Lexus RC350: La Dolce Vita Lesson By Cliff Leppke There was a time when the good life meant driving swank custom chariots like Cary Grant’s speedy Duesenberg. Nowadays, Paris Hilton and Fergie groove in Hummers. The 2017 Lexus RC 350, in contrast, proves that a limbo-low coupe still turns heads. Yet, driving one introduces an ontological question: What does it mean to drive a racy-looking car? Me and My RC I drove an RC to Milwaukee’s Meinecke Ace. This tidy hardware store is big on know-how with attentive service from longtime staffers. After fetching snow blower shear pins, I maneuvered Lexus’ large-yet-intimate machine out of a tight parking space, eyes focused on not dinging its expressive wheels. My timid side, however, ignored a salient fact: people notice you in a V-6 RC 350. That’s because the even-more-potent V-8 RC F is Gran Turismo video-game fodder. And there’s a radio-controlled Mini-Me variant, too. The F, therefore, is a young lad’s four-wheel fantasy. Indeed, an enthusiastic kid ran toward me while I was un-parking the non-F RC. I didn’t recognize this epistemological moment—an opportunity to confirm that this youngster spied an imposter ultra-performance auto. Furthermore, I botched the heuristic part: a lesson in manners and manhood. Instead of pausing to let someone enter the world of exhilarating coupes and their snobby owners, I drove away. I feel like a cad. Driving an RC 350, therefore, means children, teens and adults will follow you like the paparazzi in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. The hoi polloi will flag you down. The uncouth will bribe your barista, ratting out who’s driving a Lexus. Anyone motoring in an RC evokes the mystery that Suzanne Somers did in American Graffiti’s T-Bird. Exterior styling is sexy with lower door sill Elsie-the-cow racer affectations. An outrageously busy spindle grille out blings a rapper’s teeth. At the rear, a neat ducktail motif. A muscular body covers a velvety 306-hp engine and an Land O’Lakes smooth-as-butter eight-speed automatic. It hustles with fluid motion. An intoxicating aural note charms ears inside its normally hushed cabin. Staggered 19-inch Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires (265/35 rear, 235/40 front) whip up white noise on grooved pavement, as if trying out for a music-theater production. Speed-sensing steering effort varies by drive mode: eco, normal and sport. Backroad bombing is composed, trundling over railroad tracks reveals a solid structure. Tire bite invites cornering. There’s an artificial notch when heading straight. Moving through corners introduces tire squeal and front push. Stabbing the thrill pedal alters your arc (rotation); the stability program intrudes early. Brake pedal action feels like manipulating a Q-tip. It’s not firm, but modulation after the initial grab is good; the chassis doesn’t dive. Night riders: the infotainment screen is too bright. A dedicated button douses it. Touch sensors summon the overhead map light. Other lamps perform a full Motel 6 by turning on the lumens, as you approach. Puddle lamps reside in door handles. The interior is fit for a king of thrones with leather seating, surrounded by suede-like headliner and pillar covers. While drivers can lower their seats, passengers cannot. There’s an HVAC vent facing the vestigial rear pew—a pampered spot, with the exception of a hard-plastic divider—center armrest please. Fold these seats to access the modest, fully carpeted 10-cu ft trunk. An asymmetrical control center presents an electroluminescent gauge set with trip info panel. Big side-view mirrors with blind-spot warning aid sight. One beef: ordering cooler-near-the-lake seats for toasty days is awkward; seat-temp buttons, adjacent to their mode lights, are difficult to locate by feel. Another beef: you adjust cabin temperature via finger-sensing strips. This gimmick is needlessly fussy. Premium interior decor includes wood-veneer inlays. At 3,748 lbs., the RC cannot disguise it heft. It’s not a vintage Cadillac land yacht, though. Instead, it’s a posh coupe with sporting rear-drive reflexes. Zero-to-60 mph takes about 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 143 mph. Overall mpg: 23, premium fuel only. EPA figures: 19 city, 28 highway, 22 mpg combined. Those wearing size 11 or longer men’s shoes might catch throttle-pedal hardware. One incongruity: a step-on parking brake. Infotainment buttons and dial usurped shift-console territory nixing hand-controlled brakes—tacky. The shifter’s mode-revealing zig-zag gate impedes locating some switches. It supports one’s wrist while button fiddling. Eschatology: The tested Atomic Silver coupe lists for $43,010. Add headlight washers, fancy wheels, Premium Package (dynamic radar cruise control, warmed/chilled seats, illuminated door sills) and the tab is $48,289. Some Teutonic coupes generate more thrills. Yet, if your sense of being requires motoring celebrity aesthetics, the RC performs that trick. Sorry kid. You saw a Lexus RC 350; I was the jerk behind the wheel.