What stands out?
The Lexus RC is a two-door coupe with unmistakable styling and exquisite attention to detail, from the wheels and paint to the luxurious, futuristic interior. It is principally a GT car – a comfortable, powerful, cross-country tourer for two. Engine choices begin with a friendly 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder and end at a formidable 5.0-litre V8. Auto-braking is standard.
What might bug me?
The foot-operated park brake, which may intrude on leg space for big drivers.
Dialling up the cabin temperature. You slide your finger along a metal strip for big adjustments, and then there are pretty red and blue buttons for small adjustments. It’s easy to overshoot.
How slowly the power-adjustable seats move. Especially when you are trying to help someone slip into the back in a hurry.
Dealing with flat tyres. All Lexus RCs come with a space-saver spare, which is limited to 80km/h when fitted.
On a winding road, the relatively high weight of an RC, which makes it feel less obedient to the controls. Most similar coupes weigh less.
In the high-performance RC-F prior to December 2016, the bumpy ride around town: its suspension tune was extremely firm. However, for the 2017 model year Lexus equipped the RC-F with the adaptive suspension that was previously available on the less muscular RC200t and RC350, and you can expect that to improve comfort without compromising control.
What body styles are there?
Two-door coupe only. The engine is in the front, and it drives the rear wheels.
The RC is related to the Lexus IS medium sedan, and about the same size. It is classed as a sports car, mid- priced.
What features do all versions have?
A 7.0-inch colour screen, satellite navigation, digital radio reception, and a reversing camera.
Dual-zone air-conditioning, which allows different temperatures to be set for each side of the cabin.
Powered steering column adjustment, and power-operated front seats with heating and ventilation.
Headlights that use long-lived LEDs and come on automatically in low light. Windscreen wipers that come on automatically when it rains.
Smart key entry, which allows the doors to be opened whenever the key is nearby (perhaps in a pocket or bag).
Automatic transmission, with paddle shifters.
Driving mode selection: you can adjust, in concert, the way the car rides, steers, responds to the accelerator, and operates the air-conditioning, choosing from Normal, Power and Eco modes.
Radar-based automatic emergency braking that works at city and highway speeds. Active cruise control, which can maintain a set distance to the car in front.
Eight airbags. Those in the front seats each get frontal and knee airbags, and body-protecting side airbags. Curtain airbags down each side protect heads front and rear in a side crash.
Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.
The RC is covered by a four-year, 100,000km warranty.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
The turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the RC200t is comfortably the least thirsty engine in a Lexus RC, consuming 7.3L/100km on the official test (city and country combined). It’s a quiet, smooth engine that feels spritely around town. You never feel like you need more power.
The main reason you might not choose it is that you want more entertainment from your RC engine.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol in the RC 350 is smoother than the turbo four and ultimately goes harder, while using about 30 per cent more fuel.
The 5.0-litre V8 in the RC-F turns that adrenaline rush factor up two or three fold. It’s the party animal of the RC line-up, but is a Jekyll and Hyde character as it can still be smooth and serene in town. Understandably, it drinks significantly more fuel than the V6.
All RC models come only with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least costly Lexus RC is the RC200t Luxury, which has the 2.0-litre engine and 18-inch alloy wheels. You can spend more on a different engine, more equipment, or both.
On the engine side, you can pay a little bit more for an RC350, which has the 3.5-litre V6 engine, or nearly twice as much for an RC-F, which has the 5.0-litre V8.
On the equipment side, the RC200t and RC350 come in three versions. The least costly is Luxury (perhaps Lexus is trying to convince you that Luxury is standard on its cars). You can spend more for F-Sport, and more again for Sports Luxury.
In the RC200t, F-Sport brings 19-inch wheels shod with lower-profile tyres, which make the steering feel slightly more direct (and the car look racier). A limited-slip differential helps steady the car when driving hard out of corners. Adaptive suspension tunes the car’s ride automatically for the driving conditions. Visual touches include chunkier front and rear bumpers, and side skirts.
Front seats in the F-Sport have more substantial side bolsters, which help hold you in place around corners, and the driver’s seat remembers your adjustments. There is blind spot monitoring, to warn you of other vehicles alongside out of view, and rear cross-traffic alert, which helps avoid carpark bingles when reversing. Audiophiles will appreciate the premium Mark Levinson sound system.
The RC350 F-Sport has this equipment but also brings variable ratio steering (which enhances steering feel as speeds rise), and Dynamic Rear Steering, which helps the car turn more sharply at low speeds – while improving stability at high speeds.
Paying more for an RC200t or RC350 Sports Luxury brings you full leather trim, headlamps that dip automatically for oncoming drivers, and lane-departure warning (which helps you avoid drifting into oncoming traffic, for example).
Paying much more for an RC-F brings you the V8 engine and most of the Sports Luxury equipment list, including – since December 2016 – the adaptive suspension. You also get a much more aggressive look, racing seats that have much more side support than in other models, and a torque-vectoring differential, which does an even better job than the limited-slip diff in the less costly RCs.
You can add a Carbon Pack to the RC-F that includes a bonnet and roof made from lightweight carbon-fibre, and a rear wing that rises at speeds over 80km/h to improve high-speed aerodynamics.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
The 19-inch wheels on F-Sport and Sports Luxury models use lower-profile tyres. These will be more expensive than those on Luxury versions and are not likely to last as long.
