The Car Connection Lexus RC Overview
The Lexus RC coupe is a two-door, four-seat coupe that was new for the 2015 model year.
The RC follows in the footsteps of the old SC coupes that helped launch the Lexus brand in the 1990s, although it is easily the sportiest two-door the brand has offered since the wild and exotic LF A.
With the RC, Lexus has a direct rival for cars like the Audi A5, BMW 4-Series, Infiniti Q60, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, as well as Cadillac's two-door ATS.
A spin-off of the Lexus IS sedan range, the RC is offered with a wide range of powertrains, everything from a turbo-4 to a V-8. In its first year, its models included a V-6-powered rear-drive RC 350, an RC 350 with all-wheel drive, and a high-performance RC F, powered by a brawny V-8 engine. The RC F is covered separately.
MORE: Read our 2017 Lexus RC review
RC 350 models are motivated by a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and are offered with rear-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission or all-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic. There is no manual transmission available.
For 2016, Lexus added the base RC 200t; it's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 with 241 horsepower, sent to the rear wheels by an 8-speed automatic transmission. A new mid-range RC 300 was also added. It comes only with a 30/70 rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and a 6-speed transmission mated to 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 255 hp.
At about 185 inches long, the RC is just slightly longer than the IS sedan and, like that car, shares a platform with the somewhat larger GS sport sedan, though the midsection is derived from the outgoing IS C convertible and the rear end from the new-for-2014 IS sedan. A wheelbase that's several inches shorter gives the proportions a different look than either sedan; it has a more swept-back appearance, with some fairly ostentatious accents—not just for Lexus, but for any brand playing in the segment.
The spindle grille in front is the most abrasive part of the appearance, as it is on most other modern Lexuses. Behind there it's all grace, however, with nice, flowing sheet metal from the fenders, a smooth roofline, and a surprisingly well-sculpted rear deck that escapes the brand's usual anonymity. Sporty 18- and 19-inch alloys fill out the fenders nicely and set a good stance. Inside, the multi-tier cockpit look given to the latest IS and GS looks fresh here, too, with excellent materials, including real wood and leather.
The base RC coupe has only adequate acceleration and a supple ride, but they're considerably dialed down from the stiffness baked into a garden-variety BMW 4-Series. Turbo lag is an issue. Most buyers will be better served by the much quicker RC 350. A sporty F Sport package is available for every model, and it adds suspension, wheels, brakes, and exterior components that amp up the excitement.
The RC coupes can fit full-size adults in their rear seats a pinch, but you'll want to avoid long-distance cruising with four on-board. Like in the latest IS sedan, the interior boasts quality materials that avoid the dark and dreary look of predecessors, with Lexus recently adding leather outside the black and beige spectrum. The front seats are also very supportive.
On the tech front, the RC was the first Lexus to get the brand's latest blind-spot monitors, which can better detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from behind. The Lexus Remote Touch interface uses a touchpad in place of the finicky mouse-like controller that was used previously. Remote Touch is the console-mounted control for things such as audio, navigation, and system settings.
Like most Lexus models, the RC is well-equipped when it comes to safety. The RC has been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, as it scores top "Good" ratings in all categories and also carries a sold complement of active safety features.
For 2017, the RC lineup gets available triple-beam LED headlamps and standard Scout GPS Link, while the rear-drive RC 350 now comes standard with performance dampers. Scout GPS Link is a smartphone app that displays driving directions on the center screen for cars without the navigation system.