Lexus RC coupe review (2014-2020)
"The rakish Lexus RC is a well-built luxury coupe, but it’s not as fun as rivals"
- Looks stunning
- Quiet on the move
- Superb fit and finish inside
- Not much fun to drive
- Cramped in the back
- No diesel engine
The Lexus RC is a striking four-seat coupe that wears Lexus’s dramatic angular styling to eye-catching effect. Available in some outlandish colours for even more impact, the RC is essentially a more showy, two-door coupe version of the Lexus IS saloon.
For 2019 its looks were made even more striking, with L-shaped LED daytime running lights at the front echoed by new rear lights and pronounced air ducts. New 19-inch multi-spoke wheels and orange brake callipers arrived too, while the interior gained a new steering wheel, sports pedals and sportier front seats.
There’s no diesel engine, instead the only powertrain is the 300h hybrid, which consists of a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor, offering a maximum of 220bhp.
A much faster, BMW M4-rivalling Lexus RC F was also launched before the RC with a thumping V8 engine, and we’ve reviewed that separately.
It isn’t easy for any interior to live up to the RC’s exterior styling, but Lexus’ designers have managed it, with a cabin full of impressive materials and an ergonomic layout. All models can boast Lexus' 'premium navigation' system controlled by a remote control touchpad, which isn't the most intuitive system to get used to. Safety equipment is comprehensive, too, with standard adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam and lane departure alert as part of the Lexus Safety System+.
Like other models in the Lexus range, the RC performs particularly well for relaxation and comfort, but those looking for excitement may be left wanting. A number of rivals outperform the RC, led by the BMW 4 Series, which is more agile, with less weight and more driver engagement. Meanwhile, the Mercedes C-Class Coupe is arguably even nicer inside, and offers a more impressive infotainment system.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Unlike rivals such as the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe, the RC doesn’t offer a diesel engine, so its fuel-efficiency figures can look underwhelming, but its hybrid powertrain represents clean fun, with low emissions that should entice business customers.
The RC 300h hybrid returns up to 45.5mpg (depending on trim level) and emits 141g/km of CO2. But hybrids are more sensitive to driving style than other engines, so in day-to-day driving you’re probably more likely to see around 40mpg, with more impressive numbers coming the more the hybrid’s electric motor is allowed to come into play. Company-car drivers should be impressed with its decent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band, particularly given its sporty looks.
Depreciation will probably be the biggest ongoing cost of running an RC, but insurance will be pricey enough, too. Ratings span from group 31 for the RC to group 32 for the RC Takumi.
After the initial CO2-weighted payment (usually rolled up in the advertised 'on the road' price), Hybrid RC models cost £140 per year, with five years of £325 surcharge payments if the list price with options is higher than £40,000.
Engines, drive & performance
The Lexus RC 300h can offer reasonably eager performance, but it has to fight against its own significant weight. There’s also no manual gearbox option: the RC 300h gets a somewhat irritating CVT automatic, with synthetic 'steps' that mimic a conventional gearbox. Mash the throttle and revs flare, provoking the four-cylinder engine to emit a rather coarse blare.
So although the RC is no back-road blaster, it is at least an accomplished motorway cruiser, insulating you from bumps and ruts in the road – as well as wind and tyre noise – very well. This is despite the fact that the RC has slightly firmer suspension than its Lexus IS saloon sister model. The facelifted version is a touch better in corners too, thanks to tuned steering and suspension that's made the RC feel slightly sharper without being any less comfortable.
The RC 300h hybrid takes 8.6 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph and tops out at 118mph, figures that are unlikely to worry rival brands. The BMW 420i hits the same benchmark in 7.3 seconds and has a top speed of 147mph.
Interior & comfort
Anyone familiar with the inside of a Lexus IS saloon will be totally at home in the RC, as that car’s dashboard has been carried over almost unchanged. It’s reassuringly solid, with excellent fit and finish and very high material quality; it’s just lacking a bit of the design flair you get in an Audi, Mercedes or BMW.
There are some nice touches, though, including strips of white ambient lighting on the doors, touch sensitive reading lights and ventilation controls, which are attractive, but not always as easy to use as physical buttons.
Up front, all RCs have a big 10.3-inch screen for displaying sat-nav, infotainment, the reversing camera and settings. You control it using a small touchpad, and while this has some advantages over a touchscreen, it's a bit too fiddly for our liking. We'd prefer the combination of a scroll wheel and intuitive voice controls. Changes for the refreshed RC are tellingly subtle, with a new brushed effect for interior trim, larger knee pads for the centre console and a new driver's palm rest.
The entry-level RC trim has 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and go, dual-zone air conditioning, power-adjustable front sets with heating and ventilation functions, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. F-Sport models have an interior and exterior sports styling package, as well as adaptive sports suspension and a special S+ mode in the drive mode select menu. Add the Takumi pack (for £2,000) to F-Sport models and you get a heated steering wheel, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson hi-fi system and an electric sunroof. There's also some added safety in the form of a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
You’ll at least be comfortable while sitting there: Lexus seats are truly superb and the RC offers a cosy, cocooned feel from its low-down driving position. The aforementioned good ride quality keeps things unflustered on the move, too.
Practicality & boot space
Up front, there’s lots of space for the driver and front-seat passenger in the Lexus RC, with extensively adjustable seats ensuring you can find the position that’s most comfortable for you.
Anyone who regularly carries back-seat passengers should probably make a beeline for the four-door Lexus IS saloon, though, as the RC’s tiny back seats aren’t much use at all – not to mention being tricky to get into in the first place, although the front seats do move forward electronically to help with this.
Luggage space is better – and can be expanded thanks to the rear seats being of the 60:40 split-folding variety. Its boot size measures 366 litres, however, the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe all offer 400-plus litres, putting the Lexus in the shade once again.
Reliability & safety
There’s very good news in this department: the Lexus RC is closely related to the Lexus IS saloon and that model finished in the number-one position in our 2015 Auto Express magazine Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, and was still riding high in eighth position in our 2020 results. This is definitely an area where Lexus is ahead of its German rivals, and even if something does go wrong, you’ll be in very good hands, as its customer service is also second to none. Lexus came top out of 30 car brands in 2020.
Like all Lexus models, the RC gets a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty, but the hybrid components of the 300h model are separately guaranteed for eight years. All RCs also have a 12-year warranty against rust.
Safety-wise, the RC hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but the IS did receive the maximum score of five stars when it was tested in 2013, along with a very impressive 91% adult occupant protection score. The only downside is that some of the latest hi-tech safety systems offered on rival models, such as automatic emergency braking and active cruise control, aren't present on the RC.