- Impeccable interior craftsmanship
- Sophisticated ride quality
- Quiet at speed
- Precise steering in standard form
- V6 engine's smooth power
- Not as eager to go or turn as its rivals
- Small backseat
- Distracting touchpad controller
The 2016 Lexus RC luxury coupe fleshes out its presence this year with two more engines available than when the model debuted in 2015. Adventurously styled inside and out, the RC is based on the Lexus IS sedan and benefits from the same revisions to that model. For 2016, the RC 200t is the most affordable RC of them all, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine generating 241 horsepower and an EPA-rated 26 mpg combined.
The new 2016 Lexus RC 200t is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It, and the V6-powered RC 300, joins the RC 350 for the first time this year.
The four-cylinder engine is offered with rear-wheel drive only, so buyers in need of all-wheel drive will have to turn their attention to the RC 300. It's offered only with all-wheel drive and comes with a 255-horsepower version of the 3.5-liter V6 that comes in the RC 350.
Carried over in all versions is the lovely cabin, which owes nothing to its German rivals in terms of style. As is common with Lexus vehicles, it's replete with high-quality materials and includes terrifically comfortable yet well-bolstered front seats. The car's stiff structure helps give it a ride quality that glides over bumps.
The same beefy structure is also heavy, so the RC is slower than its competition and no quicker than its IS sedan stablemate. In our testing we've found that the RC 350 F Sport's variable-ratio steering is less convincing than the standard steering calibration. Also, the cabin's unusual touchpad-based infotainment controller in navigation-equipped models is overly distracting to use.
Nevertheless, the 2016 Lexus RC 350 deserves your attention as a stylish, well-equipped luxury coupe. It earned a respectable Edmunds "B" rating, though we'd still give the nod to the 2016 Audi A5 and S5 and the 2016 BMW 4 Series in this segment. Elsewhere, the 2016 Cadillac ATS Coupe is an appealing domestic option. It's a competitive segment to be sure, and the additions to the RC lineup will only enhance its appeal, especially at the lower price points.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
The 2016 RC lineup ushers in two new models. The RC 200t features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while the all-wheel-drive RC 300 employs a 3.5-liter V6 and slots under the RC 350. Feature availability has been enhanced, with F Sport versions now offering a limited-slip differential and performance dampers standard on the RC 200t and optional on the RC 350 F Sport. A new infotainment feature, Lexus Enform Service Connect, has also been added across the lineup.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2016 Lexus RC is an entry-level luxury sport coupe variously offered with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive among three models: RC 200t, RC 300 and RC 350. Equipment is largely the same from model to model, with a few exceptions noted below.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels with all-season tires, selectable drive modes, LED headlights and taillights, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a 10-way power driver seat, an eight-way power passenger seat, heated seats (AWD only), leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, real wood and aluminum trim and a 60/40-folding rear seat with armrest.
Standard electronics features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch color display, voice controls (including Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users) and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and iPod/USB connections. Also standard is Lexus Enform Service Connect, which provides access to vehicle status and maintenance alerts via a smartphone app.
A number of options packages are offered, although availability can vary depending on the region in which you live. The Premium package includes heated and ventilated front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Luxury package includes those items plus automatic wipers, perforated leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with a heated rim on AWD models) and driver memory settings. The All-Weather package offers headlight washers, windshield wiper de-icer and a supplementary electric cabin heater.
The Navigation package adds a console-mounted touchpad controller, a navigation system, upgraded voice controls and smartphone app integration (including Destination Search, Yelp, Pandora and iHeartRadio). The Navigation/Mark Levinson package adds a 17-speaker surround-sound audio system.
The F Sport package pads on appearance items like a mesh grille and a unique front fascia along with substantive bits like 19-inch wheels with summer (RWD) or all-season (AWD) tires, adaptive sport-tuned suspension dampers, upgraded front brake pads (RWD only) and sport front seats. F Sport models also get perforated leather upholstery and trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with a heated rim on AWD models), driver memory settings and a special instrument cluster.
F Sport variants add some body trimmings and suspension enhancements, along with available summer tires.
Stand-alone options include a power sunroof, LED foglights, variable-ratio steering with a four-wheel steering system (RWD F Sport only), a limited-slip differential with sport-tuned dampers (RC 200t and RC 350 RWD F Sport only), adaptive cruise control (bundled with a collision mitigation system) and front and rear parking sensors.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2016 Lexus RC's dramatically styled four-seat cabin is trimmed in consistently high-quality materials. Dense padding covers the upper dashboard, armrests and even the sides of the center console (where knees tend to rub). Most drivers should find the front seats impressively supportive yet supple, but those with larger frames might feel slightly snug, particularly in the F Sport's thickly bolstered chairs. Like those of many coupes, the rear seats are very short on legroom and best left for kids or cargo. Headroom back there isn't much better.
