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The Lexus RC is a rear-wheel-drive luxury sport coupe that’s right for swift jaunts on country roads. It’s almost three inches shorter than the smallest Lexus sedan, the IS, but more than one inch wider. It competes with the BMW 4 Series, Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Cadillac ATS coupe. It’s not on their level but it’s getting closer.
Like its close siblings the IS and GS sedans, the Lexus RC uses a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension tuned on the firm side, but suitably compliant for casual driving. It might not be ready for aggressive cornering, but it hits the right balance of ride and handling for this class. Meanwhile the electric power steering feels settled and quick.
For 2016 there are two new models, the RC 200t with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and RC 300, an all-wheel-drive V6. Two existing models are the RC 350 with a more powerful V6, and RC F with a strong V8.
The Lexus RC 200t is the most affordable, in sticker price and fuel economy, but you pay for it with time, zero to sixty in 7.3 seconds, with that full-throttle pause we’ve complained about in the Lexus GS and IS having the same engine connected to the same 8-speed automatic transmission and same electronic program with the same result.
The RC 300 gets to 60 mph in a quicker 6.3 seconds.
We like the sounds from the 306-horsepower V6 in the RC 350, good grunting noises. Its adaptive controls for the transmission, throttle and steering give it a nice balance, with a few rough performance edges.
The RC F is designed to go after the BMW M4 and Audi S4, with its 5.0-liter V8 rippling with 467 horsepower. It blasts the coupe to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds and 170 top speed. It uses an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and four modes. For traction it’s got Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and a Torsen limited-slip differential. For handling and stopping it’s got 19-inch wheels and tires, firmer bushings and roll bars and bigger Brembo brakes. We’ve had it on the track, where it’s happy and composed. We like the firmer ride from the adaptive dampers, but we’re not sold on the variable-ratio steering and rear-wheel steering.
IIHS calls the Lexus RC a Top Safety Pick Plus, with all Good marks and an Advanced rating for front crash protection, with the optional safety equipment, including emergency self-braking.
The RC 200t gets 22/32/26 miles per gallon City/Highway/Combined. The RC F sinks to 16/25/19 mpg, which is good considering its 3958 pounds and big horsepower.