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2017 Lexus RC: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Lexus RC, we’ve published an updated review: 2018 Lexus RC Review

By itself, the 2017 Lexus RC is perfectly nice premium compact coupe. Compare it with German rivals, though, and the threads begin to unravel. The European competition seems to have more depth, more maturity, more understanding of what it takes to succeed in this (admittedly small) class.

Try as it might, Lexus has never really produced anything that reaches the sporty level of, say, a BMW. Perhaps that time will come, but not now and not with the RC. However, that might all be fine for a lot of drivers — those who value exemplary build quality, solid reliability and high levels of standard equipment. The usually pleasant Lexus dealership experience and strong resale values might also sway an undecided buyer.

The RC takes some of its underpinnings from the IS sedan, but behind that distinctive "spindle grille" is a design of its own, signifying that the RC is not merely an IS minus the rear passenger doors. It’s undoubtedly a Lexus, though. There’s an air of refinement that pervades everything from cabin to engine to transmission.

What’s New for 2017?

The rear-drive RC 350 and the hot RC F both receive updated suspensions. And triple-beam LED headlights become available. The regular (non-F) models also have a new design of 18-in alloy wheel and a metallic black finish for the grille. See the 2017 Lexus RC models for sale near you

What We Like

Typical Lexus high-grade build quality; classy analog clock in the center console; quiet cabin; the ability to enhance a pliant ride with cornering abilities

What We Don’t

The way the center screen is set so far back and down that the bottom row of information is liable to be obscured by the center console’s lip; all-wheel-drive hardware means less space in the front footwells; extra weight of all-wheel-drive hardware; somewhat anesthetized driving experience

How Much?

$41,130-$65,140

Fuel Economy

The 200t is propelled by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends that energy to the rear wheels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 22 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined.

The 300 AWD has a 3.5-liter V6 developing 255 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Both all-wheel-drive versions of the RC have a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel use for the 300 AWD is estimated at 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.

That same V6 is tuned for 306 hp and 277 lb-ft in the RC 350. In rear-drive form, consumption is 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, or 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

A 5.0-liter V8 dishing out 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque puts the rear-drive-only F at the top of the RC class, but this engine needs exercising to make the most of it. It still returns a relatively reasonable 16/25/19 mpg.

Standard Features and Options

The 2017 Lexus RC comes as one basic model, but with different drivetrains.

The RC 200t ($41,130) starts with 18-in alloy wheels, dual polished stainless steel exhaust pipes, selectable driving modes, cruise control, LED lighting, puddle lamps, heated side mirrors, push-button start, climate control, analog clock, 60/40-split/fold rear seats, 7-in infotainment screen, rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, self-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, voice controls, 256-watt/10-speaker audio with HD/satellite radio, auxiliary audio input and dual USB ports.

The RC 300 AWD ($43,745) has its own engine and all-wheel drive.

The RC 350 ($43,985) also has its own engine and comes with the option of all-wheel drive.

The RC F ($65,140) is the high-performance variant. It has 19-in alloy wheels, power-adjustable front sport seats (driver: 10-way; passenger: 8-way), bespoke suspension, bigger brakes and a dedicated body kit.

All-wheel-drive models have heated front seats.

The list of options includes a sunroof, 19-in alloy wheels, triple-beam LED headlights, navigation, park assist, upgraded audio system and a radar-based intelligent cruise control.

The F Sport package brings an adaptive variable suspension with a sport-plus mode (for extra stiffness), sport front seats, aluminum pedals, 19-in alloys, high-friction brake pads, TFT instrumentation, variable gear ratio steering and 4-wheel steering.

The RC F offers a carbon fiber roof option, which cuts weight and lowers the center of gravity.

Safety

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has awarded the RC its highest accolade: Top Safety Pick+. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to crash-test the RC.

Hill start assist is standard throughout the range, but adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision alert are all optional. Stability control systems in F Sport versions and the RC F allow the driver to set thresholds for those electronic aids.

Behind the Wheel

A rigid body means a finer state of tune for the suspension. Getting the balance between a comfortable ride and not wallowing around corners is hard to achieve, but Lexus does it here. The RC absorbs surface imperfections, yet remains composed on sweeping freeway ramps as well as tighter country corners.

The steering feels substantial and precise, but still lacking in information about how the front tires are behaving. That’s an issue with most electric power steering systems from practically every manufacturer.

The opportunity to get more involved comes with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. Gearshift action is so mechanically perfect to be virtually imperceptible — exactly the sort of quality expected from premium cars in general and Lexus in particular.

Progress is about average for the class. In rear-drive versions of the RC 350, standstill to 60 mph is polished off in 5.8 seconds before going on to a top speed of 143 mph; all-wheel-drive cars are a tad slower. In a rear-drive F Sport version, whose rear-steer function brings maneuvering benefits at both high and low speeds, the thrill factor goes up a notch or two.

But all-wheel drive and the hardware’s extra weight is a downer. It takes a heavier foot on the gas and more aggressive behavior with the gears to get things moving, which isn’t as much fun as when there’s a degree of effortlessness in an engine.

The front seats are comfortable, with an emphasis on support rather than cushioning — an attribute that becomes more apparent in the sport seats of the F Sport trim. Think of the RC as a 2-plus-2 rather than a proper 4-seater. The rear seats are OK for kids, but no adult will want to spend much time back there.

The RC F is seriously quick. Standstill to 60 mph happens in 4.4 seconds and top speed is 170 mph. It bristles with driver aids like a limited-slip differential and (optional) torque vectoring. The result is virtually foolproof progress, bringing an ability to control the car at speeds many would find scary.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Audi A5/S5 — A new generation derived from the fresh A4. Offers 252 hp in regular form, 354 hp as an S5. Superb, classy and quite spacious for a compact coupe.

2017 BMW 440i — The big player in this class and absolutely worth test driving to experience its poise and pace, plus the fact that not many other manufacturers can make a car this thrilling. Updated to a 440i (from a 435i) for 2017.

2017 Infiniti Q60 — All-new for 2017 and an accomplished machine. There’s a quick 400-hp version. But avoid the numbing steer-by-wire option.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe — Available as a regular C300 right up to an AMG C63. The middle-ground AMG C43 does hit a sweet spot, though.

Used Porsche Cayman — Find out how a compact coupe can really drive.

Autotrader’s Advice

An RC 350 with rear-wheel drive and the F Sport package is quite entertaining and well equipped. Find a Lexus RC for sale

 

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