As well, they bring a less comfortable ride (because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road). They’re teamed with less comfortable sports seats, too.
Lexus claims that the RC is the only mass-produced car to have its paint baked twice. We can’t vouch for that, but we can say that all RCs have an exceptionally good paint finish.
However, you’ll have to pay a premium for every colour but Onyx, which is a solid black. The other colours include Infrared (red), Mercury Grey, Steel Mica and Starlight Black. Three colours are exclusive to F-Sport models: Lava Mica (a searing orange), Cobalt Mica and White Nova.
How comfortable is it?
The interior of a Lexus RC looks futuristic, and even the least costly has lots of equipment. The driving position is excellent, with good vision out front and rear. The steering wheel and pedals are well placed. Seats in Luxury models are supportive, with high-quality coverings. Seats in F-Sport cars are firmer but still comfortable.
The RC200t and RC350 are easy to drive smoothly and quietly. The 200t responds better to the accelerator pedal at low speeds and so is easier to drive around town and to manoeuvre through gaps in traffic.
In a V8 RC-F with conventional, mechanically controlled suspension, the ride feels brittle and rough. Its suspension is better suited to a smooth racetrack than to a bumpy road. However, Lexus acted to improve the ride of the RC-F in December 2016, substituting electronically controlled adaptive dampers that prioritise ride comfort in most driving modes.
In a V8 RC-F, the ride feels brittle and rough. Its suspension is better suited to a smooth racetrack than to a bumpy road.
What about safety?
Every Lexus RC has a reversing camera and eight airbags. A Pre-collision Safety System (PCS) is also standard, and it includes automatic braking. It detects obstacles ahead of the car, and will warn you of them with an audible beep. If you fail to take action, the Active Cruise Control will slow the car to a standstill from any speed.
Sports Luxury models also have Lane Departure Warning, which notifies you if you are drifting out of your lane (a sign of fatigue). This is also offered with extra-cost enhancement packs on the less expensive RCs.
(To see a list of the safety features on any model, open the model from the Cars Covered By This Review dropdown near the top of this page, and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not tested the Lexus RC.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
Even the Lexus RC200t is a fun vehicle to drive. It’s not a sports car, but it does have a responsive, flexible character, and handing that is good enough to be entertaining on a country road.
The RC 350 is a better touring car and has stronger overtaking performance on the highway. It’s significantly faster than the 200t if you wind it out. A sound enhancer pipes the guttural engine note into the cabin, for a more involving experience. The RC350 also feels slightly better balanced overall, in part due to the dynamic rear steering.
The RC-F is the wild child of the Lexus showroom: it is arresting to look at even while it’s standing still. It is also an impeccably crafted, stylish and fast GT coupe. Its V8 burble sounds great - even at the traffic lights. Its rapid acceleration will impress (or disgust) your passengers. Stiff suspension helps it through corners.
Nevertheless all RCs are significantly heavier than most similar cars, and you feel that weight when changing direction at speed.
The driving mode selection on RCs also adjusts the Vehicle Stability Control, so that you can tune how much the car slides before electronic intervention brings it back into line. The RC-F has an additional, Expert, drive mode. Even here there is intervention, but it arrives significantly later.
How is life in the rear seats?
Not much fun, unless you are small. Rear seats in an RC are not of use for much beyond carrying small children or extra cargo. Adults will find it difficult to squeeze in comfortably, with not much headroom or legroom available. And there are no rear doors.
You can move the power-adjustable front seats to help rear passengers enter or exit. However the seats move agonisingly slowly, which you may not worry about until loading people or cargo in the rain, or at a busy location such as an airport pick up lane.
How is it for carrying stuff?
The Lexus RC is more focussed on style and performance than on practicality, but its 423-litre boot is competitive with other sporty coupes. (It’s smaller in the RC-F: only 366 litres).
The rear seat is a 50:50 split fold and can lie completely flat. It also has a ski-port in the centre, which enables a long item (for example, skis) to be loaded into the boot and through into the passenger area.
Where is it made?
The Lexus RC is made in Japan.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
Perhaps a diesel engine, which could use less fuel on long trips. Most similar coupes offer this.
Perhaps a manual transmission, which is offered on the BMW M4.
Maybe all-wheel drive, which gives you a surer footing when it’s wet or otherwise slippery. Audi offers an all-wheel drive RS5.
Other cars you might consider include the BMW 4 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and the Audi A5 range.
Jaguar also offers the F-Type Coupe, which is an obvious alternative to the Lexus RC-F except that it costs considerably more.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
We would recommend the RC350. It does not cost much more than the 200t and it adds rear-wheel steering and a buttery smooth V6 with more power.
However, the RC200t is a more comfortable daily driver, as it’s tuned for a better response at slower, urban speeds.
It’s obvious when you drive the RC-F that is made for ferocious performance. It’s also the most expensive RC by a considerable margin, making it a far more emotional purchase.
Are there plans to update this model soon?
The current generation Lexus RC arrived in 2014. The RC200t was introduced late in 2015 as the third model, along with updates across the range. The RC-F gained adaptive suspension for the 2017 model year. The RC isn’t due for replacement until 2018 at the earliest.