- F Sport looks
- Powertrain choices
- Planted handling
- RC F's potential
- Rear seat best when folded down
- F Sport cancels RC F
- Odd-duck turbo-4
- Outdated touch pad interface
- Steep upcharge for V-8
features & specs
The 2021 Lexus RC sports coupe dials up the fun while still being affordable.
What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Lexus RC? What does it compare to?
The 2021 Lexus RC is a sports coupe with two powertrain choices in rear- or all-wheel drive. The segment thins more every year, but the remaining competitors range from the Audi A5 to the Ford Mustang.
Is the 2021 Lexus RC a good car?
It’s a good sports coupe with good standard features and good performance upgrades, but is it good enough? It's heavy weight tends to drag it down. It earns a good TCC Rating of 6.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What's new for the 2021 Lexus RC?
Lexus added blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts and heated side mirrors as standard equipment, and it introduced a limited-run Black Line Special Edition based on the F Sport grade.
Once past the brash and busy front end, the 2021 Lexus RC strikes a handsome profile that’s especially toned in RC F Sport and the RC F. The top RC F model enhances the muscular look of the sports coupe with large 19-inch BBS wheels and side air curtains and a hood vent to help cool the big V-8.
The 472-hp V-8 is one of three engine choices and two transmissions for the rear-wheel drive coupe that’s available in all-wheel drive. A pedestrian 241-hp turbo-4 resides in the base model, but we’d nudge shoppers to the 311-hp V-6 and the adaptive suspension in F Sport models that ease the stiffness for daily driving but firm it up during more demanding inputs. The RC 350 F Sport is marginally more expensive and only marginally less efficient, trimming 1 mpg to 23 mpg combined from the RC 300.
Technically a four-seater, the Lexus RC best fits two and those rear seats are best folded down to increase the meager 10.4 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. But Lexus decks out the RC in quality touches, such as synthetic leather upholstery, wood trim, and myriad buttons and switches for the infotainment and climate controls.
Good standard safety equipment such as automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors offset the narrow side and rear vision, and the RC fared well in crash tests performed by the IIHS.
How much does the 2021 Lexus RC cost?
For $43,245, Lexus equips the 2021 RC with power front seats, a 7.0-inch display screen with smartphone compatibility, a good warranty, and a CD player. The RC F performance model and its V-8 engine cost $68,450, but Lexus offers a track-star version costing just under $100,000.
Where is the 2021 Lexus RC made?
2021 Lexus RC
The 2021 Lexus RC sports coupe is as daring as it is busy.
Is the 2021 Lexus RC a good-looking car?
Once past the brash and busy front end, the 2021 Lexus RC strikes a handsome profile that’s especially toned in RC F Sport and the top RC F. The interior is busy in its own way, but has a pleasing blend of wood trim, available leather upholstery, and fun color and contrast stitching options. It earns a point for the daring exterior and posh interior to a 7.
We’ve grown accustomed to the large Lexus grille that squeezes the front end like a corset, but with the hawkish headlights pointing into the crease and teardrop air intakes, there’s a lot to take in. The juts and jags come together down the body with its long wheelbase, low stance, and muscular rear that’s supersized on the RC F with stacked quad tailpipes.
Inside, Lexus decks the RC with wood trim, synthetic leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter. The low horizontal dash congeals in a center stack that has every instrument imaginable: a haptic slider for temperature controls, dials for volume and tuning, buttons for climate, a console touch pad to control the infotainment, and, overseeing it all, defiant to the march of time, an analog clock.
2021 Lexus RC
Ranging from a turbo-4 to a V-8, the 2021 Lexus RC offers an engine for every taste.
The 2021 Lexus RF is a sports coupe that casts a wide net over the thrill-seeking spectrum. Its three engine choices ratchet up the excitement with each pair of cylinders, but its acceleration won’t blow any minds. Still, it’s quick enough to earn a point on our scale and its sure-footed handling adds another point to a 7.
Is the 2021 Lexus RC 4WD?
The rear-wheel drive coupe could be upgraded to all-wheel drive, but it’ll add even more weight to the already portly 3,800-pound curb weight.
How fast is the 2021 Lexus RC?
The base RC 300 employs an underwhelming 241-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that goes 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, according to Lexus. After a momentary lag, the 258 lb-ft of torque comes on strong enough at 1,650 rpm, but at cruising speeds it requires a couple flicks from the paddle shifters on the 8-speed automatic to make aggressive passing moves. Opting for all-wheel drive comes with an engine upgrade to a 260-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with a less refined 6-speed automatic that helps it hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
On RC 350 models, the transmissions carry over, with an 8-speed with RWD or 6-speed with AWD, but its 3.5-liter V-6 is tuned to make 311 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque. It’s a strong engine worth the $3,000 upcharge, on average, and it shaves the 60 mph sprint to 5.8 seconds in RWD or 6.0 seconds with AWD.
