Lexus RC (2015-2020) Review
The Lexus RC is sharply styled, refined and beautifully finished, but it could be more fun to drive and suffers from a cramped interior
Strengths & weaknesses
- Looks great
- Beautifully built
- Hybrid’s efficiency
- Cramped interior
- Lacklustre driving experience
- Frustrating entertainment system
Despite being launched in 2015, the Lexus RC still looks sharp today, while the quality of its fit and finish are hard to fault. It also stands virtually alone in this class by being powered by petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain - although there is a more traditional 5.0-litre V8 option for those who prefer a more old school approach. Prices range from £38,805 for the lavishly equipped standard model through to £70,060 for the high performance RC F flagship, which takes on models such as the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63.
While the hybrid Lexus RC300h is outpaced by diesel rivals such as the BMW 430d and Mercedes C350d Coupe, it scores for real world efficiency and an attention to quality that arguably even the premium German brands can’t match. The Audi, BMW and Mercedes certainly struggle to rival the Lexus for attention-grabbing looks.
Whichever way you view it, the Lexus RC is an eye-catching machine. With its low slung roofline and aggressive slashes and curves it looks just it has driven straight off a designer’s drawing board. It’s a similar story inside, where its stepped dashboard design looks like nothing else. It’s beautifully finished too, with top notch materials.
However, while the cabin looks great, there are some aspects that could work better. The entertainment is a case in point. The 10.3-inch screen is large enough, but the graphics look dated and accessing the various menus is frustratingly tricky thanks to the occasionally unresponsive touchpad that drags a hard to see cursor across the screen.
The interior of the Lexus looks and feels special, but it’s cramped even for a coupe. Space for front seat occupants is fine, with only taller drivers finding their heads brushing the ceiling, but the two individual rear seats are extremely tight, even for small children. Making matters worse is that access to the rear is extremely restricted, with just a narrow gap between the door pillar and the back of the front seats. The boot is fairly small too, with just 340-litres of capacity, which compares poorly with the Audi A5’s 450-litre figure.
At least the safety equipment isn’t to be sniffed at, with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and traffic sign recognition featuring on all models, while blind spot monitoring standard on the Takumi and optional on F Sport. Factor in the seven airbags and you can see the Lexus is reassuring choice, even if it hasn’t been tested by EuroNCAP.
Your heart rate will be further lowered by the driving experience on the RC300h, which is more of a relaxed cruiser than a true sportscar. The steering is accurate and there’s plenty of grip, but the combination of hybrid drivetrain and CVT gearbox means the Lexus prefers a more laid back approach - there’s no real pleasure to be gained from taking the RC by the scruff of its neck. It’s at its best when wafting along as you revel in the exceptionally quiet cabin and relatively composed ride, even in RC and Takumi models that don’t get the F Sport’s adjustable adaptive dampers.
The RC F is a different breed from the standard car. It’s still refined and comfortable (for the driver and front seat passenger at least), but with its thundering V8 and stiffer suspension it’s much better suited to keener drivers. Despite its near two metre width the Lexus RC F can be threaded down twisting roads with real precision. And while it’s not ultimately as fast as BMW M4 or Mercedes-AMG C63, it’s arguably more distinctive and charismatic.
|Warranty||3 years / 60,000 miles|
|Boot size||340 litres|
|Tax (min to max)||£170 to £2135 in first year, £145 thereafter|
Best Lexus RC for...
Best for Economy – Lexus RC
The standard RC’s petrol-electric powerplant is capable of impressive efficiency, with Lexus claiming up to 45.6mpg.
Best for Families – Lexus RC
unless your family is very small, then the RC is best avoided. The boot’s an okay size, but the rear seats are cramped and access is tricky
Best for Performance – Lexus RC F
With a huge 5.0-litre V8 engine under its bonnet the RC F will race from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and is capable of nearly 170mph.
Nov 2013: Lexus RC revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show
Dec 2015: standard RC goes on sale in the UK in 300h hybrid and 200t petrol guises
Jan 2019: mildly facelifted RC arrives in hybrid and RC F guises only
Understanding Lexus RC names
This consists of a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor. The 300 relates to the fact that the combination delivers similar performance to a 3.0-litre engine, while the h denotes hybrid status. Wild RC F gets bellowing V8 petrol motor.
F Sport Trim
The RC has a fairly simple trim line-up that consists of RC, RC F Sport, RC Takumi and RC F. There’s loads of standard kit on all, with F Sport getting some racy visual additions and the Takumi extra luxury. At the top of the range is fire-breathing RC F, which is arguably a model in its own right.
