Although Lexus turned the luxury market on its head when launched in the late 1980s, it still lags in the performance arena, as demonstrated by the 2020 Lexus RC. A fine coupe by nearly every standard (design, quality, reliability and customer satisfaction), its performance doesn’t quite measure up to European rivals like the BMW 4 Series.
Almost everything is relative, right? So, in the Lexus stable, the RC is a performance standout. Although not in quite the same league as the Porsche Cayman or BMW 440i, it is steering Lexus in the right direction.
What’s New for 2020?
Android Auto is now standard. See the 2020 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
- Center screen is set so far back and down that the bottom row of information can be obscured by the center console’s lip
- All-wheel drive hardware means less space in the front footwells
- Extra weight of AWD hardware
- Somewhat anesthetized driving experience
The RC 300 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 government estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in combined driving.
The RC 300 AWD has a 3.5-liter V6 developing 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Both AWD versions of the RC have a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel use for the 300 AWD is estimated at 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.
That same V6 is tuned for 311 hp and 280 lb-ft in the RC 350. In rear-drive form, consumption is 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined or 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with AWD.
A 5.0-liter V8 dishing out 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque puts the rear-drive-only RC F at the top of the range, but this engine needs exercising to make the most of it. It still returns a relatively reasonable 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The 2020 Lexus RC coupe comes as one basic model but with different drivetrains. For marketing purposes, Lexus itemizes the RC in four core trims: RC 300, RC 300 AWD, RC 350 and RC 350 AWD. There is also the high-performance RC F with its RC F Track Edition. All prices include the $1,025 factory delivery charge.
The RC 300 ($42,320) 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, an analog clock, 60/40-split rear seats, a 7-in infotainment screen, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a self-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, intelligent high beams, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, voice controls, a 256-watt, 10-speaker audio with HD radio satellite-radio capability, Android Auto, an auxiliary audio input and dual USB ports.
The RC 300 AWD ($45,010) has its own engine, AWD and heated front seats.
The RC 350 ($45,250) has the same V6 as the 300 AWD, but it’s tuned for more horsepower.
The RC 350 AWD ($47,415) adds AWD.
The RC F ($65,925) 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. There is also an RC F Track Edition ($97,825) that includes the RC F’s features, plus a carbon fiber hood, roof, front spoiler, fixed rear wing and more.
The list of options includes a sunroof, 19-in alloy wheels, triple-beam LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, a 10.3-in display, driver’s-side memory settings, park assist, Apple CarPlay and an upgraded audio system.
The Premium Package: Lexus Memory System for driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats and Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Adding the F Sport ($5,070) 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 reduces weight and lowers the center of gravity.
Hill-start assist is standard throughout the range, while blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is optional. Stability control systems in F Sport versions and the RC F allow the driver to set thresholds for those electronic aids.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the RC its highest accolade: Top Safety Pick+. The government has not crash-tested the RC.
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 doesn’t indicate how the front tires are behaving. It’s an issue with most electric power-steering systems from nearly every manufacturer. Steering wheel-mounted shift paddles somewhat help to involve the driver. 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.
Forward progress is about average for the class. In RWD versions of the RC 350, 0-to-60 mph happens in 5.8 seconds before going on to a top speed of 143 mph. AWD cars are a tad slower. In a RWD 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 AWD 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. Trunk space is 10.4 cu ft., sufficient for a pair of golf bags.
The RC F is seriously quick. Standstill to 60 mph zips by 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
2020 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.
2020 Infiniti Q60 — An accomplished machine. There’s a quick 400-hp version, but avoid the numbing steer-by-wire option.
Used Porsche Cayman — Find out how a compact coupe can really drive.
Unless you live in the snow belt, choose a RWD version for some semblance of sportiness. The RC 350 has a decent amount of power, especially in a compact coupe. Audiophiles should also check out the optional 17-speaker/835-watt Mark Levinson surround-sound system. Find a Lexus RC for sale