Tom Crosby: 2016 Lexus RC seeking marketplace success

Tom Crosby

Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand again this year received a top rating for reliability from Consumer Reports.

And Kelly Blue Book still rates it as the luxury brand holding the best resale value. Add top safety ratings and you can only wonder why the 2016 Lexus RC coupe, introduced for 2015 as an offspring of the Lexus IS sedan, hasn’t achieved strong sales success.

But that might be good news for potential RC buyers with the 2017 already in production, thus encouraging Lexus dealerships to negotiate prices on 2016 trims, our test-drives.

Behind the wheel of the entry-level RC200t turbo-charged, rear wheel drive coupe, drivers will rejoice in the superb handling and a ride that provides no sharp reaction to bumps and other roadway flaws, but still giving enough feedback to keep active the thrill of a sports-car performance. Stronger adrenaline rushes can be had for $20,000 extra by upgrading to the RC F, a lickety-split fast, top-of-the-line trim with a more powerful engine, extra luxury touches inside, stylish badging outside, larger alloy wheels, 200 mph top speed, rear spoiler and top-notch materials, including a lighter but stronger than steel carbon-fiber roof. It strains the wallet but thrills the heart.

Performance varies by selecting eco, normal or sport driving mode and using the 8-speed automatic transmission or steering wheel mounted manual paddles.

Lexus RC coupes have an edgy look, with flared muscular wheel arches over low profile tires, a large pinched spindle grille flanked by sharply squinting headlights, a sharply raked windshield and a sleekly smooth stance. It’s true on-looker candy.

The Lexus brand continues to have one major flaw, which may be a turn-off for some safety-conscious would-be purchasers. A center spine touch-pad is so twitchy sensitive it is often difficult seeking the right selection. It’s a potentially serious driving distraction. Verbal commands offer a much-needed and safer alternative but precise recognition of requests can be spotty. It’s best to make selections while stopped, and with options, choose apps, such as Yelp, Pandora and iHeart radio with Gracenote art and destination addresses with odd names.

The multi-level cockpit is comfortable and user friendly (except for the touch-pad).

Cargo space grows with fold-down rear seats, where seating is adequate for non-adults. There is a spare tire. There are options for upgrading to collision braking, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control for top-notch crash safety ratings.

Likes: Luxury, power, handling, ride, look, cabin comfort and design
Dislikes: Twitchy touch-pad
Bottom line: Neighbors will envy and want to go for a ride

Fact File
2016 LEXUS RC 200t 20DR COUPE

Base price w/destination fee: $40,945 ($48,120 as tested).
Curb weight: 3,737 pounds.
Wheelbase: 107.5 inches.
Length: 184.8 inches.
Width: 72.4 inches.
Engine specs: 2.0 liter, DOHC, turbo, inline 4 cylinders.
Horsepower: 241 hp at 5,800 rpm.
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. at 1,650-4,400 rpm.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/paddle shifters.
EPA rating: 22 city, 32 highway.
Range: 17.4 gallons, premium required.
Performance: 0-60 in less than 7 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.