It doesn't move as fast as it looks, but it's still a worthy sports coupe candidate

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport Review

Lexus goes after sporty coupe buyers with the draw of efficiency

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: May 3rd, 2016

When the RC bowed in 2014, it was clear that Lexus wanted to leave an altogether different impression than one of cushy luxury for the upper middle class. Next to the radical and insanely quick LF-A supercar, there was nothing in the Lexus lineup quite like the RC coupe. It wasn't enough for the brand to tweak fascias and give their cars more sporting driving dynamics like the new IS's. They wanted to throw a sporty coupe in the mix, one that would go up against the likes of the BMW 4-Series and the Audi A5.

2016 marks the introduction of two new models in the RC range: the V6-powered RC 300 that slots under the RC 350 and the four-cylinder turbocharged RC 200t, the new base trim. This "economy" Lexus sports coupe is geared towards buyers who don't care as much about the power delivery as they do about good handling and ride, along with the benefit of solid fuel economy numbers and the same creature comforts the top end RC provides. We drove it to see if this trim still provided driving pleasures and that Lexus comfort factor we love so much.

  • Driving Impressions

    If there's one thing about the RC 200t that stands out, it's the composure. Sure, it's lacking in power compared to the RC 350's 306 hp, but it's not far off from the RC 300's 255 horses. It actually has 22 more lb-ft of torque than the RC 300's 236, so in real world driving, there might not be too much of a difference, and the RC 200t costs a few thousand less. What doesn't suffer is the RC 200t's handling and composure under virtually all conditions. It remains stalwart, and that's a serious statement for this very new coupe.

    Our tester came in F Sport trim, so it benefitted from the adaptive suspension, and it shows. It handles bumps and pavement gaps like a champ, and you never feel unsettled. We'd find it tough for any sub $40K (base) sport-luxury coupe to manage a ride like this.

    • Ride Quality: Virtually peerless at this price. Its stiff structure make it supremely comfortable to drive in just about any environment.
    • Steering: Our tester didn't have the optional variable-ratio steering system, which is supposedly a bit touchy and non-linear. Our standard steering setup was both quick and precise but lacked great feedback through corners.
    • Acceleration: The somewhat disappointing turbo lag is paired with a 0-60 time of around 7.3 seconds. Slow for this segment and price.
    • Braking: The RC 200t's brakes are solid with good pedal feel and progression.
    • Handling: Though the car is on the heavy side (3,737 lbs), its handles well thanks to the great suspension.

  • Technology and Safety

    It's surprising that Lexus has nailed so many things in this coupe but failed to address the infotainment system that still seems so antiquated and finicky. We're thankful that the mouse-like knob is gone, but it's been replaced by a near-equally frustrating square touchpad that has all the precision of a balance board. Controlling various systems from audio to navigation, it's just not suited for a car of this caliber (or for any car, really).

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The 7-inch display is clear, but the fact that all of the icons are the same color (dark blue) with a seriously awfu font detracts from its usefulness. It constantly overshoots the intended selection, which is distracting and annoying.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: No issues here. Easy and fast with no problem recognizing and re-pairing upon re-entry.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: Solid voice calls on both ends, and the upgraded Mark Levinson 17-speaker surround sound system is crisp and loud, even with the windows down at 70 mph.
    • Controls:
    • Safety: The standard safety equipment is robust with ABS with brake assist, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. Our optional dynamic cruise control with Pre-Collision assist provide added safety.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    There's not much about the RC lineup's design that you can consider conservative, short of the smooth and very handsome fastback profile. That being said, even with all of the creases, angles and protrusions, the RC still comes across as an attractive, head-turner of a sports coupe.

    The F Sport package adds the slick, menacing black mesh grille and a tweaked front fascia, beautiful 19-inch wheels and, of course, F Sport badging. These are nice touches that add to the coupe's visual punch. We love the fact that Lexus tried to do something different with their RC coupe without going completely overboard like the NX CUV, which we feel is a bit overdone.

    • Front: There's nothing "un-dramatic" about the front end. From the chevron driving lights to the huge maw, it's a serious statement that's pretty polarizing but not wrong.
    • Rear: It's hard to imagine a busier rear end, but the RC does it without hesitation. We won't call it attractive with the creases, folds and protruding taillights, but it somehow seems to work. We'd like to see the faux Porsche 959 vents at the bottom totally removed. They add nothing to the car.
    • Profile: Visually the most appealing aspect of the car. It's a clean profile with its fastback greenhouse that looks truly good.

