Rakish coupe looks great, but handling falls short of rivals’ standards
- Head-turning styling means you’ll stand out in a crowd
- Interior quality and materials are top-drawer
- Smoothness and refinement outstanding in hybrid version
- Aged infotainment system and controls
- Interior ergonomics also feel off the pace
- Not the sharpest-driving coupe for your money
And yet, it shouldn’t be – it has dramatic styling, comes with cutting-edge hybrid tech, and is sold by a company that’s legendary for its customer service and reliability.
There are just three Lexus LC models to choose from, which makes the decision easier than it might be if you’re choosing from the sprawling range of models offered by Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But that’s no bad thing – just as long as you’re not looking for a diesel.
Instead there’s a straight choice between a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, badged RC 200t, and a petrol-electric hybrid alternative, the RC 300h. Lexus dipped out of the diesel market some time back, following on from the slow-selling and disappointing previous-generation IS. If brawny performance is more your thing then hunt out the RC F.
Daring Lexus RC Coupe styling
Where to start on that score? There’s no denying that the RC’s bold appearance should make an impact in the company car park. There’s a wide, aggressive interpretation of Lexus’s trademark spindle grille, menacing LED-equipped headlights, a bulbous bonnet and sleek lines that intersect each other along the RC’s flanks.
Move up to the RC F, and things get even more exciting visually. Just one glance at the bulging bonnet, creased flanks and quad exhaust outlets is enough to tell you this car has enough attitude to go toe-to-toe with the BMW M4 and Audi RS 5. Even if Lexus only sells around 200 examples of the RC F in the UK each year.
Three engines, a vast range in power and performance
For an entry-level model, the RC 200t makes a good account for itself, outgunning the 300h from the lights and at the top end. It’s the value champion of the range, capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds – but Lexus expects more customers to be drawn to the RC 300h’s greater efficiency.
While the hybrid version’s no slouch – it takes 8.6 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill – it offers far superior fuel economy at up to a claimed 57.6mpg compared with 38.7mpg for the RC 200t. Consequently the RC 300h’s CO2 emissions are as low as 113g/km, the petrol-only model being much higher at 168g/km.
The RC F is something else entirely. Its naturally-aspirated V8 petrol, weighs in at a sizable 5.0-litre capacity, and develops 475hp, making it the most powerful V8 engine Lexus has ever made. It’s shared with the previous-generation IS F, but is Euro6 compliant and puts out CO2 emissions of 252g/km and combined economy of 26.2mpg.
The RC F gets from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds before finishing its run at an electronically limited 168mph. You do have to work the car hard to get there though, as peak power doesn’t arrive until 7,100rpm and peak torque (530Nm) is only available from 4,800rpm.
Auto-only transmissions for the RC
Both the 200h and 300h have automatic transmissions as standard: an eight-speed for the 200t and a CVT gearbox for the 300h - necessary as it promotes efficiency. Lexus has tuned the RC more for comfort than sportiness, which explains why the hybrid version, with its smoother drivetrain and supple ride, is the more satisfying of the two.
The RC F also has an eight-speed automatic gearbox to help you take advantage of its power, though the box is slow to change down especially and can be less than smooth under full-throttle up-shifts. At least the glorious engine noise, of which only a minute percentage is piped into the cabin, makes the effort required of the driver seem worthwhile.
Lexus RC interior: Object lesson in quality
The interior is extremely well-built and is finished in some fine materials, with the softest of leather. All of the plastics look and feel expensive while the seats are extremely comfortable and supportive.
The rears are cramped, though – which is to be expected in a coupe such as this. The cabin owes much to the IS with the same dashboard fronting a cosier cabin. The back seat’s shaped for two with a storage facility between the chairs.
Three specification levels are on offer – focusing more on comfort are Luxury (RC 300h only) and Premier, while the F Sport takes cues, including the enormous mesh grille, from the RC F. Whichever you choose you’ll find front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen, an electrically adjustable steering column, dual-zone climate control and LED head- and tail-lamps.
The RC F is incredibly well-equipped as standard; those leather seats are also electrically adjustable and both heated and cooled – choose the Carbon edition and leather is complimented by Alcantara. The sat-nav is controlled by a touchpad controller on the transmission tunnel.
Standard equipment on the Lexus RC
A 10-speaker Pioneer sound system is fitted as standard to the RC F, and can be swapped for a premium Mark Levinson system with 17 speakers – both offer a system to improve the sound of compressed digital music files like MP3s.
Safety is taken care of with eight airbags, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Automatic High Beam headlights – while a Pre-Crash Safety system is available as an option.
Choose an RCF Carbon and along with the Torque Vectoring Differential, Mark Levinson Hifi and the Alcantara seats the car benefits from Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) bonnet, boot and roof panels to decrease weight.
The Parkers Verdict
The Lexus RC is a left-field choice in the coupe market, and none the worse for it. We love its high-quality build, and huge amounts of promised reliability – we just wish it were sharper to drive, and you could get it with a manual transmission to make use of its excellent engines.
But if you want a good-looking coupe that’s as smooth as any other Lexus, the RC should be right up your street. As for those wanting more excitement, the RC F should be a rare and very capable alternative to those more obvious German alternatives. Is it a class-leader? No, but it’s likeable, and if you’re a Lexus fan already, the RC won’t disappoint.