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2019 Lexus RC Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.7

Lexus offers four capable engines in this vehicle. It’s mildly athletic, more so than other Lexus cars, though a number of rivals are still sportier. Ride quality is reasonably comfortable in all but the Lexus RC F, and fuel economy is subpar for the class.

  • "The 2018 Lexus RC coupe backs up its sexy shape and aggressive design with strong performance and an engaging driving experience." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "The distinctively styled Lexus RC F doesn't have it easy. Its German competitors were strong when it debuted in 2015, and they haven't relented in the meantime. The main hurdle for the RC F is weight – it is hundreds of pounds heavier than the BMW M4. In the traditional metrics of performance-car accomplishment, therefore, the RC F suffers." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Edgy, fun, fast ... Lexus. I'll just let that sink in for a moment." -- Autoblog (2015)

Acceleration and Power

This coupe has four strong engine options. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine comes in every RC 300 with rear-wheel drive, including the F Sports, and it puts out 241 horsepower. RC 300 and RC 300 F-Sport models with all-wheel drive have a V6 engine that produces 260 horsepower, and RC 350 coupes take this engine and squeeze out 311 horsepower. Finally, the performance-oriented RC F has a 5.0-liter V8 engine that cranks out 467 horsepower. Rear-wheel-drive RCs have an eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive RCs have a six-speed.  

Reviewers are divided on the eight-speed automatic’s gear-shifting prowess, but the engines are widely recognized for being capable. The base inline-four will get you around fine, but stepping up to one of the V6 engines will give you faster acceleration and more passing power.

The base 2019 Lexus RC 300 with rear-wheel drive gets EPA estimates as high as 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. That’s lower than many rivals. Fuel efficiency drops as low as 16 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway with the Lexus RC F and its V8 engine.

  • In the event that you need to go back to a hurried pace, though, the eight-speed automatic transmission will get in your way. When you put your foot down to extract the 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque from the RC 350's 3.5-liter V6 engine, the transmission never seems to know what gear will put you in the heart of the powerband. Perhaps the reluctance to downshift is a product of Lexus engineers placing priority on efficiency, but the RC 350 wasn't that fuel-thrifty during my test week." -- CNET
  • Transmission shifts are sharp and crisp, and the car responds quickly and satisfyingly to the paddle commands. The throttle response feels somewhat sluggish in Normal mode and sharp enough in the Sport modes that smooth starts can be a challenge." -- Edmunds
  • "Even the base RC … accelerates quickly and delivers the same cat-like reflexes as the RC 350. More demanding drivers should step up to the V6-powered RC 300 or RC 350; you'll appreciate the additional power over time." -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)

Handling and Braking

The RC is one of Lexus’ nimblest cars, but it’s still not as agile as some class rivals. The Lexus RC F adds a few sporty upgrades, but it sacrifices some ride comfort. Even small bumps will be felt in the cabin. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available.

  • It’s more fun to drive than most Lexus models. Although it’s heavier than many of its competitors from BMW and Audi, the Lexus is quick and handles well enough for most buyers. … And the F Sport models are worth the investment for the increase in handling, although the stiff ride might be a rude awakening for longtime Lexus owners. " -- Kelley Blue Book (2018)
  • "For a car that doesn't have particularly sharp handling, it's surprising that the RC F's ride is so rough. Seemingly every road imperfection gets transmitted through the seats and steering wheel. It's not a great car for road trips." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "With selectable drive modes, including Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport+, the RC 350 responds well to driver inputs, tweaking throttle, brake, and steering tuning. The car can become more efficient for the daily commute or more performance-oriented for spirited driving." -- Motor Trend (2017)
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