- 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 headlights 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.
2017 Lexus RC
The Lexus RC is a curvaceous coupe with some aggressive cues that will attract some buyers and turn off others.
All Lexus RC models share an exterior design that seems to borrow from other models in the Lexus lineup. We see the entire lineup in the nose, the old IS C in its profile, and the current IS in its tail.
The RC earns a 6 for style, gaining a point for exterior design. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In its base form, at least, the coupe body looks graceful and curvaceous from any angle. The roofline is handsome and there is a pleasing kick up at the back of the window line. Squint and its proportions may resemble an upscale Toyota 86, though the RC's surfacing is far more interesting.
Appropriate for its aggressive intentions, the RC's spindle grille also looks more sinister than it does on other Lexus models. Base RCs are a bit more subtle about it with slatting that downplays the grille's hourglass shape. Base models have vertical lines bisected by a blacked out vertical piece, while the F Sport models get a full mesh treatment.
Inside, the cockpit is divided into operational and display zones. The upper zone houses a 7.0-inch center screen and the instrument panel, while a layered center console integrates a touchpad-driven Remote Touch interface. The steering wheel is slightly elliptical, and the high-backed seats are stitched elaborately. Those conflicting themes don't coordinate as well as they could. We don't care for the way some console pieces intersect—the way the audio system sits out of line with the console trim, or the offset of the console's LCD screen—but we'll chalk those up to design decisions with which we don't agree.
2017 Lexus RC
The RC is a fine performer in base form and the F Sport package adds some real excitement.
Like the closely related IS and GS sedans, RC coupes feature a double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup 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.
We give the RC a 7 rating for performance, adding points for the steering and handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
An F Sport package upgrades handling with adaptive dampers, a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, a Sport+ drive mode, and sport-tuned stability control. Optional for rear-wheel drive RC 350s with the F Sport package is variable-gear-ratio steering that changes ratio according to speed and yaw, and a couple of degrees of rear-wheel steering in Sport+ mode to amplify steering inputs at speeds of up to 50 mph.
The Lexus RC encourages swift jaunts along twisty roads. We're not convinced of the absolute benefits of the variable steering controls, since the base car acquits itself well with summer tires, but the adaptive dampers and drive-mode selectors give the RC a wider latitude in driving attitudes that's on par with similar systems from BMW and Audi. The dampers especially give the F Sport a firmer ride than the standard car, but don't destroy its well-sorted ride quality when cranked into its more intense settings.
The base coupe is the RC 200t, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. It makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, all sent to the rear wheels by an 8-speed automatic transmission. It's not exactly fast—reaching 60 mph takes 7.3 seconds—but feels reasonably strong once underway. You'll need an F Sport in Sport+ mode, though, to avoid significant lag in response to a floored gas pedal.
The mid-range RC 300 comes only with a 30/70 rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and an older 6-speed automatic transmission mated to 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 255 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. We haven't yet had the chance to drive one, but Lexus says 0 to 60 mph acceleration drops to 6.3 seconds.
The RC 350 features a 3.5-liter V-6 making 306 hp and and 277 lb-ft of torque. Like other V-6 engines of its era—whether from Nissan, Ford, or Mercedes-Benz—it exhibits some coarse growl, but this is largely muted by a decent amount of sound deadening. It's available with rear-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic or all-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic; the former gets to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, the latter in 6.0 seconds. Top speeds are 143 mph and 130 mph, respectively (tire-limited on the AWD version).
The 8-speed transmission offers Normal, Sport, and Manual shift modes to go with paddle controls; a predictive shift logic blips the throttle to smooth shifts. G-sensors in Sport mode place gear changes more dynamically—in corners, it will downshift for a better exit gear, for example. Separately, there's a Drive Mode Select feature that gives the driver control over steering assist, climate control, and throttle response through Normal, Sport, and Eco modes.
2017 Lexus RC
Comfort & Quality
Supportive front seats and interior quality are plusses, but the tight rear seat is a minus.
As you'd expect from Lexus, the cabin is built to a high standard. The dual-tier dash layout is both functional and attractive, though we aren't fond of the functionality of the Remote Touch control interface. It takes some getting used to and requires some manual dexterity, neither of which should be prerequisites for an in-car control system.
We give the RC a 6 for comfort, adding points for the front seats and interior quality but subtracting a point for the rear seat. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Lexus RC is almost 3 inches shorter than the IS sedan, but more than an inch wider. With its exterior dimensions, the RC is close in size to everything from the BMW 4-Series to the Audi A5 and Cadillac ATS coupe.
