Lexus has thrown the gauntlet down to the opposition, pricing the RC350 F Sport at $74,000 – just $1000 over the IS350 sedan with which it shares its interior and rear suspension. The 435i coupe, meanwhile, costs $108,530 – $15K over the 335i sedan with which it shares all its fundamentals (engine, chassis).
Both models get 19-inch alloy wheels, foglights, three-mode adjustable suspension and variable-ratio steering that requires less twirling of the wheel to get the front wheels pointed.
Both also score front and rear parking sensors with reverse-view camera, full leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation with a premium audio system.
The RC350 F Sport includes a 17-speaker, 850-watt Mark Levinson audio system compared with a 16-speaker, 600-watt Harman Kardon unit in its rival.
Lexus asks an extra $2500 for a sunroof, compared with $2920 over at your BMW dealer. Then there are the items standard on the Lexus but optional on the BMW: digital radio tuner ($500), electric lumbar support ($640), front seat heating ($850 – yet the RC350 also gets ventilated seats) and LED headlights ($3300).
The RC350 F Sport gets a blind-spot monitor, where the 435i doesn’t. Optioning a $7300 enhancement package on the Lexus gives you a collision warning system, active cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam that will collectively cost an extra $3820 on the BMW; so the gap does narrow somewhat.
It’s a pretty convincing win on the value front to the Japanese coupe, though.
As will become a theme in this contest, however, the pendulum swings back the other way for performance. At least on paper, engineering development limitations are more obvious in the Lexus than they are with the BMW.
The RC350 F Sport is a very heavy car. For a coupe that compared with the 435i is only marginally longer (by 60mm), taller (plus 18mm) and wider (up 15mm) the 1740kg kerb weight seems excessive.
The 1600kg BMW is not only lighter, but its 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine propels it from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds – a full second quicker than its rival. Even the four-cylinder turbo 428i is faster (at 5.8sec) while being lighter again (1545kg).
Lexus utilises a larger 3.5-litre engine, its six cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ rather than straight across the engine bay like a piano. The absence of a turbo is noticeable though not always problematic.
Using both port- and direct-injection, the RC350 F Sport makes healthy numbers for its displacement. Its 233kW of power puts the 225kW of its rival in the shade, and its 378Nm of torque is well above the 350Nm expected of an engine of this size.
But the Lexus makes its peak twist at 4800rpm, where the BMW lathers on 400Nm between a stunningly broad 1200rpm and 5000rpm.
It’s not uncommon to pay more for something organic like the BMW, versus one that is heavily processed like the Lexus. Equally, however, there’s no denying the win to the best value coupe (literally) by the kilo when it can please drivers and passengers just as well as the one that costs a lot more.