- Base model is very good value
- Sharp and likeable handling
- Roomy back seat and boot
- Fiddly sat nav controller
- Eight-speed auto is a bit sluggish
- No blind spot assist on base car
Once the kids have all grown up, a luxurious two-door starts to make sense. No longer needing a sedan’s convenient back seat, you’re free to choose a seductively-lined coupe.
Two-doors are usually based on an underlying sedan platform, making them practical enough to use every day.
Lexus entered this segment two years ago with the RC 350, largely based on the IS sedan.
The basic premise that a six-cylinder RC 350 could be yours for the price of a four-cylinder BMW 4 Series or Audi A5. Not a bad offer.
Since then the RC range has spawned a V8 model and the latest addition is the 2016 RC 200t with a turbo four-cylinder.
The great value is still there with this new 180kW model taking on the BMW 430i and Mercedes – but the Lexus is comfortably ten to twenty grand less than the Germans.
The standard kit remains staggering – even this base model includes heated and cooled seats, premium sound, active cruise control and LED headlights.
The comfortable interior and pleasing dynamics mean you’re not missing much by choosing the Lexus over a German. As we found over ten days, the Lexus RC 200t is an easy car to justify.
A heart transplant – swapping out the V6 for a turbo four – has changed little about how this car drives.
The RC 200t exhibits many of the same positives – and negatives – as the RC 350.
Crisp and accurate steering is still the RC’s major strength. The feeling of electronic assist is stronger in the Lexus than the BMW – but the sensation quickly becomes natural. The Lexus is very easy to point through tight corners. It’s a fun car to drive quickly.
It also rides well. The chassis borrows parts from the upscale GS sedan, which shows. The compliance over bumps is impressive. Plus, the cabin is quiet at speed.
Go for the F Sport trim and it’s even better in the corners. A Torsen limited-slip differential is added along with adaptive dampers and stronger brakes.
This new engine, the base motor, is a two-litre making 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque. Those are fairly potent numbers. You’ll find the entry-level Germans have about 135kW: the RC 200t wants to be compared to something like the 185kW BMW 430i.
Give it a boot on the open road and the RC 200t feels quite quick and responsive.
Around town, the story is a bit different. In its normal mode, the eight-speed automatic gearbox is sluggish. Switching it to sports mode fixes it at the cost of fuel economy.
Lexus claim 7.3L/100km combined but we saw just under 10L/100km, which eliminates most of the four-cylinder’s economy advantage over the V6.
On the highway fuel consumption settles right down and if you do vast distances, you’ll want the turbo for its miserly behaviour.
The RC turbo has the same interior as the V6. That’s a good thing – the RC cabin is comfortable and well-appointed.
The seats are, simply, extremely comfortable. They’re sporty, bolstered buckets with good support for long distance driving. The leather trim is soft and supple, while the Sports Luxury adds particularly special semi-aniline hide.
You don’t usually get heated seats as standard on the Germans but the Lexus includes them – along with cooling, relevant for Australia.
Sound quality is very impressive if you go for the 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, but even the base model’s 10-speaker system is above average.
The RC’s navigation system lets it down. The screen is small and the touchpad interface mechanism is frustrating to use. You can get used to it, but it made us pine for the Audi’s rotary controller.
There are two usable seats in the back. Clambering in isn’t too hard as the front seats glide forward electrically. Once back there, your passengers will find that headroom and legroom is fine for six-footers, but keep the trips short.
Materials and finishes throughout the cabin feel expensive. The metal switchgear on the dash is nicely weighted and even the indicator stalks feel premium – plus, the small, soft leather steering wheel is one of the best out there.
If you’re going to use the back seats all the time, you’ll be better off buying an IS sedan.
Most people won’t be, though, and the RC does a good job of blending plenty of space with its sexy two-door profile.
It is handy to have the two back seats for occasional use by friends or kids. When there’s not people back there, it’s effectively additional storage space.
Not that you’ll need it: there’s a big boot measuring 423 litres. The back row also splits and folds to give you more room.
The fold opening is a bit narrow but we were relieved when the RC managed to swallow a few large artworks on one of our errands.
Two large suitcases would be no big deal making this an ideal car for a week away.
Inside, space is a bit tighter with a narrow central bin for clutter.
The RC’s tight steering rack makes it maneuverable and visibility isn’t as bad as it looks. Plus, safety kit is generous: the base car makes things easy with a reversing camera and keeps you safe with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and eight airbags.
The F Sport bundles useful blind spot warning technology while the high-end Sports Luxury adds automatic high beam and lane departure warning.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Lexus do not cap the price of servicing. Instead, they focus on a high-quality customer experience. It’s good – your dealer will collect the car, leave a replacement Lexus for the day, and return your car in the evening.
The service interval of the first of a year or 15,000 kilometres is practical and a welcome increase over some older Lexus models.
A four-year warranty is about a year longer than the competition and it reflects the faith Lexus have in their quality. We found that our test cars to be built well with no audible creaks or rattles. The most recent JD Power owner survey rated RC quality above average.
Like other Toyota group products, reliability issues should be few and far between.
The RC is built in Aichi, Japan alongside most other Lexus models.
Predicted RC 200t depreciation is above average. After three years and 42,000km—the average—Glass’s Guide indicates that the Lexus should retain about 60% of its value. That’s comfortably ahead of the BMW’s 57% and only slightly behind 61% for the Mercedes.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The turbo may be the entry-level RC engine, but you’re not limited to a basic trim. Any of the three Lexus trim levels can be had on the RC 200t.
We drove the base Luxury ($64,000). For most people this will be the one to buy.
Equipment levels are generous in the Luxury: you get 18 inch wheels, DAB radio, LED headlights and daytime running lights, keyless entry and start, navigation, and a ten-speaker stereo. Leather seats, which are heated, cooled and electrically-adjustable, are standard.
The next level is the F Sport ($73,000). There are some real mechanical differences – it adds a proper Torsen limited-slip differential – but the most visible change is the body kit and brighter colours. It also adds a powerful 835 watt Mark Levinson stereo.
Only a few buyers will choose the Sports Luxury ($83,500), with its 19 inch wheels, sunroof, high-end semi-aniline leather and Shimamoku woodgrain trim.
Our recommendation is the Luxury model – but go on, add the two options: a sunroof ($2,500) and premium paint ($1,500). How gorgeous is this Infrared burgundy?
Remember, the RC 200t is priced like an entry-level German but equipped and powered like a mid-level German. We have listed those mid-tier cars here.
There is a good selection of luxury two-door models. Like the RC, the BMW 4 Series has been around for a couple of years now but it received new engines for 2016. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe is brand new, and is priced accordingly. A brand-new Audi A5 arrives in a few months but deals are available on stock of the old model.
- Audi A5 TFSI quattro ($77,300) BMW 428i Luxury Line
- Infiniti Q60 GT Premium ($63,900)
- Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe ($83,400)
|Power||180kW at 5,800rpm|
|Torque||350Nm between 1,650rpm and 4,400rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||107kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.3L/100km|
Transmission and Drivetrain
Dimensions and Weights
|Cargo space (seats up)||423L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||Unspecified|