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The relentless pursuit of everything the Germans are doing doesn't always work for rival luxury brands like Lexus.

Toyota's upscale division has long copied the playbook of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, then added reliability.

But in the last two years, Lexus has found success by forging its own path. The 2015 RC350 continues that trend.

This all-new coupe competes with the BMW 4 Series, the Audi A5 and the Mercedes C-Class coupe. But rather than clone the competitors, the RC350 offers bold styling, a naturally aspirated engine — rather than the ubiquitous turbochargers on today's German power plants — and a laudable balance of comfort and capability.

The RC350 and its speed-seeking performance variant, the RC F, fill a two-door hole in Lexus' family between the compact IS sedan and the mid-size GS sedan. The RC350 starts at $43,715.

While the Germans have bet the farm on turbocharging, the RC's engine is naturally aspirated, offering a more immediate surge of low-end power because there's no waiting on the turbocharger to spool up. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, while AWD is an option.

The coupe also comes standard with four drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow. Each tailors elements like the shift timing and throttle response to the mood of the driver.

Out the door at $54,720, our tester had a malleable personality that will make a wide swath of buyers happy. At 3,748 pounds, this coupe is a smidge chubby. This means it takes the refined engine 5.8 seconds to do a zero-to-60-mph run, according to Lexus. Not a breathtaking clip, but the car makes up for it when the road starts bending. Dropping the RC350 into its most aggressive Sport+ mode yields a crisp, balanced athlete with taut steering and excellent handling.

Outside, our Atomic Silver tester was a compelling mix of bravado and class. Pull up to the curb in an RC350 and you'll attract far more attention than you might in the near ubiquitous BMW or Audi.

Highlights included the classic rear-wheel-drive proportions (long hood, short trunk lid), a black mesh grille and handsome alloy wheels.

With the F-Sport suspension, our RC sat close to the ground and looked fast even when parked.

The only downside to these edgy looks is they may not age as well as, for instance, Audi's graceful A5. Blame bits like the aggressively stylized headlights, shapely grille or faux vents carved into rear bumper. Same for the RC350's interior, which works hard to throw all kinds of angles and shapes at you.

Our robustly optioned RC350 included the F-Sport kit, plus a navigation system, 17-speaker, 835-watt sound system, backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, moon roof and heated and cooled leather seats.

The angrier RC F edition goes for $63,325, but it's less impressive than the base model.

This model comes in rear-wheel-drive only, with a free-revving 5.0-liter V-8. It makes 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque, delegated to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.

Lexus says the RC F will do zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, half a second slower than the BMW M4. Blame the portliness of the Lexus; it's hundreds of pounds heavier than the BMW. The bigger problem is its tepid handling, the result of excessive weight and over-thinking stability control software.

The more basic RC350 is a better car at a better price. It trades the RC F's power for crisp handling and comfort that anyone can appreciate, and provides a distinctive alternative to Audi and BMW that Lexus badly needed in the lineup.

Lexus RC350 F-Sport

Our take: A unique coupe that doesn't copy the Germans

Highs: Smooth turbo-less engine, crisp handling, eye-catching exterior

Lows: Small back seat, design may not age well

Vehicle type: Two-door compact sports coupe

Base price: $43,715

Price as tested: $54,720

Powertrain: 3.5-liter, direct-injected V-6 engine, rear-wheel-drive

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Horsepower: 306

Torque: 277 pound-feet

Zero-to-60 mph: 5.8 seconds, according to Lexus

EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg city; 28 mpg highway

2015 LEXUS RC F

Our take: More power doesn't always mean more fun

Highs: Lively, powerful engine; easy to drive hard

Lows: styling looks bloated, road feel muted

Vehicle type: Two-door compact sports coupe

Base price: $63,325

Price as tested: $75,210

Powertrain: 5.0-liter, direct-injected V-8 engine, rear-wheel-drive

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Horsepower: 467

Torque: 389 pound-feet

Zero-to-60 mph: 4.4 seconds, according to Lexus

EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city; 25 mpg highway

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