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The Lexus RC is the brand's first purpose-built coupe since the long-departed SC. It's taking the plunge again with the new two-door in a bid to directly challenge cars like the BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, and Mercedes C-Class Coupe--and it comes far closer than either of its coupe-convertible efforts (the SC430 and IS C) ever came.
Shorter than an IS sedan, as wide as the GS four-door, the RC is based on both of them. A sinister-looking rendition of the Lexus hourglass is in place on the nose, supercharged with visual drama on F Sport and RC F coupes with a mesh made of a thousand Fs. (You'll have to look close, like in an Escher print.) The sideview's graceful even if the roofline is a bit thick, and the shoulder line lifts at a pretty point on the rear quarters. The RC is precisely what the upmarket sibling to a Scion FR-S should look like. Inside, the horizontal theme of the latest Lexus vehicles is in place, with the same adventurous idea and some of the same foibles, like the Remote Touch control pad and some off-center, oddly stacked components.
The RC comes with a choice between the RC 350 six-cylinder coupe and the much hotter, V-8-powered RC F, but there are shades of grey between those black-and-white opposites. The 306-horsepower six is a powerful base engine, with mostly good grunting noises (it's a V-6, not an in-line six, after all). Coupled to an eight-speed automatic, a whole host of adaptive controls for transmission, throttle, and steering, it's a nicely balanced luxury coupe with few rough edges to its performance contours. Add in an F Sport package, and the adaptive controls get more aggressive tuning, the ride quality firms up well within the margins of tolerability, and the whole driving experience elevates itself into a Germanic ballpark Lexus only has really played in with the bigger GS F Sport. We're not convinced by the variable-ratio and rear-steering add-ons, but the adaptive dampers? Sold.
On another plane sits the RC-F, the performance edition of the RC meant to campaign against the likes of the M4 and S4. The RC-F swaps out the V-6 for a 5.0-liter V-8 with a rippling 467 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph comes in about 4.4 seconds, and top speed hits 170 mph--slower than a BMW, thanks to the few hundred extra pounds carried by the Lexus.
The RC-F shares the eight-speed automatic and paddle shifters with other RCs, and has Econ, Normal, Sport and Sport+. In manual mode, it holds gears even at redline in second through eighth gears, and cuts shift times even more. Bigger differences are made by Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, a standard Torsen limited-slip differential, and reprogrammed stability control with a track-god all-off mode. There's also an optional torque-vectoring differential that lets electric motors determine how power shifts side to side in 8/10ths-and-beyond driving maneuvers: it's trick, but maybe not better than the Torsen diff. With its firmed-up bushings and roll bars and bigger Brembo brakes, the RC F punches into a happy, composed demeanor on the track--not yet the equal of an M4, but finally in the conversation.
For true Lexus fans, the RC's interior is fitted to a good standard. It's a spacious car for two passengers, and the array of front-seat choices in different models is uniformly great. In F Sports and RC Fs, the seats get almost anthropomorphic stitching that mimics human muscles. More important, the seats are wide and supple enough to support a really wide range of body types. The back seats barely qualify as 2+2; the trunk can be accessed by folding them down, unless you're in an RC F.
While the federal government hasn't yet tested the RC, it's been rated 'good' in every category of testing by the IIHS, including the tough small overlap frontal test. And it earns an 'advanced' rating for front crash prevention, which earns it a Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2015.
The RC comes with eight standard airbags and stability control. A rearview camera is standard on most models. The stability control can be dialed down for more entertaining driving. And the RC offers a forward-collision warning system that's connected with available adaptive cruise control. The same sensors alert on an impending collision; at low speeds, RCs equipped with the system will apply their own brakes in an effort to avoid the accident entirely.
Other features on the base $43,175 RC include automatic climate control; LED headlamps and taillamps; USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming; and satellite radio. Major options include 19-inch wheels on summer tires; heated and ventilated front seats; park assist; a sunroof; navigation; power tilt/telescope steering wheel; a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with Harman's Clari-Fi sound-restoring coding; and leather upholstery (a synthetic, leather-like material is standard).
For about $5,000, the F Sport package bundles 19-inch wheels and tires; the adaptive suspension; sport suspension, seats, and stability control; digital gauges; and on rear-drive F Sports, variable gear-ratio and rear-wheel steering.
And finally, the $63,325 RC F comes with the usual base features. Options that can drive its price to nearly $70,000 include ventilated seats, a speed-sensing rear spoiler, blind-spot monitors, and navigation, as well as the Mark Levinson sound system.
- A distinctive-looking Lexus
- Very plush, sporty interior
- Excellent front seats
- Available all-wheel drive
- RC F is finally in the sports-car game
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- Punchy front end throws a curve ball on the design
- No manual gearbox
- Unimpressive mileage (RC 350)
- Unclear benefits of rear-wheel steering