By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
For the longest time, Lexus coupes were more about luxury and precision craftsmanship than posing a serious challenge to Europe’s best performance-oriented cars. With the advent of the 2017 Lexus RC luxury-sports coupe, all that has changed. Displaying styling more aggressive than a BMW 4 Series or an Audi A5, the RC appeals to a younger set without completely alienating traditional Lexus buyers. We’d say the RC is great direct competitor to the Cadillac ATS, which also has a bold, expressive face, numerous engine options and a reputation for being a beast on and off the track. Not to leave anyone unchallenged, the Lexus RC F offers a powerful V8 engine but, unlike the RC coupe, is driven solely by its rear wheels.
If you’re looking for a 4-passenger, 2-door sports coupe as expressive as it is reliable, Lexus’ RC coupe for 2017 is the one to get. With a price tag starting in the mid-$40K range, the SC represents an amazing value.
There are still some 4-cylinder turbo coupes that are quicker than the V6-powered RC 350. They also get better fuel economy. If the RC’s styling comes off as too aggressive, a BMW 4 Series, an Infiniti Q60 or Audi A5 might be a better choice.
Triple-beam LED headlights are made available on the RC 350, while the RC 350 RWD (rear-wheel drive) gains Yamaha suspension dampers as standard equipment. The RC F adds a new Linear Adaptive Variable Suspension system. Standard Scout GPS link allows smartphone navigation to be viewed through the car’s infotainment display.
With four possible engine options, the 2017 Lexus RC coupe offers a wide range of performance possibilities limited only by the amount of money in your checkbook. The RC 200t...
... and RC 300 AWD (all-wheel drive) deliver the same cat-like reflexes we so fell in love with in the RC 350, only with slightly less power and urgency. Powertrain aside, the 2017 Lexus RC excels in the corners, although the penalty paid in the form of a stiff ride might be a rude awakening for longtime Lexus owners. Broken or choppy pavement can make long rides rather unpleasant, something you won’t experience in an equally well-mannered Audi A5 or Cadillac ATS. However, as long as the highway remains smooth, the RC’s taut suspension settings are tolerable over time. Those seeking the ultimate Lexus performer should opt for the 467-horsepower RC F, a car bred for the track with very little to criticize.
G-SENSOR AI-SHIFT CONTROL
Built into the 2017 Lexus RC’s sophisticated 8-speed automatic transmission is a G-force sensor the helps choose the best gear during aggressive driving while in Sport mode. The system helps maximize performance making even the most novice driver feel like a seasoned pro.
MARK LEVINSON AUDIO WITH CLARI-FI TECHNOLOGY
Famed audio specialist Mark Levinson has a long relationship with Lexus, and the system in the 2017 RC sports coupe continues that tradition. The latest system employs Levinson’s Clari-Fi technology that analyzes and amplifies digital audio signals, distributing sound more evenly and clearly.
The 2017 Lexus RC coupe 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 2017 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 top 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.
Lexus’ RC coupe for 2017 offers a choice of four engines. Filling out the bottom end is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 241 horsepower in the RC 200t. The 2017 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 (RC 200t)
241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,650-4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 mpg
3.5-liter V6 (RC 300 AWD)
255 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
3.5-liter V6 (RC 350)
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)
5.0-liter V8 (RC F)
467 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm
389 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800-5,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Lexus RC 200t has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under the $41,200 mark, including the destination charge. If you want all-wheel drive, the RC 300 AWD starts at about $43,750, a few hundred dollars less than the rear-wheel-drive RC 350. The AWD RC 350 starts just over $46,000. Those prices are a little less than for a BMW 4 Series, an Infiniti Q60 or Audi A5, but quite a bit more than the excellent Cadillac ATS coupe. If you're looking to endanger your license, the RC F starts a little below $65,150, in line with a BMW M4 coupe but several thousand more than the Audi S5. 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.