Get ready to be noticed. Like it or not, drive a coupe and people notice. The more they notice, the more coupes get sold.

Perhaps it started with the affordability and boy-racer style of the Toyota 86 coupe, or just that jaded buyers are seeking visual relief from freeways clogged with SUVs.

Whatever. Finally, the car industry has fallen in love again with the coupe.

Driven by fashion and stimulated by buyer demand, the coupe now comes in many varieties. Pricing stretches from the $24,190 Kia Koup to the $1.075 million Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.

It’s a fertile ground of automotive fashion and Lexus wasn’t going to miss out.

Its RC350, launched in Australia last month, drives and handles like a sophisticated coupe should but is unusually composed for the amount of performance on tap.

Typifying Lexus’ aggressive marketing and its clear-eyed goals of sweeping along with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the RC350 is feature-rich and priced right.

It starts at $66,000 and that buys pretty much everything expected and needed in a quality four-seater.

But why stop there? The mid-spec F Sport ups the ante with a broader equipment list but the real highlight is its ability to turn the rear wheels.

It’s not a new trick — it’s on the Porsche 911 GT3, Honda Acura in the US and next year’s Honda NS-X sports car — but it helps manoeuvres in tight spots by trimming the car’s turning circle by 400mm. Because it swivels the wheels the opposite direction when at speed, it sharpens the car’s handling through corners and reduces the driver’s steering input.

In the sea of suburban traffic and the restraints on exploring a car’s potential performance, the all-wheel steer is probably unnecessary.

But for drivers, it takes the Lexus RC350 from being a pretty, beautifully-appointed two-door into the league of serious players.

Unfortunately, it may be perceived initially as a top-hat production — a design exercise where an attractive body is wrapped around known mechanical components.

In truth, it’s a unique platform with only a few borrowed parts. Lexus was intent on kicking sand into the faces of some heavyweight rivals and has succeeded, if not totally on performance then certainly on value for money.


Lexus RC350 F Sport. Picture:

Standard equipment is plentiful. The F Sport has electronic adaptive suspension with a four-mode switch that changes the engine, transmission and steering from a benign “eco’’ to a sparkling “sport+’’.

The cabin is trimmed in leather, with seating for four adults and a shallow but accommodating boot. Standard are satellite navigation, heated front seats, premium audio, reverse camera with sensors and a touch pad that controls a range of car operations via a wide colour monitor. Safety features include eight airbags.

On the road it cocoons its occupants with preference for those up front. It’s centred around sports-car styling and handling and raises the sometimes painful fact that it’s awfully low to the ground.

But then the road opens. The sport dial is switched and the coupe does what it was designed to do. It’s quick but comfortable, quiet yet allowing a hint of the exhaust rasp into the cabin.

Tire of the engine’s audio and the 17-speaker Mark Levinson unit will wrap you in soft sounds or bounce you off the ceiling with rock. It’s simply one of the best car audios around.


Lexus RC350 coupe interior.



Better to drive than you may think, this is Japan’s answer to affordable style. It’s value for money — especially the Luxury version — with few dollar-for-dollar rivals, but is best suited to two occupants.

The Competitors

Model BMW 428i Coupe

Price $81,000

Engine 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol

Outputs 180kW/350Nm

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Thirst 6.4L/100km

Model Audi 2.0 quattro coupe

Price $77,300

Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol

Outputs 165kW/350Nm

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Thirst 6.7L/100km

Model Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe

Price $99,430

Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol

Outputs 225kW/370Nm

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Thirst 7.9L/100km


Model F Sport

Price $74,000

Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol

Outputs 233kW/378Nm

Transmission Six-speed automatic

Thirst 9.4L/100km


© The West Australian