To this date we’ve firmly believed at CarAdvice that buyers who want a Lexus RC Coupe should choose the RC350 V6 model over the RC F V8 version. But now there’s the 2016 Lexus RC200t.
The entry-level version of the RC Coupe range is – as you may have guessed from its model name – powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque, and it brings the price of entry of the RC Coupe range down to a more affordable level.
The base model RC200t Luxury is priced from $64,000 plus on-road costs, which puts it at a $3000 advantage over the updated base model V6 RC350 Luxury. There are also F Sport ($73,000) and Sports Luxury ($83,500) models with extra kit for the cash.
We spent our time at the launch of the RC200t Coupe in Canberra this week in the mid-range F Sport model, which is essentially the most focused of the three versions on giving the driver some thrills without the bigger engine bills.
It’s clear the Lexus coupe is a competitor to the likes of the Audi A5 Coupe 2.0 TFSI quattro and the BMW 420i Coupe, not to mention the ageing Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe and the soon-to-be-revealed Infiniti Q60.
As we found with the GS200t, the RC200t was a bit slow to react from a standing start, even in the most manic Sport S+ mode with manual shifting engaged (that’s the best way to get the most out of the car).
It took a second before the engine was willing to make forward motion happen, but that was remedied with some double-foot work at the pedals, loading up the right and left and then releasing the latter offered a quicker response.
The eight-speed automatic does a good job of swapping through the cogs, and the manual paddles are quick to respond to fingertip gestures – but the gearbox will upshift of its own accord before you hit redline when you’re giving it the beans.
As it is in the NX and RX SUV offerings – but not the GS – the engine seems willing and reasonably brisk, but the car is certainly not blisteringly fast. Lexus claims a 0-100km/h time of 7.5 seconds for the RC200t, which is 1.4sec slower than the V6.
It will be – in all likelihood – better on fuel than the V6, though, with claimed use of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres (the V6 claims 9.4L/100km). We saw 10.1L/100km on the display of our 200t tester after about 50km of firm driving.
All that aside, the turbo four’s power figures are clearly short of the V6 version, which has 233kW and 378Nm, and to be frank it can’t match that car for outright excitement or performance.
Part of that comes down to the weight of the RC Coupe. At about 1675 kilograms there’s a lot of mass to move, but the heft is mainly felt in a straight line rather than through corners. That is to say that it hangs on quite well in the bends, or in fact whenever you’ve got some pace on board.
The steering is weighty and reasonably fast to react, though it isn’t perhaps as involving as in a 420i from the driver’s seat. While the front end could do with a bit more bite, it is nicely balanced and there’s decent grip at the rear end – the traction control system is well-judged, too.
With adaptive variable suspension as standard on the F Sport model there’s a quality feel to the ride and the way the car holds a flat line through corners is impressive, given its weight.
However, the 200t misses out on extra goodies that the 350 gets, including the impressive variable ratio steering and the turn-friendly rear steering system.
While that suspensoin is a little jittery over bumpy road surfaces, it is compliant enough given that the car rolls on 19-inch rims with low-profile sports tyres. On good surfaces the RC200t is incredibly quiet, too, and even over rougher, coarse-chip roads it wasn’t as deafening as could be expected.
While much can be said for the exterior styling of the RC – positive and negative, depending on your viewpoint – the interior is a more cut and dry outcome.
It isn’t overly sporty, nor is it anywhere near as ambitious in its design as the outside perhaps suggests it should be.
The high-mounted 8.0-inch media screen display shows off dated mapping software (even the Toyota HiLux has more up-to-date navigation than this car!) and it’s managed by the oft-criticised Lexus touch-pad controller. It isn’t overly easy to use, considering there are benchmark systems such as BMW’s iDrive or Mazda’s MZD Connect which offer a simpler rotary dial controller that makes for quicker interaction and less frustration.
While the presentation isn’t the last word in sports car design, the F Sport seats are excellent. They offer great lateral support and bolstering, and the electric adjustment of the seats and steering wheel means it’s easy to find the right position – though the A-pillar does eat into headspace and also impedes forward-right vision. And the foot-operated park brake is pretty old world, too.
If you need to use all four seats, there’s enough space in the second row for adults so long as those up front aren't too big (and if they are, make sure they don’t mind sitting closer to the dash).
It is a bit tight given the size of the car, with headroom (our car had the optional sunroof) and toe-room the two main concerns. Knee room is adequate with two six-footers sat in tandem.
The back seat lacks some storage options such as cup or bottle holders, but it does have map pockets on the backs of both front seats, and the seats themselves can be folded down in a 60:40 fashion. The boot – at 423 litres – is deep enough for suitcases and wide enough for a set of golf clubs, though the opening is a little shallow.
Lexus offers a four-year, 100,000km warranty on all of its vehicles, but unlike some rival brands it doesn't have a capped-price servicing program.
On first impressions the 2016 Lexus RC200t is a worthy addition to the Japanese brand’s coupe range, though without driving it and the V6 back-to-back it would be hard to recommend the turbo over the characterful six.
We’d better get the pair through the office, then! Stay tuned.