By Keith Buglewicz
Now in its second year, the 2016 Lexus RC luxury-sports coupe gets two new engines, broadening its appeal as an alternative to those shopping for a BMW 4 Series, Audi A5 or Cadillac ATS Coupe. Unlike previous Lexus coupes like the SC 400 from the 1990s, the 2016 Lexus RC emphasizes performance over comfortable grand touring. It's one of the most expressively styled Lexus cars to come along in decades, filling a gap in the Lexus lineup to entice younger, well-heeled buyers seeking a 4-passenger premium sports coupe. While there's a Lexus RC available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (RWD, AWD) for just about anybody, the truly power-hungry will want the V8-powered monster known as the RC F.
It used to be that to get Lexus levels of reliability you had to sacrifice personality. One look at the 2016 RC tells you those days are long gone, and this aggressively styled luxury-sports coupe has the goods and the attitude discerning buyers demand, all starting in the mid-$40,000s.
Despite its 306-horsepower V6 engine, the RC 350 isn't any quicker than the 4-cylinder-powered BMW 428i, and fuel economy isn't any better, either. Then there's the styling, which may be too aggressive for some buyers.
Two new engines join the lineup this year, filling out the Lexus RC lineup and expanding its appeal. The 2016 RC 200t comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, with the RC 300 AWD bringing all-wheel drive to the lineup at a lower price point than the RC 350 AWD.
For 2016 the new Lexus RC lineup expands to four models this year, with the addition of two new engines resulting in two new models. The new RC 200t and...
... RC 300 AWD promise the same sharp reflexes we've already enjoyed in the RC 350, albeit with slightly less power. Regardless of powertrain, the 2016 RC promises a satisfying and sporty ride; if you're expecting the pillow-soft ride of a Lexus ES you'll be disappointed. If you're expecting something that can handle tight corners and put a smile on the face of even a demanding driver, you'll be very happy. The stiff suspension makes rough roads uncomfortable, but the highway ride is nicely refined. However, if you're looking for the ultimate track-ready Lexus, there's the 467-horsepower RC F. While it's as refined as the RC 350 around town, on the racetrack it's a beast...and a blast.
G-SENSOR AI-SHIFT CONTROL
The 2016 RC uses a highly sophisticated 8-speed automatic transmission that has a G-force sensor to determine the optimal gear when the car is driven aggressively in the Sport mode. The upshot is that it's in the right gear whenever you need it, making even amateurs feel like heroes.
MARK LEVINSON AUDIO WITH CLARI-FI TECHNOLOGY
People have traded in their CDs for iPods, but they still want high-quality sound. The 2016 Lexus RC makes it a reality through the use of its optional Mark Levinson system with Clari-Fi technology. It analyzes a digital audio signal, correctly amplifying it as needed.
The 2016 RC is definitely snug, but it's comfortable, at least up front. There are four seatbelts, but in reality the rear seat is way too small for adults, and even anybody older than a toddler. Up front is a much different story. The seats are comfortable in all trims and feature extra bolstering in RC Sport and RC F models. With the 7-inch display, rounded dashboard and angled audio/climate control interface, the dash is a busy place. In AWD models, there’s a hump near the driver's right calf from the differential housing that might impede your driving position.
While it's great that Lexus is pushing its styling envelope, not everyone loves the new direction. In fact, it's a little hard to believe this wild-looking luxury coupe is a Lexus at all, which may be the point. For the most part we think it works here. The angles and muscular bulges are eye-catching at the very least, and give this coupe a distinctive look compared to its European and American competitors. From the Lexus "spindle" grille – extra-large on the RC F model – to the fins on the sides, and other details, there's nothing else like it.
The 2016 RC comes as nicely equipped as you'd expect of a luxury-sports coupe. There are standard automatic climate control, a self-dimming rearview mirror, and an infotainment system with a 7-inch display screen, rearview camera, and Lexus Enform Service Connect service. The 10-speaker audio system includes HD Radio, dual USB inputs and Bluetooth streaming with Eyes Free iPhone integration. F Sport models get standard variable suspension and Sport+ driving mode, heated and ventilated front seats, a suspension tuned for higher performance, and a power-adjust steering wheel. RC F models include bigger brakes, front sport seats and forged BBS aluminum wheels.
The options list starts with a navigation system that uses a touch-pad controller and includes an upgraded Enform suite with services such as Yelp, Pandora and stock prices. There are also heated/ventilated front seats, a leather interior, heated steering wheel and a moonroof. The Mark Levinson premium audio system makes even your iPod sound amazing, and should be top of the list for music lovers. Advanced safety features include blind-spot monitoring and a pre-collision system that can automatically brake the car. RC F models can add to their prowess with a torque-vectoring rear differential and carbon-fiber roof and rear spoiler.
Two new engines join the 2016 Lexus RC lineup. Filling out the bottom end is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 241 horsepower in the RC 200t. The 2016 RC 300 AWD comes with a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 255 horsepower, while the RC 350 and 350 AWD share the same 3.5-liter 306-horsepower V6 from last year. Power for rear-wheel-drive Lexus RC models is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission, while all-wheel-drive models have to make do with an older, less responsive 6-speed automatic. Topping the range is the 5.0-liter 467-horsepower V8 in the RC F, which is also connected to an 8-speed automatic. Note that while Lexus RC models have an edge against their BMW foes in horsepower, they aren't quite as fuel-efficient.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,650-4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 mpg
255 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
306 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg (RWD), 19/26 mpg (AWD)
467 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm
389 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800-5,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg
With a new engine comes a new base price, and the 2016 Lexus RC 200t has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under the $41,000 mark, including the $940 destination charge. If you want all-wheel drive, the RC 300 AWD starts at about $43,550, roughly the same as a rear-wheel-drive RC 350. The AWD RC 350 starts just under $46,000. Those prices are a little less than for a BMW 4 Series or Audi A5, but quite a bit more than the excellent new Cadillac ATS coupe. If you're looking to endanger your license, the RC F starts a little below $64,000, in line with a BMW M4 coupe and several thousand below an Audi RS 5. Prices climb quickly once you start adding options. Do check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying, and note that the RC should retain its value very nicely.