2016 Lexus RC 200t Review

Looking, Swimming and Quacking Like a Duck Yet Not Being One

When embellished with the available F Sport package, Lexus’s RC 200t coupe is something of a bait-and-switch.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when optioned accordingly, this luxury two-door provides essentially the same in-your-face visual drama as the high-performance RC F, but with none of its potent V8 performance.

You get a gaping spindle grille that’s filled with an aggressive mesh texture, gorgeous 19-inch wheels wrapped in summer rubber and the availability of some truly sexy colors including Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 and Molten Pearl, a lava-orange hue that looks ready to drip off the car’s body and set the asphalt ablaze. There’s also a bevy of other enhancements included with this $4,105 options group.

Horse Sense and Deficit Spending

But regrettably, instead of an exhilarating 467-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine, the RC 200t features something much more ordinary, a powerplant that would be more appropriate in an ES sedan or Toyota RAV4 crossover.

In spite of its racetrack looks, this vehicle features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, a displacement and configuration that’s as widespread in the auto industry as round wheels and transparent glass. It provides an uninspiring 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, figures that are altogether adequate.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Engine

That sounds like damming commentary but really, there’s nothing wrong with this engine, it just doesn’t wow you like a V8 or really polished V6, plus it makes the 200t 226 horses less potent than the RC F. That delta that makes us hurt inside, like when we see one of those Sarah McLachlan commercials about homeless animals.

If you’d prefer to forego the four-cylinder but find a V8 a bit overboard, Lexus will happily sell you an RC with a lovely bent-six. You can get a 3.5-liter unit in two potencies: one with 255 horses and another with the full Montgomery, a stable of 306 equines.

As for the RC 200t, its powerplant is matched to a ratio-rich eight-speed automatic transmission. This is the only gearbox offered in this car. Sadly, a six-speed manual is nowhere to be found, something that’s par for the course these days so I won’t fault Lexus for this omission.

Familiar Territory

When it first came out a couple years ago I was no fan of the RC’s exterior design, which borrows heavily from the IS sedan. I thought these cars looked way overdone, with too many crazy swoops and unnecessary surface details. However, over time their outward appearance has grown on me.

Unfortunately, I’m still not in love with their interiors. The dashboard design is just weird, with multiple levels it brings to mind a terraced field. Also, the optional digital/analog instrument cluster, with its motorized tachometer, is just gratuitous. Why go through all that bother? Just make it one large screen, then you can splash as many animations across it as you want.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Interior

Fortunately, the RC is comfortable, quiet and mostly easy to use. The climate system and drive-mode selector are pre-school simple, but the same can’t be said of the optional Remote Touchpad.

In lieu of a control knob or touchscreen, Lexus put a laptop-style trackpad right on the center console. It’s how you interact with the navigation system, radio and other parts of the infotainment system. In theory this sounds like a good idea; in practice it’s anything but.

The touchpad is too small and I found it quite difficult to operate, with the cursor bouncing around as I tried to hone in on a radio preset or access the navigation system. To say this is distracting is an understatement.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Remote-TOuchpad

Another strike against the RC is its inhospitable back seat. Smaller adults will find its accommodations tolerable for short jaunts but larger folks will NOT be pleased, if they fit at all. Obviously, this is an issue with lots of coupes, not just Lexus’s offering. At least this machine’s interior materials are top notch and its build quality faultless.

The Drive

Pouncing on the accelerator reveals that the RC 200t’s engine is smooth enough, responsive enough and economical enough to provide a pleasant enough driving experience. It’s altogether good, though hardly inspiring.

Acceleration feels adequate, even if Lexus claims the car can hit 60 miles an hour in relatively fleet 7.3 seconds. The RC 200t’s transmission smoothly changes gears to keep you moving forward as quickly and efficiently as possible.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Grille

On the subject of consumption, this car stickers at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highway drives. Combined, it should deliver 26, though my average missed that mark by 2 MPG. Perhaps I dipped into the turbo boost a bit much.

Like other members of the RC and IS family, the 200t drives well. Its steering and braking are firm, its ride taut without being annoying. Overall the car feels sporty, though perhaps not as engaging as rival models from BMW or Audi, but that’s OK. Not everyone wants to live on the razor’s edge. This Lexus is very livable.

Features and Pricing

Aside from what’s under its hood, the RC comes with plenty of standard equipment and a base price that’s quite approachable.

An entry-level 2017 model stickers for $41,130, including $975 in shipping charges. That’s about two grand less than the most affordable BMW 430i, which also features a 2.0-liter engine, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and 18-inch wheels.

In addition to all of this, the RC 200t comes with a standard 10-speaker sound system, eight airbags, a full-color Multi Information Display and real wood trim.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Headlamp

The model I evaluated cost just shy of 50 grand, which for some reason seems like an awful lot. A limited number of extras inflated the base price to this level, with the F Sport package being the most expensive. Assuaging the sticker shock slightly, this option gets you niceties like a digital instrument cluster, aluminum-trimmed pedals, the Lexus brand’s Adaptive Variable Suspension system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and more, all for about four grand.

The navigation package added another $2,610 to the price tag, bringing a pounding 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system to the table along with the abovementioned Remote Touchpad.

Rounding things out were orange brake calipers ($300), a parking-assist system ($500), adaptive cruise control ($500) and a limited-slip rear differential ($460).

The Verdict

Lexus’ RC 200t is the spittin’ image of its big brother, the high-performance RC F. It looks like a go-fast coupe, even if its performance is merely middling.

2016-Lexus-RC-200t-Main-Art

If you like what you see here, I recommend opting for one of the available V6 engines. They’re more responsive and better sounding, but if you can swing it, the V8-powered F model is the best of the bunch.

And on that note I close this review with a suitably Japanese bit of verse, an automotive haiku; it’s just a shame this car isn’t quite poetry in motion.

A two-door Lexus.

The RC 200t.

At least it looks fast.

Discuss this story on our Lexus RC Forum

  • All looks, no power. A shame really. I was considered this car as my next and was hoping for comparable power to the Mustang Eco Boost. For the same price you can get a decked out 3-series or mid range 4 that’s just as luxurious and quicker.

  • craigcole

    Yeah, overall it was kind of disappointing, which is sad.