Front-seat passengers have good space, and they should in a luxury coupe that weighs in at nearly 4,000 pounds. The padded center console enhances comfort on long-distance drives.
The design for low-slung bucket seats is one of the best we've seen from Lexus, with plenty of support provided from high-density foam and stitching that mimics musculature. There's even more stitching with the F Sport package. There are big bolsters and shoulder wings, but also generous width to accommodate a variety of body types. A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering makes it easier to find a good position for drivers of all sizes.
Don't think of rear seats as anything more than nicely upholstered shelves; they'll split and fold. Trunk space is rather meager at 10.4 cubic feet, but should still accommodate a pair of golf bags—just.
2017 Lexus RC
Plenty of active safety features and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS provide a measure of confidence.
The RC lineup has the latest safety technology to go with eight standard airbags and stability control. A rearview camera is standard, and while it does mitigate generally dismal rearward visibility, its display on a 7.0-inch screen surrounded by a large frame of black looks as if it's waiting to be swapped out for a 12-inch display.
Hill-start assist is standard on all RCs, and traction systems integrate with both transmissions—6- and 8-speed automatics—to deliver better response in slippery conditions. On F Sport models, drivers can the adjust the stability control for ideal intervention levels on the road or track.
The RC offers a forward-collision warning system that comes with adaptive cruise control. The same sensors alert drivers to an impending collision; at low speeds, RCs equipped with the system will apply the brakes in an effort to avoid the accident entirely or mitigate its severity.
Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts are optional.
The Lexus RC earns a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS with top "Good" ratings across the board: small overlap, moderate overlap, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. With optional equipment, it gets an "Advanced" rating for front crash protection.
The NHTSA hasn't crash-tested the Lexus RC.
The IIHS rating and the available active safety features earn the RC an 8 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
2017 Lexus RC
The 2017 Lexus RC is well-equipped, but its fiddly infotainment touchpad controller is a letdown.
The 2017 Lexus RC is offered is 200t, 300 AWD, 350, and 350 AWD models, with an F Sport package available for each.
Well-equipped and offered with plenty of options, we rate the RC a 7 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With a starting price just north of $40,000, the Lexus RC is equipped like most entry-level coupes in the luxury segment. The model lineup is based on engine size and every model is essentially equipped the same. Standard features include leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, automatic climate control, keyless ignition, Bluetooth, two USB ports, an auxiliary input jack, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, LED headlights, LED taillights, heated outside mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The standard audio system has 10 speakers, 256 watts of power, satellite and HD radio, Siri Eyes Free, and a 7.0-inch center screen. A review camera is also standard. A new Scout GPS Link is a smartphone app that displays driving directions on the center screen for cars without navigation.
The optional Lexus Enform infotainment system has a Remote Touch input pad that allows swipes, pinches, zooms, and other now-customary gestures. It feels somewhat out of sync with what's on the screen, and the screen could use an artistic redesign more fitting with the Lexus brand. Base cars without the system use a roller controller to control the audio and phone functions, and are, if anything, more maddening.
For around $5,000, the F Sport package bundles an adaptive sport suspension with a Sport+ driving mode, performance brake pads, 19-inch wheels with summer or all-season tires, sport seats, heated and ventilated front seats with driver seat memory, digital gauges, a heated power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, sport-tuned stability control, and on rear-drive F Sports, variable-gear-ratio steering.
Most RCs on dealer lots will have one or more option packages. The Luxury package includes perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and blind-spot monitors. There are also Premium and All-Weather Packages, and a variety of standalone options like navigation, a Mark Levinson stereo, a moonroof, and a forward-collision warning system with adaptive cruise control.
2017 Lexus RC
Combined fuel economy ratings range from 21 to 26 mpg, with the turbo-4 RC 200t as the most fuel-efficient model.
Fuel economy isn't a particularly strong point for the Lexus RC.
The most efficient model is the RC 200t with its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. It is EPA rated at 22 mpg city, 32 highway, 26 combined.
The RC 300 features a low-tune 3.5-liter V-6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 19/26/21 mpg, and it only comes with all-wheel drive.
The RC 350 gets a 3.5-liter V-6 in a higher state of tune, as well as an 8-speed automatic. Its ratings are 19/28/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 19/26/21 mpg with AWD.
We rate the RC a 6 out of 10 for fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)