Drive: Sleek and luxurious 2021 Lexus RC350 makes an impression on drivers

The personal-luxury automotive theme, dating back to the late 1950s, lives on in the 2020s in the form of models like the BMW M440i, Audi S5 and Lexus RC line. We were pretty much blown away by the Bimmer, which we test-drove in November. Though a less impressive performer, the Lexus RC350 F-Sport still was a treat to drive - and at a considerably lower price point.

The RC350 is a stylish two-door coupe with all the hallmarks of a Japanese-built luxury car - that is, impeccable accommodations and workmanship. Our 2021 RC350 F-Sport had a base price of $51,130; with options, its sticker price was $58,605. The BMW M440 had a sticker price of $70,470.

The base rear-wheel-drive RC300, priced at $43,145, is equipped with a turbocharged 241-horsepower inline Four. Our all-wheel-drive test car was powered by a 311-horsepower V-6.

Functionally, the RC350 has limits. We found the BMW's back seat inadequate for adult passengers; the RC350's is even more cramped. The RC also has a very small trunk, rated at just 10.4 cubic feet. Its fuel economy is also average at best: 19 mpg city, 26 highway, using premium unleaded gasoline. (The RC300 does much better, averaging 21/31.)

But the RC350 is all about form over function. It's a shapely car, with graceful lines and a bold, muscular look; and the test car's Infrared paint job was stunning. It made such an impression on a delivery driver who saw it in our driveway, he snapped a photo of it.

2021 Lexus RC350 F-sport AWD

Price: $58,605

Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6, 311 horsepower, 280 lb.-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 3,748 lb.

Suspension: double-wishbone front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19x8-in. split five-spoke alloy

Tires: P235/40R19 all-season

Seating capacity: 4

Luggage capacity: 10.4 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

Inside, the RC350 is luxurious and loaded with tech features, including the all-encompassing Lexus Safety System +, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and Lexus Enform Remote, which provides compatibility with smartphone, smart watch, devices enabled with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. It rides more smoothly than most sporty coupes and is remarkably quiet, with no wind noise, and little noise from the road or engine.

The RC350's interior is comfortable as can be, with soft touches everywhere and no sharp edges anywhere. We prefer console-mounted knobs to touchpads to operate infotainment systems, and the RC350 has a nervous, jumpy touchpad. Fortunately, it has redundant controls for many of the functions.

A rather large dial on the console sets the suspension and gearing to Economy, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus or Custom; and a button puts the car in snow mode. We thought this control took up more space than necessary, and indeed, the passenger compartment would benefit from more space for small items.

Last tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the 2018 model year, the RC350 was rated a Top Safety Pick Plus.

For maximum performance, Lexus offers the rear-drive RC F, priced in the mid-$60,000s; the RC LC, more than $90,000; the RC LC hybrid, about $98,000; and the RC LC convertible, about $102,000. These V-8-powered models have 472 (F) and 471 (LC) horsepower. The $98,125 RC F Fuji Speedway Edition reaches 60 mph in 3.96 seconds - about a half-second ahead of the BMW 440i we test-drove - and has a top speed of 168 mph.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.