- A distinctive-looking Lexus
- Plush, sporty interior
- Excellent front seats
- Available all-wheel drive
- F Sport package adds excitement
- Punchy front end throws a curveball on the design
- No manual gearbox
- Unimpressive mileage (RC 350)
- Lack of responsiveness (RC 200t)
- Unclear benefits of rear-wheel steering
All Lexus RC models offer engaging dynamics and plenty of style, though this sporty coupe could stand to drop a few pounds and its base engines aren't up to snuff.
The Lexus RC is designed to compete with established luxury-brand sport coupes such as the BMW 4-Series, Audi A5, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Offered in 200t, 300 AWD, 350, and 350 AWD models—each with an F Sport variant—it comes closer to the mark than any of the Japanese automaker's previous coupe-convertible challengers ever did.
After adding the 200t and 300 AWD last year, the 2017 Lexus 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.
We rate the RC a 6.7, giving it points for exterior design, steering and handling, interior quality, and front seat comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The high-performance Lexus RC F is covered separately.
Styling and Performance
A sinister-looking rendition of the Lexus hourglass grille dons the RC's nose, supercharged with visual drama on F Sport versions. 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 an upmarket sibling to a Toyota 86 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's suspension is tuned just slightly on the firm side. Drivers should find that it's compliant enough for everyday driving. While it may be slightly too underdamped on curvy country roads, it hits the right balance of ride and handling for a pure luxury coupe. Even the electric steering feels settled and acceptably quick. The F Sport package upgrades handling. Either way, the Lexus RC encourages swift jaunts along twisty roads.
The base RC 200t boasts the best fuel economy and an attractive starting price just over $40,000, but there are some trade-offs. It's not exactly fast—getting to 60 mph takes 7.3 seconds—and while power is generally reasonable once underway, there's significant lag under full throttle. We haven't yet driven the RC 300, which pairs a 255-horsepower V-6 with a 6-speed automatic; acceleration time drops to 6.3 seconds—along with fuel economy.
Grunting noises from the 306-hp V-6 in the RC 350 are mostly good—it's a vee, not an inline, after all. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic—with a host of adaptive controls for the 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. We're not convinced by the variable-ratio and rear-steering add-ons, but the adaptive dampers? Sold.
For fuel economy, the RC 200t gets 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined, according to the EPA. The RC 300 AWD is rated at 19/26/21 mpg, the RC 350 gets 19/28/22 mpg and the RC 350 AWD returns 19/26/21 mpg.
Interior, Safety, and Features
The RC's interior is fitted to a high 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, the seats get almost anthropomorphic stitching that mimics human muscles. More important, the seats are wide and supple enough to support a wide range of body types. Don't think of the back seats as anything else than a beautifully upholstered parcel shelf; folding them down provides access to the trunk.
The NHTSA hasn't crash-tested the RC. The IIHS, however, rates the Lexus RC as a Top Safety Pick+ with top "Good" marks across the board and an "Advanced" rating for front crash protection with optional equipment.
The RC comes with eight standard airbags and stability control. A rearview camera is standard. The stability control can be dialed down for more entertaining driving. Also available is a forward-collision warning system that's connected with adaptive cruise control. The same sensors alert on an impending collision; at low speeds, RCs equipped with the system will apply the brakes in an effort to avoid the accident entirely.
Prices for the RC start in the low $40,000s for an RC 200t and rise to the mid-$60,000s for an RC F. Standard features include leatherette seating, automatic climate control, LED headlamps and taillights, 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, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, and leather upholstery.
For about $5,000, the F Sport package bundles 19-inch wheels and tires, the adaptive sport suspension, sport seats, sport-tuned stability control, digital gauges, and on rear-drive F Sports, variable gear-ratio and rear-wheel steering.