The independent suspension with double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in back adapts to road conditions and weight shifts well enough to cruise smoothly and stay planted in more aggressive driving. The adaptive dampers in the F Sport do it even better. Fitted with 19-inch alloy wheels and lower profile summer tires, F Sport models also have additional Sport S and Sport S+ drive modes that tweak throttle response and firm up the steering and suspension.
For even greater performance, Lexus sells an RC F model with a 472-hp 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 395 lb-ft with premium fuel. Since it’s rear-drive only, it comes with the 8-speed automatic with a manual mode, and it has a limited-slip rear differential to optimize cornering and grip. It reaches 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. There’s also a RC F Fuji Speedway Edition with carbon fiber fixed wing and ceramic brembo brakes that hits 60 mph in under 4.0 seconds, but with a near six-figure asking price we’d opt up for the gorgeous LC500 on looks alone.
2021 Lexus RC
Comfort & Quality
For a sports coupe, the 2021 Lexus RC provides plenty of comfort.
The 2021 Lexus RC earns a point for its excellent front seats that only get better as you climb the trim ladder, and another point for its luxurious fit and finish. Lexus equips it to fit four passengers, but the rear seats are better for packs and gear rather than passengers. That costs it a point, to a 6.
The firmly bolstered sport bucket seats up front provide equal parts comfort and support, enabling both comfy cruising and more spirited jaunts. The power-adjustable front seats include lumbar support, and can be upgraded from synthetic leather to red leather and alcantara headliner. Aluminum sport pedals and heated and cooled seats grace the F Sport trim.
From standard wood trim to suede-like upholstery, and a tachometer that can slide into center position in the gauge cluster, Lexus decks the RC with luxurious elements.
The 60/40-split rear seats squash toes and are best folded down to expand the trunk’s limited 10.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
2021 Lexus RC
Equipped with many driver-assist features, the 2021 Lexus RC diminishes the risk of a crash.
How safe is the Lexus RC?
The Lexus RC doesn’t sell in a high enough volume for the NHTSA to smash it into walls, but the IIHS gave it top “Good” results in all six of its crash tests. Still, we need the feds to weigh in for a score here.
The IIHS also gave top marks to its standard automatic emergency braking system for avoiding crashes in 12 mph and 25 mpg tests.
In addition to emergency braking, Lexus equips the RC with active lane control, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts. The latter feature is helpful with the narrow side and rear views on the sports coupe.
The only option is parking sensors that can help avoid a crash at low speeds and, on the RC F, triple-beam LED headlights.
2021 Lexus RC
The 2021 Lexus RC comes loaded with standard features, but the infotainment is still a step behind.
Lexus loads the 2021 RC with luxury features that justify its $43,245 starting price. The trim levels are mostly bound to powertrain upgrades covered above, but the base RC 300 welcomes owners with synthetic leather seats that are power adjustable, a 7.0-inch display screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa compatibility, a 10-speaker sound system to rock out to the standard CD player, and a touch pad interface that’s behind the times.
The standard content earns a point, as does its 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that includes scheduled maintenance for 1 year or 10,000 miles. Add it up like the Violent Femmes for a 7.
Which 2021 Lexus RC should I buy?
The tech and safety features are mostly standard except for a package upgrading to a 10.3-inch display screen and a Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system. So it really comes down to which powertrain you want. We like the RC 350 F Sport with the V-6 and sport bucket seats that are heated and cooled. It also has cool 19-inch dark wheels and a distinct grille, all for $50,645. All-wheel drive adds about $1,600 on F Sports.
If you really like the blacked-out look, the Black Line Edition adds about $1,100 but only 350 units were made.
How much is a fully loaded 2021 Lexus RC?
The range-topper is the RC F model with its V-8 engine for $68,450. There’s also a 2021 RC F Fuji Speedway Edition with carbon ceramic brakes made for those who can kiss off $98,225.
2021 Lexus RC
Three engine choices in the 2021 Lexus RC range from the efficient to the not.
Is the 2021 Lexus RC good on gas?
Sports cars and fuel efficiency go together like peanut butter and lint. Yet the base turbo-4 in the 2021 Lexus RC 300 eschews the lint for an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. That qualifies for a 4.
Add all-wheel drive in the RC 300, however, and it earns the same rating as the RC 350 because the larger V-6 engine powers them both. It loses 3 mpg to 19/26/22 mpg. With rear-wheel drive only, the RC 350 gets 20/28/23 mpg.
The V-8 does what V-8s do, returning a 16/24/19 mpg rating.