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Lexus RC 350 features edgy looks, balanced performance

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At first glance, the exterior style of the 2017 Lexus RC 350 may be as polarizing as a Sunday-morning political discussion. While both Republicans and Democrats might agree that the RC’s distinct, edgy design is an attention-getter, they probably would disagree on whether it’s attractive (or even a sports car).

Addressing both points, the RC 350 is definitely a sport coupe, and as for the visual appeal — well, that’s left to the eye of the beholder. Those edgy lines may be a bit too drastic for some, and while I like the huge grille, some say the un-Lexus-like size is too much.

The 2017 Lexus RC 350 is a stellar rear-wheel-drive luxury sport coupe that is three inches shorter than the smallest Lexus sedan, the IS, but more than one inch wider. That makes for a really stout, athletic stance.

Trims

Maybe the most captivating aspect of the RC (200t) model is that the base trim can be had for the mere price of $40,155. Whether you love the grille size and shape or not, the RC at that price is pretty impressive. Prices can climb to the mid-$60,000s for a top-line RC F.

Standard equipment includes leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, LED headlamps and taillights, satellite radio and Bluetooth audio streaming. Options include real leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels with summer tires, heated and ventilated front seats, sunroof, navigation and 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

Performance

I found my RC 350 tester to be a fun and memorable drive. The Lexus RC 350 features a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 306 horsepower that’s mated to a new-age eight-speed automatic transmission. For this low-slung sport coupe and its 3,737-pound weight, that’s plenty of ponies to push or pull the RC in any direction you desire.

Available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the RC 350 grips the road and hops to attention whenever ordered to jump. The exhaust note is a gritty growl that is fun and fashionable. Adaptive controls for the transmission, throttle and steering give it a nice balance, with a few rough performance edges.

Like its siblings, the IS and GS sedans, the Lexus RC uses a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension tuned on the firm side but comfortable enough for casual driving. The RC 350 is not a “racer,” but it hits the right balance of ride and handling for this class. I found the electric power steering to offer just the right feel.

Cabin comfort

The RC 350’s cabin is a comfortable, luxurious cockpit in the front and a tiny rear seat space aft. Heated and cooled seats offer extra comfort; supple leather surfaces abound. Operation of audio and climate controls is highly intuitive and easily handled in a heads-up manner. Sight lines do have some blind spots to get used to.

IIHS calls the Lexus RC a Top Safety Pick Plus, with Good marks and an Advanced rating for front crash protection with the optional safety equipment, including emergency self-braking.