Lexus RC Review

The Lexus RC hybrid is a sharp-suited coupe that offers an eye-catching alternative to conventional petrol and diesel-powered alternatives. But it doesn’t have the pace to match its looks

 

6/10
Wowscore

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Futuristic looks
  • Well-built interior
  • Quiet when cruising

What's not so good

  • Not much fun to drive
  • Frustrating infotainment
  • Noisy automatic gearbox

Lexus RC: what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The Lexus RC is an eye-catching sports coupe which – unlike most German alternatives – comes with a hybrid-drive system as standard.

You won’t mistake the Lexus RC for a run-of-the-mill German coupe in the golf club car park. Its slinky roofline and wild creases make it look more spaceship than sportscar and that huge spindle-shape grille makes it look easily aggressive enough to clear a path through motorway traffic.

From 2019, the RC comes with new V-shaped daytime running lights, some modified air intakes and the option of vivid solar flare orange paint. When it comes to the Lexus RC’s interior, however, the changes are much more subtle.

You get the same broad dashboard design with lashings of plush plastics, soft leather and shiny metal trims, but a larger infotainment display now comes fitted as standard. Sadly, this is just as infuriating to use as in the outgoing RC. Instead of the conventional touchscreens and rotary dials you get in most German alternatives, the Lexus RC comes with an unintuitive touchpad that makes navigating the system’s menus feel like playing Operation – at 70mph.

It’s a good thing then that the Lexus RC front seats are nice and comfortable and come with plenty of adjustment to help you relax. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same of the back seats. They’re fine for kids, but adults will have a tough time squeezing in and it’s a real pain to fit a child seat.

Similarly, packing the Lexus RC boot with luggage is more tiresome than in most sports coupes. The boot opening is rather narrow and there isn’t as much space as you get in a BMW 4 Series, Mercedes C-Class Coupe or Audi A5.

The Lexus RC is a left-field sports coupe that favours comfort over outright speed. It’s not as sporty as most alternatives and the back seats are quite cramped, but at least it looks great

Mat Watson
carwow expert

At least picking an engine for the RC is easy. There’s only one – a 2.5-litre petrol engine that drives the rear wheels with the help of a hybrid system. This means it can cruise quietly using electric power alone around town, and it’s quiet on the motorway too – providing you don’t accelerate hard that is. Anything more than a gentle prod on the accelerator and the standard CVT automatic gearbox causes the engine to rev loudly, without any significant increase in speed.

The Lexus RC is only as quick as the most affordable versions of the 4 Series, C-Class Coupe and A5. It isn’t as much fun on a twisty country road either. It does come with a few gadgets and gizmos designed to make long motorway journeys easy, though. You get adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking as standard.

The Lexus RC is a left-field choice in the world of executive sports coupes. If you’re looking for something fun, fast and full of the latest tech, you’ll be better off with something German. But, if unusual styling floats your boat, the Lexus RC is in a league of its own.

What's it like inside?

The Lexus RC interior looks unlike anything you get in most sports saloons, but it’s let down by an infuriating infotainment system

Read full interior review

How practical is it?

Lexus RC practicality video review

The Lexus RC’s front seats are some of the most comfortable in the sports coupe business but space in the back is very tight and alternatives have bigger boots

In the Lexus RC, it's a case of the Haves and the Have nots. If you're in the front, you have lots of space; if you're in the back, you haven't

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
366 litres
Boot (seats down)
-

The Lexus RC’s front seats are comfortable and supportive in equal measure. You get plenty of adjustment to help you get comfortable on long drives and tall drivers won’t be short of headroom, either.

Don’t worry if you aren’t knocking on the door of six-foot-tall, either – you can raise the seat up high and get a good view out over the RC’s leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Since it was updated in 2019, the Lexus RC comes with thicker padding around your knees and a remodelled armrest – the latter to make operating the infotainment trackpad more comfortable. Unfortunately, nothing’s been done to make the back seats more accommodating. The small rear windows make the cabin feel quite dark and claustrophobic and there’s very little legroom available.

That being said, there’s space for two kids to sit fairly comfortably. And, you get two sets of Isofix anchor points to fit a child seat. The front seats slide forward at the press of a button to help you gain access to the back, but you’ll still have to stoop down some way to lock a child seat into position or strap in a child.

