2015 Lexus RC Sport Coupe
If you’ve been following the Lexus brand lately, you know that they’re on an all-out mission to shed their soft, comfy, pure luxury image…that’s still a work in progress; it takes a long time to change people’s minds about a brand. But the new RC coupe just might be the car that speeds that change along.
The 2015 Lexus RC marks the brand’s reentry into the sporty coupe segment. And from the looks of this car, they’re not jumping back in quietly. The RC may not instantly strike fear into the hearts of the German marques that dominate this segment, but they will certainly know Lexus has joined the party.
The RC’s compliant, yet very rigid chassis is an all-star for sure. It’s not a new chassis per se, but a modified combination of 2 separate Lexus platforms. The front architecture and suspension comes from the mid-size GS, while the rear comes from the compact IS, with a lot of structural bracing in between. Enough to satisfy a fairly wide variety of tastes.
Taking a walk through the lineup, things start with the RC 350. It’s the tamest model with a 3.5-liter V6 coming directly over from the GS, outputting the same 306-horsepwer and 277 lb-ft. of torque. Transmission is also the same 8-speed automatic, with steering wheel shifters, unless you choose all-wheel-drive in which case you’ll lose 2 gears.
But, the outside is anything but tame. While it may not the most dynamic looking Lexus of all-time, it’s pretty darn close.
It’s still Lexus-smooth, but with plenty of sharp angles and body tucks to drum up some excitement. The front end screams aggression with a big-mouth grille and vertical openings slashed into the corners.
18-inch wheels are standard, with significant fender flares above them. L-shaped LED rear lighting has been updated with clear, jagged lenses protruding out. The rear bumper also gets slashed up with simulated corner vents.
Inside, things are less of a departure. There’s still lots of luxury to touch and plenty of serenity to be had when driving. Lexus calls this a pure 2+2 Coupe, so rear space, especially leg room, is limited.
4-dial gauges set a sporty tone, with a small central TFT screen providing plenty of info. 10.4 cubic-ft of space hides in the trunk, and useful folding rear seatbacks add to that. Neither back-up camera nor navigation are standard, however, but if you do upgrade, there’s a new remote touchpad for inputs.
Next up the line is the RC 350 F Sport, and the added content is very high. For the exterior, there are 19-inch wheels, unique front and rear fascia, and fender badging.
Inside it gets even better with supportive sport seats, new sport pedals, LFA-inspired gauges, black headliner, and tasteful silver trim.
While the Sport’s engine is unchanged, there are lots of mechanical upgrades. Like adaptive variable suspension, high-friction brake pads, 4-wheel steering, and the additional Sport+ driving mode.
We spent most of our drive time in the F Sport and were very impressed with its light and balanced feel. Around the track at the Monticello Motor Club, things felt super-rigid with virtually no flex.
The rear-steer speeds up turn-ins, and the car has an almost Porsche-like competency, where you have a hard time believing you’re having this much fun in a straight-up street car, let alone a Lexus. And you can do some serious pushing without feeling like you’re going to end up in some “epic fail” video on You Tube.
But, where this tale really gets interesting is in the top-of-the-line RC F. This car is serious, with a 467-horsepwer 5.0-liter V8, as well as fully upgraded chassis and brakes.
It’s a beast! On the street, it feels a little nose heavy, and steering is slower, though you can dial in more with Sport and Sport+ settings, but we found it almost too aggressive for everyday use.
On the track however, it comes alive with the V8 growling on acceleration, and barking on downshifts. Transmission is also an 8-speed, but it’s different enough to get a separate internal name.
A Torsen limited-slip rear is standard and you can upgrade to a torque vectoring rear, which includes “set-it-and-forget-it” presets for standard, slalom, and track. The torque vectoring rear is highly recommended, as it allows you to seriously late brake and perform dare-devil late turn-ins well beyond your skill set.
All of that, along with huge 6-piston Brembos up front, make the RC F a legit player in the RS, M, and AMG game. Lexus claims 0-60 happens in 4.4-seconds and we believe it.
Prices are competitive too, starting at $43,715 for the RC 350, the F Sport comes in at $47,700, and the big-dog RC F goes for $63,325.
While the LFA got the performance-image ball rolling for Lexus, things have been slow in gaining momentum. But we think the 2015 RC is a game changer, and just what the Lexus makeover has been waiting for.
- Engine: 3.5 liter V6
- Horsepower: 306
- Torque: 277 lb-ft.
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined