air and water cleaner, it would be nice if, on the other end of the spectrum, the powers that be let us keep having the muscle of the GT-R.

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