Some competitors may be more athletic, but the 2016 Lexus RC should appeal to a number of buyers who want a luxury sports coupe. It offers balanced performance, available all-wheel drive and an attractive exterior design with classic lines that befit a car in this segment.
The four-seat Lexus RC 350 is joined by two new models for 2016: the RC 200t and RC 300. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission come standard with the RC 200t, while the V6-powered RC 300 is offered exclusively with all-wheel drive. The high-performance Lexus RC F is covered in a separate review.
A new Lexus Enform Service Connect feature also debuts, allowing RC owners to access maintenance information and vehicle alerts through a smartphone app. Models with the F Sport package also gain new options, including a limited-slip rear differential and orange brake calipers.
Undoubtedly one of the best-looking models in the Lexus lineup, the 2016 RC offers a fresh take on the classic styling that personifies what a sports coupe should be. A long hood, sloping roofline and short rear deck create a graceful profile that’s bolstered by 18-inch wheels, while the RC’s tail is highlighted by a dual-exhaust system and deep sculpting at each corner of the rear fascia. Lexus’ hourglass-shaped “spindle” grille spans the majority of the front bumper, amplifying the RC’s wide stance.
There are functional exterior elements, too, such as heated sideview mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators. At the same time, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights provide exterior illumination. LED fog lamps and 19-inch wheels are available, while the F Sport package brings in unique wheels and badging, as well as an F Sport-specific grille and front fascia.
While competitors like the Audi A5 may seem a bit more elegant inside, the 2016 RC presents an attractive cabin with controls that fall close at hand. Our test RC 200t had a stylish two-tone interior that was trimmed in leather. Still, the standard leatherette (NuLuxe) upholstery presents well in the base model, and we’ve appreciated its look and feel in Lexus products like the 2016 GS 200t and NX Hybrid.
The driver and front passenger sit low in the cockpit, with a tall center console providing a notable separation between them. Power-adjustable front seats and a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, which was upgraded with power adjustment in our test car, make it easy to dial in a comfortable seating position. Still, there’s no excess of space in the RC’s cabin. Headroom can be a little tight up front if you’re over 6 feet tall, especially when the RC is optioned with the available moonroof. Meanwhile, the low seating position imparts a sense of sportiness, but also makes the cabin seem a little confining. As with other cars in this class, the two rear seats may work well for children or short trips, but there’s a dearth of passenger space in the rear row. Those seats have a 60/40-split folding design, adding additional utility to the Lexus RC’s 10.4 cubic feet of trunk space.
The base RC 200t comes with interior features like dual-zone automatic climate control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and the cabin is trimmed in premium materials that include wood and aluminum accents. A heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and a driver’s seat with memory settings are available.
More luxury coupe than outright sports car, our test RC 200t impressed with a comfortable ride, responsive steering and composed handling. The result is a car that’s enjoyable to drive on your daily commute, even if it lacks the athleticism that some competitors might provide.
The RC 200t comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. We found this powertrain combination responsive and refined in typical driving situations, though there is a bit of lag if the engine is called upon for maximum power. You can definitely catch it off guard, particularly on the highway when additional passing power is needed. Last year, we tested a 2015 Lexus RC 350 and enjoyed the additional power that model provides.
Lexus RC 300 and RC 350 models both come with a 3.5-liter V6. In the RC 300, that engine produces 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque and is paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The RC 350’s engine makes 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel-drive models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive models come with a six-speed automatic.
The RC 200t gets an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg city/highway, while the rear-wheel-drive RC 350 gets 19/28 mpg. The all-wheel-drive RC 300 and RC 350 are both rated at 19/26 mpg.
The base Lexus RC 200t comes with keyless entry and ignition, two USB ports, Bluetooth, a HomeLink garage door opener, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio and a 10-speaker audio system with a 7-inch display. Navigation, a premium Mark Levinson audio system and smartphone app integration (Lexus Enform App Suite) are available.
Navigation-equipped models like our test RC 200t feature a touchpad that provides access to navigation, infotainment and vehicle functions. It operates much like the touchpad on a notebook computer, allowing you to drag a cursor across the display to make menu selections. It works well in theory, but moving the cursor across the display while driving requires more attention than we would like. Fortunately, primary climate and audio functions are easily accessed on the center stack.
Notably, the RC also lacks the latest smartphone mirroring technology, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The 2016 Lexus RC comes standard with a rearview camera and Lexus’ Safety Connect telematics system, which includes features like automatic collision notification, roadside assistance, an emergency assist button and a stolen vehicle locator.
Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking, as well as front and rear parking sensors and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, are among the RC’s available driver assistance features.
In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2016 Lexus RC earned a top score of Good in all crashworthiness categories. When equipped with the optional forward collision system, the RC also earns the IIHS’ second-highest Advanced rating for front crash prevention.
The 2016 Lexus RC 200t starts at $39,995 plus a $950 destination charge. The RC 300 starts at $42,610, while RC 350 models are priced from $42,780 with rear-wheel drive and $45,015 with all-wheel drive.
Our test RC 200t built on the list of standard features with 19-inch wheels ($795), a Navigation package that includes a smartphone app suite ($1,530), front and rear parking sensors ($500), a moonroof ($1,100) and a Luxury package ($2,990) that brought in features like rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering column and blind-spot monitoring. Throw in $260 for wheel locks and floor mats, and our RC 200t carried a suggested price of $48,120 after destination.
While the RC 350 carries a price premium of roughly $2,800 over the RC 200t, we think it’s worth paying a little extra for the additional power that the V6 engine provides. We would skip the Luxury package on our test car, but opt for navigation and the Premium package ($1,240), which brings in blind-spot monitoring and heated and ventilated front seats. We’d also spend an additional $500 for the pre-collision system with adaptive cruise control, which should bring the suggested price to roughly $47,000 after destination.
While competitors like the BMW 4 Series might be more thrilling to drive, the Lexus RC likely hits a sweet spot for a number of buyers. This stylish and sporty coupe will definitely turn heads, and it provides a rich set of standard features. We’d like to see more user-friendly technology in Lexus’ current product portfolio, and the RC is no different in that regard. However, the RC should please car shoppers seeking a balance of luxury and pragmatism, thanks in part to great safety ratings and Lexus’ reputation for strong resale values and reliability.