Hybrid Automatic Gearbox
Lexus Hybrid Automatic is in fact a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that can constantly change the ratio to deliver most efficiency and performance. RC F gets traditional eight-speed automatic
Lexus RC Engines
2.5-litre hybrid (300h), RC F
There are two engine options available with the Lexus RC. They couldn’t be more different.
The hi-tech petrol-electric hybrid, badged 300h, is the big seller and combines impressive economy (on paper) low emissions and adequate performance. At the other end of the scale is the 5.0-litre V8 powering the RC F, which is blisteringly quick but extremely thirsty and emits the sort of sky-high CO2 emissions at odds with the rest of the Lexus range.
For most people most of the time the hybrid RC is delivers all the performance you’re likely to need and impressive efficiency. Using a combination of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor, the RC 300h produces 221hp, which is enough for 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds. However, while that looks sprightly enough in reality the Lexus never feels that quick, and that’s down to its continuously variable transmission, often abbreviated to CVT. In theory this can constantly vary the ratio of the gearbox for maximum efficiency, but on the road it tends to cause the engine to drone constantly as the gearbox holds the engine at high revs for maximum acceleration. It’s a fairly unpleasant sound and without any gearchanges acceleration never feels that urgent.
Take it easy and this package makes more sense, with gentle application of throttle keeping the revs down and encouraging the electric motor to chime in and deliver its instant torque - the Lexus RC can even run short distances of about a mile in electric-only mode. Driven like this the Lexus is a smooth, quiet and relaxing choice, perfect for long motorway journeys.
The Lexus RC F couldn’t be more different, its naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 being a real corker of an engine. It thrives on revs and delivers a snarling, bellowing sound when worked hard, encouraging you to drive harder and harder. And while its traditional eight-speed automatic gearbox isn’t up to Mercedes or BMW standards, it’s a lot more responsive than the RC300h’s CVT affair.
40.8 - 45.6mpg
Lexus RC Trims
RC, RC F Sport, RC Takumi
Lexus has kept it simple with the RC, with just four trim levels to choose from, all of which are very well-equipped.
The entry point to the range is the RC, which comes with pretty much all the standard equipment your heart could desire. Leather trimmed and heated seats, alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, LED headlamps and climate control are just a few of the standard features, while the entertainment system includes sat-nav and a 10.3-inch screen - although the graphics look a little old hat and the touchpad interface is fiddly.
Moving up to F Sport brings a host of racy looking extras, including 19-inch alloy wheels and a bodykit that adds deeper bumpers and side sills. Inside there are a smattering of F Sport logos and different trim materials. You also get ventilated seats, adaptive LED headlamps and adjustable dampers for the suspension, allowing you to stiffen or soften the ride at will.
At the top of the range is the Takumi, which takes everything the F-Sport has and adds an electric glass sunroof, 17-speaker Mark Levinson hi-fi, heated steering wheel and bespoke leather trim for the seats.
Like many Japanese built cars, long lead times from order to delivery mean that options are limited - and this is particularly the case with the Lexus RC. Most options are bundled into packs, such as the Leather Pack, which adds a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats to the RC. A worthwhile addition to the F Sport is the Takumi Pack, which adds the upgraded Mark Levinson stereo, special leather, blind spot monitoring, heated steering wheel and a sunroof, all for less overall cash than the Takumi model.
The RC F is effectively a model in its own right, but its standard level of trim is largely the same as that of the F Sport. There is also a Carbon edition, which adds the Takumi’s stereo, plus a lightweight carbon fibre roof panel.
Lexus RC Reliability and warranty
Unlike parent firm Toyota, Lexus still sticks to standard three-year and 60,000 miles warranty. However, there are opportunities to extend this cover at extra cost.
Over the years Lexus has become a star of the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, and the RC is no exception. In the 2019 survey, the brand had no fewer than three models in the top 10, while the RC was crowned as Best Sportscar, with owners praising its handling and the smoothness of its drivetrain. Better still, no car scored higher overall for reliability and quality than the RC.
Used Lexus RC
As expected, most of the examples are the RC300h, which is by far the most popular new choice. Of these the vast majority are in F Sport trim, all of which get the more aggressive styling changes that make an already distinctive car stand out even further. The F Sport is also very well equipped, although it’s worth looking out for an example with the optional Mark Levinson hi-fi.
What you’re unlikely to find are many examples of the RC200t that was produced from 2015 until the car’s facelift in early 2019. With 241hp it was barely any quicker than the RC300h, yet used far more fuel and cost a lot more to tax. Unless it’s extremely attractively priced this model is probably best avoided.
That’s not the sentiment reserved for the RCF. You’ll need deep pockets to run one, but such is the appeal of its magnificent engine and those head-turning looks that it’s hard to resist if you’re in the market for a high performance coupe that doesn’t wear the expected BMW or Mercedes badges.