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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New sports sedan

2022 Infiniti Q50 gets more standard tech

The car sees new tech and interior features for 2022.

Infiniti

The Infiniti Q50 is an aging but still-stylish sedan that offers value and power, but it hasn't quite kept pace with the crop of more engaging premium European cars. However, it's still worth a look, and to press that point further, Infiniti has updated the car for 2022 with a healthy list of standard features.

2022 Infiniti Q50 Exterior styling has not changed for 2022.Infiniti

Headline updates for the 2022 Q50 are wireless Apple CarPlay and newly standard Bose Performance Series Audio. There's now leather for every trim, but in the ways that count, the car is the same as the one we saw last year, the year before, and so on.

That's not to say that the car is bad. After all, it still offers a 300-horsepower twin-turbo V6 as standard and can be upgraded with a 400-horsepower version of the engine. And, despite its aging exterior styling, it's still a handsome car with smooth, sculpted bodywork. The seven-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive remain in place.

2022 Infiniti Q50 All-wheel drive is available for all models.Infiniti

Pricing for the 2022 Infiniti Q50 starts at $43,125, which includes a $1,025 destination fee. The car gets standard wireless Apple CarPlay, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and Bose Performance Audio. All-wheel drive is available for a $2,000 upcharge.

2022 Infiniti Q50 Wireless Apple CarPlay and Bose audio are standard.Infiniti

The mid-range Q50 Sensory starts at $48,825, and comes with 19-inch wheels, black open-pore wood interior accents, navigation, and an air purifier system. Stepping up to the top Q50 Red Sport 400 will run $56,975, and brings the more powerful V6 engine, semi-aniline leather upholstery, and Dynamic Digital Suspension, which adjusts damping settings depending on road conditions and driving style.

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Lexus took a different approach to launch the new IS.

Lexus

Lexus knows how to make a good V8. The LC 500, RC F, and even older cars like the SC 400 all feature a buttery, powerful Lexus V8. The IS sports sedan never has been given the V8 treatment, but that's about to change for the 2022 model year. The automaker is jamming a big V8 in the space normally occupied by a four- or six-cylinder engine to create the 2022 IS 500 F Sport. The automaker's new marketing campaign for the car takes a slightly different approach than the "big red bow" commercials it usually makes, starting with a short documentary called "License to Thrill."

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport 14 drivers competed for a chance to be one of the first IS 500 F Sport owners.Lexus

The IS 500 F Sport is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that makes 472 horsepower. It's the most powerful Lexus IS ever, so it's not surprising that the automaker chose to highlight its performance in its launch marketing campaign.



The documentary follows 14 auto enthusiasts who participated in a driving event for a chance to own (buy) one of five early cars. Drivers were taken to the Apex Motor Club in Arizona, where they received tips from Lexus IMSA drivers Townsend Bell, Jack Hawksworth, and Aaron Telitz before hitting the track in an IS 500 F Sport. Each driver had an opportunity to set the best lap times in the car. Top lap times earned a chance to be one of the first to purchase the car, but Lexus also gave away one IS 500 to an unexacting participant.

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Lexus gave away one of the cars.Lexus

The IS 500 launch will include other events that involve artists and content producers. Pro driver JR Hildebrand will drive the car for a MotorTrend special, while 100 Thieves and Garagisme will create publications and video content involving the car.

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