2016 Lexus RC 200t Quick Spin
A Turbocharged Heavyweight (And Not In A Good Way)
EngineTurbo 2.0L I4
Power241 HP / 258 LB-FT
0-60 Time7.3 Seconds
Top Speed143 MPH
Curb Weight3,737 LBS
MPG22 City / 32 HWY
We took the new RC 200t out for a day on the winding roads of the Pines to Palms Highway near Palm Springs, CA, and found that while Lexus' new engine will draw new customers, they probably won't like what they find.
- The RC joins the IS, GS, and NX as members of Lexus' four-cylinder turbo clan. There's 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on offer here, numbers that compare favorably with the BMW 428i (240 hp and 260 lb-ft) and Audi A5 (220 hp and 258 lb-ft). None of that matters, though, because the turbocharged RC is easily the slowest car in its class.
- You'll struggle to keep pace with stuff like the Hyundai Veloster Turbo. The RC 200t somehow takes 7.3 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour. That's a second slower than the A5, and over half a second slower than the 4 Series or Cadillac ATS. You can't drive a car that looks as wild as this and take that long to get to 60.
- Blame it on the RC's 3,737-pound weight. Lexus only saved 11 pounds by switching out a 3.5-liter V6 for the 2.0-liter turbo. The BMW and Cadillac both weigh well under 3,500 pounds. Even the RC's four-door fraternal twin, the IS 200t, is 150 pounds lighter (and only takes 6.9 seconds to get to 60). The RC needs a diet, plain and simple.
- If Lexus truly wants to compete against the Germans and Cadillac, a snappier transmission is in order. Like the GS we talked about yesterday, the Aisin eight-speed is fine on upshifts – it's still not as fast as the 4 Series' ZF eight-speed auto – but it suffers when it's time to change down. Around town, it's less of a problem, but on the twisty mountain roads outside of Palm Springs and on the freeways, the RC's gearbox kept tripping over itself.
- We'd love to see what the 2.0-liter turbo engine could do in a lighter car, because it's a real charmer. The broad 1,650-to-4,400-rpm torque peak gives drivers a lot of space to play, although the RC does feel flat-footed as you crest 5,000 rpm. The RC acquits itself well at speed, too, responding to sudden throttle inputs with a surge of power (once the transmission decides to serve up a lower gear). Mid-range punchiness is easily this 2.0-liter's best feature. The RC's acoustics are smooth and pleasant, but more importantly it sounds realistic without being intrusive.
- The F Sport trim adds Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels shod in Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires, and a limited-slip differential. These combine for a truly entertaining handling experience. The RC's body motions are precise and well mannered, and like the GS, there's a sense of agility. It feels especially sharp and pointy on turn-in.
- But the positive aspects on the suspension front aren't enough to overcome the RC's generally reticent character. The quick steering doesn't talk to the driver and the chassis is even less communicative. We had to make regular mid-corner steering corrections because we just couldn't judge how much the Dunlop tires had to give. To give a better idea of just how uncommunicative the RC is, the stability control light flickered at us on multiple occasions, but we had no idea what the nannies were smoothing out.
Even if you're not going to be tackling mountain roads on the regular, the RC's simple lack of straight-line pace makes it a difficult vehicle to recommend. We aren't really sure how Lexus engineers broke out the stopwatches and decided that 7.3 seconds was acceptable, but it was a bad call. The good news is, the formula for fixing this two-door isn't tough – give it more power. Until that happens, the least powerful RC you'll want has a 3.5-liter V6.
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