The Lexus RC’s door bins are quite long, but the armrest on each door juts out some way leaving only a narrow gap for you to squeeze a bottle through. Thankfully, you get a pair of large cupholders in the centre console and there’s plenty of space under the central armrest to hide a few bits and bobs neatly out of the way.

The glovebox is barely large enough to accommodate the owner’s manual though, and passengers in the back don’t get an armrest or any cupholders to share.

There’s space in the Lexus RC’s 340-litre boot for a few large suitcases, but you’ll find significantly more room in both the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The RC’s boot has quite a narrow opening and a raised load lip too, which makes it tricky to pack very heavy or bulky luggage.

There’s space in the Lexus RC’s 340-litre boot for a few large suitcases, but you’ll find significantly more room in both the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The RC’s boot has quite a narrow opening and a raised load lip too, which makes it tricky to pack very heavy or bulky luggage.

You can fold the back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split, but you have to unlock the folding mechanism in the boot first before reaching beside the rear headrests and pulling a lever to flip the seats forward. This might not be a stretch if you’re more than six-feet tall, but anyone shorter will have real trouble reaching the catches in the boot – especially if there’s already some luggage in the way.

Once you’ve faffed around folding the seats down, you’ll be rewarded with enough space to load a few sets of golf clubs with room to spare. Unfortunately, there’s quite a sizeable step behind the back seats which makes sliding in heavy boxes a real pain.

You do get a few shallow cubby holes under the boot floor, but they’re only really big enough to hide away an iPad each.

What's it like to drive?

Lexus RC 360 degree video review

Despite its aggressive styling, the Lexus RC is actually quite docile and feels at home cruising on the motorway. Alternatives are much more fun, though

The Lexus RC looks like it’s doing 100mph when standing still. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as rapid or as fun to drive as its look suggest. It is quite quiet and comfortable, though

Mat Watson
carwow expert

Unlike offerings from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, the Lexus RC comes with a petrol-electric hybrid drive system as standard. Its 2.5-litre petrol engine works in tandem with an electric motor to deliver 223hp to the rear wheels through a CVT automatic gearbox.

In theory, this allows the RC 300h to run in near-silent electric mode around town and on the motorway, only resorting to firing up the petrol engine when you accelerate hard. It works reasonably well – you’ll barely notice the transition between electric and hybrid drive modes – but it doesn’t have the pace to match conventional petrol and diesel-powered alternatives.

Accelerating from 0-62mph takes a leisurely 8.6 seconds – that’s about the same as the most affordable petrol-powered Mercedes C-Class Coupe – and the RC runs out of puff at 118mph. This partly down to the RC’s hefty 2,170kg weight, but its lethargic CVT automatic gearbox is also to blame. Not only is this unit slow to respond to the paddles on the steering wheel, but it causes the engine to rev excessively whenever you accelerate hard.

The payback for this so-so performance is reasonable fuel economy. Nice, but hardly a selling point for a stylish sports coupe. Lexus claims the RC will return 56.5mpg, but you can expect to see a figure closer to 40mpg in normal conditions. Unfortunately, this means the hybrid RC isn’t quite as frugal as many diesel-powered alternatives.

The Lexus RC’s narrow windscreen and rather large pillars mean it isn’t particularly easy to see out of – a common issue with sports coupes. You do at least get front and rear parking sensors as standard and a reversing camera to help you avoid bumps and scrapes in the car park. Unfortunately, the latter’s graphics look like they belong in a Nintendo games console from the nineties.

Once you’ve extricated the Lexus RC from a parking space, you’ll find it does a decent job ironing out bumps around town. Its light steering helps make it fairly easy to navigate through city traffic, too.

Head out onto a motorway and there isn’t a great deal of wind noise, but you’ll hear a definite rumble from the tyres at speed – especially in F Sport models with their larger alloy wheels.

These F Sport cars also come with adaptive suspension that lets you choose between softer, more comfortable settings and firmer, sportier setups. Unfortunately, even in its sportiest setting, the RC feels less keen to carve from one corner to another than alternatives from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

It leans more in tight turns than these cars too, and any sense of urgency mustered by the petrol engine and the electric motor is dashed by the sluggish automatic gearbox.

At least it comes with a decent amount of safety kit. You get adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road-sign recognition and automatic emergency braking as standard across the Lexus RC range.

Read about prices & specifications
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