The cabin in the RC is contemporary and well-trimmed, though the touch-sensitive multimedia controller you get when you opt for the navigation system could be better.
Though the multi-tiered cockpit is unusual, it is attractive and contemporary overall, with a terraced layout and subtly upscale touches. The audio and climate controls are steeply angled, reinforcing the RC's sporty vibe, and the buttons and knobs are generally easy to use.
The navigation system's touchpad controller is the one notable foible in the cabin. Inspired by a computer trackpad, this controller is the primary method for making audio and navigation selections, and it's far from ideal. Although the 7-inch display is sharp, cursor control with the touchpad is jerky, particularly when you're on the move, not to mention the fact that all the icons are the same color. Thankfully, there are a few redundant console-mounted hard buttons, but a conspicuous absence of one for a shortcut to the map screen.
As far as carrying stuff, the RC's trunk provides 10.4 cubic feet of capacity, an average figure. It's expandable via the 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks.
The 2016 Lexus RC's standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is a one-year subscription to Lexus Enform Safety Connect, an onboard emergency telematics system that incorporates collision notification, a stolen-vehicle locator and roadside assistance.
The optional Premium package includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The adaptive cruise control option is bundled with a forward collision mitigation system that can initiate braking automatically if a frontal impact is deemed imminent.
When the RC lineup debuted last year it earned the top rating of "Good" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-impact tests; it also scored the top rating of "Good" in side-impact, rollover performance and whiplash protection from its front seats.
At the Edmunds test track, we measured a 120-foot simulated panic stop from 60 mph in an RC 350 F Sport. This distance is disappointing and longer than average for a sporty coupe, especially one equipped with grippy summer tires.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2016 Lexus RC 200t features rear-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic. According to the EPA, the RC 200t should return 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway).
The RC 300 is motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 255 hp and 236 lb-ft. It comes only with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA projects 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway).
Offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive, the RC 350 also has a 3.5-liter V6, but it generates a healthier 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for rear-wheel-drive models, and a six-speed automatic is used for all-wheel-drive cars. EPA fuel economy estimates are 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) with RWD and 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) — same as the RC 300 — with AWD.
In Edmunds testing of a rear-drive RC 350 F Sport, we managed a respectable 24 mpg on our 115-mile mixed-driving evaluation loop and clocked it to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. This is only a few tenths quicker than a four-cylinder Audi A5 and a full second slower than the six-cylinder BMW 435i or Audi S5. Even the four-cylinder 428i did the deed in 5.4 seconds.
The 2016 RC offers a range of power levels to suit the pocketbooks and sensibilities of more buyers than ever. We've been impressed with the RC 200t's turbocharged four-cylinder's refined zest. The all-wheel-drive RC 300 is a bit behind the times with its six-speed automatic and relatively modest 255-hp V6, but in the real world, it's not a slouch.
As for the RC 350, its 306-hp V6 has been with us for a decade now, but we still find it strong and satisfying, though it does lack the eager thump in the back that you get with torque-rich turbocharged alternatives. The RWD version's slick eight-speed automatic transmission (also standard on the RC 200t) is notably smoother and more responsive than the AWD model's aging six-speed. Use the throttle with gusto and the soundtrack perks up prominently, adding to the enjoyment. Yet at a steady cruise, the RC remains remarkably quiet, with little in the way of road or wind noise to mess with your Zen.
The suspension is sprung tautly enough to remind you that you went for a sport-oriented coupe, but it's by no means stiff-legged or crashy over broken pavement. The F Sport's adaptive suspension dampers actually enhance comfort, giving the RC one of the smoothest rides of any entry-level luxury sport coupe. On the other hand, we've found that the F Sport's rear-wheel-steering functionality, especially when paired with the optional variable-ratio steering system, results in darty, unpredictable handling behavior in spirited driving. We recommend forgoing this steering package if you want to get full enjoyment from the RC, as it provides rewardingly sharp steering by default.
Based on the IS sedan platform, the 2016 Lexus RC 350 distills the brand's traditional refinement into a sporty two-door package. It's a satisfying result, but a few other rival luxury sport coupes are more desirable overall.