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    The RC's interior is truly unique from an aesthetic standpoint. Nothing about the interior looks remotely German, which is a great approach for Lexus in setting themselves apart. The cabin is modern but not weird, slick but not uncomfortable. It's actually surprisingly good in terms of driver and passenger comfort (the rear seats are only good for kids or short adults for brief trips). The seats cosset and support, and the bolstering for harder driving is just about perfect. Keep in mind, girthier occupants will find the seat cushions too narrow for long-haul comfort. Too bad the perforated leather seats came in an awful mustard yellow color. Why this is a colorway for the RC is beyond us.

    Steering wheel diameter, thickness and positioning are all excellent, as is the seating position. And though we lament the display screen's visuals, the F Sport instrument cluster is both easy to read and entertaining, especially with the movable center gauge. Another great option is the frameless rear view mirror that occupies less windshield real estate and looks slick, too.

    • Front Seats: Some of the best in the business in terms of comfort, support and bolstering. The front seats are a great place to sit and don't contribute to fatigue unless you're a bit on the stocky side.
    • Rear Seats: Small, like a 2+2. Don't cram any regular-sized adults back there due to the lack of both leg and headroom.
    • Visibility: Good visibility out front. The big C-pillars make rearward maneuvers and lane changes tough without a blind spot monitoring system and rear camera.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    Though no one will look to the RC to keep and carry a ton of stuff, it's more than respectable when it comes to nooks and crannies. The center armrest isn't huge but can hold a fair amount of small items. The cupholders are well-constructed and do a good job of holding taller tumblers and cups. We loved the angled shelf just in front of the display screen, perfect for holding phones even in spirited driving.

    • Storage: The small shelved glove compartment is a bit tight, as are the small-ish door pockets. Too bad there's also no cubby just below the center console. For a sporty coupe, we couldn't expect more sizable compartments, so this isn't unexpected. Lexus does a good job given the space available.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: 10.4 cubic feet of capacity in the trunk means it can carry a weekend's worth of luggage but not much more. Drop the rear 60/40 split folding rear seat, and you can cram in more.

  • A modern GT that's just about got it all

    If we wanted something faster, we'd only have to go with the Subaru BR-Z, but that has no rear seats and lacks the panache of the RC. If we wanted something with more badge cred, we'd go with the BMW 4-Series, but optioned out like our tester, it's significantly more expensive. What the RC 200t does is provide a great driving experience, amazing reliability and nearly unparalleled comfort for a good price. Plus, it thumbs the nose at convention by virtue of its styling.

    The whole of the 200t F Sport's package is an attractive one. The 32 mpg is a solid number, while the entertainment of driving a composed sports coupe every day isn't betrayed by a jarring ride or a painful, non-utilitarian interior. We like the RC 200t but can't help feel it needs more power and better infotainment tech and controls. These aren't deal breakers, but the daily frustrations with the user interface could be annoying over the long haul (or drivers will just get used to it). We do recognize the fact that most RC customers won't autocross or track the car, so the dearth of real power isn't a total loss. The RC may not throw a wide net of appeal--but it will draw customers who want something different that still shows a penchant for sport and sophistication.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

    Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode

    Drivetrain/Layout: rear-wheel drive, front-engined

    Power Output: 241 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 22 city / 32 highway

    Base Price: $39,995

    As Tested: $50,345 (incl. $940 delivery, processing and handling fee)

    Standard Features: Drive mode select with ECO, Normal, Sport and Snow; Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, 18" aluminum wheels, LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, dual chrome exhaust, Lexus Enform Safety Connect: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button, and Roadside Assistance, Lexus Enform Service Connect, Lexus Enform Remote, frameless rear view mirrors with auto-dimming, HomeLink Garage Door Opener, 10-way power driver's seat with 2-way lumbar, 8-way power passenger seat, Multi INformation Display full color with audio, phone and trip information, backup camera, Bluetooth, 10-speaker audio, Lexus Premium Display Audio System, HD Radio with REal-time traffic and weather, Gracenote Album Art, MP3 Player, USB Integration, CD, SiriusXM Satellite Radio

    Options on our test vehicle: F Sport Package: F Sport front bumper and spindle grille, 19" 10-spoke F Sport Wheels, blind spot monitor, TFT instrument cluster, heat & ventilated front F Sport seats & drive memory, perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, power steering column, silver perforated trim; Performance: Adaptive Variable SUspension and Sport S + Mode, Active Sound Control; Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio, 17-speakers, 835 Watts, Voice Command, Lexus Enform, Lexus Insider, Remote Touchpad control, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Black Brake Calipers, Intuitive Parking Assist, Premium Paint, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/ Pre-Collision System, Moonroof.

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