One look at the 2021 Lexus RC is enough to get your engine revved up for a thrilling twisty two-lane test drive, but from behind the wheel this sporty-looking coupe is anything but. A turbocharged four-cylinder and rear-wheel drive are standard; a V-6 is optional, as is all-wheel drive. Acceleration is adequate, but not class leading, and the RC lacks the sharp handling of several rivals. The upside is that this two-door mimics the refined ride of other Lexus models. There’s plenty of space for two adults to cruise in comfort in the front seats, but rear-seat riders will feel the pinch. Several tech features are standard, including an infotainment system with a Wi-Fi hotspot and a host of driver-assistance features.
What’s New for 2021?
A Black Line Special Edition of the RC is available for the 2021 model year—in addition to black exterior details and ash wood interior trim, this limited-production run of RC F Sport models comes with a two-piece matching set of Zero Halliburton luggage. Otherwise, changes are minor, including blind-spot monitoring becoming standard and parking sensors being added to the optional Premium package.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The RC is an interesting car because it looks inherently sporty; however, it fails to live up to that illusion. That makes us question stepping up to the more powerful RC350, either with or without the F Sport package. Those looking for luxury and performance from a two-door coupe should consider one of its competitors, such as the Genesis G70 or the Audi A5 Sportback. Instead, we’d stick with the entry-level RC300 that has all the style of the RC350 for less money. Those who want all-wheel drive can have it for about $2700 more. We’d also opt for the Premium package that adds heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and more. The individual options we like are the 19-inch wheels, parking sensors, sunroof, heated steering wheel, and the upgraded LED headlights.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The RC300 is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder making 241 horsepower and mated exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is its only setup. We found the automatic to be a good match for the turbo four, but the engine isn’t up to the task of pulling the RC around with any alacrity. Lexus offers two versions of its V-6 to address the lack of power. Under the hood of the all-wheel-drive RC300, the V-6 makes 255 horsepower and pairs with a six-speed automatic. The range-topping RC350 gets a 306-hp V-6 that teams up with the eight-speed automatic (RWD only) or the six-speed (AWD only). In our testing, we’ve found this engine to be velvety smooth with linear power delivery, but it’s still not as gutsy as its rivals. While it managed a 5.7-second run from zero to 60 mph, the BMW 440i coupe we tested did the deed in 4.4 seconds. Ride comfort is where the RC succeeds—and it does so with honors. Upgrading to larger wheels with lower profile tires, as featured on the RC350 F Sport we tested, does put a sharper edge on the ride, but it is never harsh. The RC is not as eager as tauter coupes when it comes to enthusiastic driving, but there’s still some room to play. The steering wheel transmits a good amount of road feeling, and there’s enough feedback to let you know when the front tires are losing their grip on the pavement.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Fuel-economy ratings for all of the RC’s available engines are unremarkable and are outperformed by most rivals. The turbocharged four-cylinder’s real-world performance on our highway fuel-economy test route turned out to be a disappointing 29 mpg; in our testing, many higher-powered rivals either matched or surged past their highway estimates. In fact, the more powerful RC350 F Sport we tested exactly matched the results of the turbo four.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The RC’s well-made interior is stylish, comfortable, and spacious, but only for front-seat passengers. Its wild exterior styling also comes with an interior drawback: big blind spots. The front seats in our RC350 F Sport test vehicle were supportive, well cushioned, and wrapped in supple leather. All RC models come with dual-zone automatic climate control adjusted by touch-sensitive slider controls that are surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. Cargo space is limited in the RC, so if you’re looking to take a long road trip, you’d better pack light. While the RC’s trunk swallowed four of our carry-on cases, it managed to add only an additional five with both of its rear seats folded. Small-item storage throughout the cabin isn’t particularly voluminous, but the Lexus’s rivals don’t offer much, either.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All RC models come with a 7.0-inch infotainment display set inside the multi-level dashboard. The system is controlled by a knob and a series of buttons on the center console. When equipped with one of the two optional navigation packages, the system swaps the rotating knob for a laptop-style touchpad that is frustrating to use because of its imprecision. Onboard Wi-Fi with 4G LTE, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa integration are all standard, but you can’t get Android Auto.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The RC hasn’t been evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and didn’t earn a Top Safety Pick the last time it was tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Otherwise the 2021 RC has a smorgasbord of standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Lexus provides a longer powertrain warranty than most of its rivals, but the rest of the RC’s coverage is average. A year’s worth of complimentary scheduled maintenance is nice, but the BMW 4-series offers three years of coverage.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
- Complimentary scheduled maintenance is covered for 1 year or 10,000 miles
More Features and Specs