Not much in the car world is better than a sexy sports car, except maybe one that offers four engine choices and a wide span of prices so more folks can afford said sexy beast.
Lexus happily does just that with its RC sports coupe, which offers two versions of its 3.5-liter V6, plus a rockin’ 467-horsepower V8-powered F model for the serious racer wanna-bes or guys overcompensating for something.
The tested base RC 200t lists at $39,995 while the V8 version starts at about $64,000.
I tested the RC 350 more than a year ago and found it powerful, stylish, nimble and well, pretty much a hoot to drive. The 200t is less of the same.
Still stylish with its distinctive spindle grille and edgy overall looks, the RC 200t features a good looking interior too and all the handling and fun of the 350, but with less power and one major stumbling block, an annoying hesitation for that power to kick in when you first tromp the gas pedal.
Here’s the deal.
While the 350 features Lexus’ 306-horse 3.5-liter V6 (a 255-horse V6 also is available), the 200t uses a 241-horse 2.0-liter I4 with twin turbos to pump up the power. The good news is the smaller engine drinks less gas and still delivers substantial power. The bad news is a lag when you hit the gas. Push, push, push and then Boom, the turbo kicks in and away you go.
Doesn’t matter if you’re using the Sport or Sport + mode of the car’s Drive Mode Select, or just the Normal setting. The lag remains much the same. The Sport and Sport + do stiffen the steering and make the car feel more track-worthy.
And to be honest, in any mode the rear-drive Lexus handles great and is responsive. And the power is there, you just have to wait for it. If you’re mainly after looks and quickness of power delivery isn’t so important, well, this is a fine choice. Plus the drive mode select feature allows you to put the car in Eco mode to further cut power and save fuel, something you may want to do in a sports car – Not!
Braking is good too and ride remains sporty, but not German touring car stiff. A fair-sized 107.5-inch wheelbase ensures the better ride and the adaptive variable suspension aids the car’s firm, but mostly compliant, ride. The test car had 19-inch summer performance tires, which aids grip, but also further firms the ride.
The other thing you give up with the twin-turbo 200t is exhaust note. This one sounds mundane, unlike the V6 that exuded racy intentions. Haven’t driven the V8, but it figures to belt out a guttural grumble.
Is this a Porsche killer? No way, but it’s better looking and more comfortable while still being quick and agile … for a lot less dough.
Even loaded up with Lexus’ performance-minded F Sport package at $4,105, the test RC 200t came in at $50,345. My grade-school math tells me that’s still less than $53,650 for a base Porsche Cayman or Boxster, and those are in base trim. It’s also less than the RC’s primary competitors, the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series, but a bit more than Cadillac’s ATS coupe.
By the way, that F Sport package delivers a sportier looking front bumper and grille, 19-inch F Sport wheels and the R19 summer tires, a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert, a changeable instrument cluster, heated and cooled F Sport seats up front wrapped in leather, a leather steering wheel and shift knob along with aluminum floor pedals and a power steering column along with active sound control
Oddly the F Sport still does not include a flat-bottom steering wheel, which would help its inner racy appearance considerably.
I liked this interior better than that of the previous 350 model. This one featured tan leather seats and trim along with the usual black dash. Black and tan always looks classy.
This interior is relatively quiet too, especially without a V6 or V8 rumbling under the hood.
There’s pewter-look trim and a tweed metallic trim on the door’s armrests to add some spiff. Wisely Lexus tops the console with a flat black finish that looks good and also reduces glare when the sun sneaks in and hits its top. Some cars load the console with chrome or metal trim that reflects back into a driver’s eyes. Not cool!
The RC 200t’s seats are perforated leather and extremely supportive with good side bolsters top and bottom and both front seats are powered. The driver gets three memory settings for that seat and power lumbar, as you’d expect. As with my earlier drive, I wasn’t impressed with the magnetic strap on the seats’ door side. This was to hold the seatbelt in place so a person could reach it easily, but the strap constantly came loose creating a rib crunching reach back for the belt.
Above is a small sunroof, a $1,100 option. While a beautiful metallic “InfraRed” paint scheme adds another $500. Other options included adaptive cruise control with a collision alert system for $500 and intuitive park assist for another $500.
A premium Mark Levinson audio system with 835 watts of power, voice command and 17 speakers, plus a navigation function on the 7-inch screen, adds another $2,610. It sounds great.
As in the earlier RC 350, everything is well laid out and simple to see, with good climate control buttons and a radio volume and tuning knob. However the Lexus still uses a horribly touchy quadrant style touch-pad on the console that is hard to use while driving. It’s a bit awkward to even use too. I had to hold my right arm at an odd angle to get at it, and then the mouse’s cursor jumped willy-nilly around the screen like a demon bunny.
That touch pad should be used while the car is stopped. Lexus needs to abandon this system, and soon.
From a practical standpoint, and even a sports coupe must deliver some practicality, there is good cargo room for a couple suitcases and sundries. The rear seat splits and folds for increased cargo capacity too. And let’s face it, the rear seat is cramped so only two of you will be traveling any distance in this coupe.
Gas mileage was good for a performance-oriented car. I got 25 mpg in about 75% highway driving. I had gotten 21.8 mpg in the RC 350. Sadly the turbo RC also prefers premium fuel, but is rated 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The 350 was rated 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. It’s my observation that you don’t buy a sports coupe for its gas mileage though.
If you can keep this or the 350 model in the $42-45 grand range, the RC is an attractive buy that looks great and will satisfy most urges for speed and sporty handling. The RC gives mid-life crisis sufferers another good car buying option.
FAST Stats: 2016 Lexus RC 200t
Hits: Exceptional styling, fast, nimble handling, excellent brakes and moderately sporty ride. Adjustable power modes. Supportive heated and cooled seats, attractive interior, sunroof, blind-spot warning and rearview camera. Good cargo room.
Misses: Major acceleration hesitation, touchy touch-pad radio/nav adjustment on console, ineffective seatbelt restraint on side of seatback to hold belt within reach, no flat-bottom steering wheel and prefers premium gas.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 2.0-liter I4 twin turbo, 241 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 3,737 lbs.
Wheelbase: 107.5 in.
Length: 184.8 in.
Cargo: 10.4 cu.ft.
MPG: 25.0 (tested)
Base Price: $39,995
Dealer’s Price: $38,146 (includes delivery)
F Sport package (F Sport front bumper & spindle grille, 19-inch 10-spoke F Sport wheels, R19 summer tires, blind spot monitor w/rear cross-traffic alert, TFT instrument cluster, heated/ventilated front F Sport seats, perforated leather steering wheel/shifter, aluminum pedals, power steering column, adaptive variable suspension & Sport + mode, active sound control), $4,105
Nav system/Mark Levinson prem. Audio w/17 speakers, 835 watts, Lexus Enform Destinations and App Suite, voice command, Lexus Insider, $2,610
Intuitive parking assist, $500
Premium paint, $595
Dynamic radar cruise control w/pre-collision system, $500
Test vehicle: $50,345
Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage