Lexus RC (2018 - 2020) used car review

RAC Breakdown Cover

RAC Breakdown Cover

Complete peace of mind for just £7 a month.

RAC Breakdown Cover

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Lexus claims that the RC name stands for 'Radical Coupe'. Well this model's primary hybrid engine is certainly very different to the conventional powerplants its competitors offer - and it'll deliver you taxation savings that are very different too. As for the car itself, well it was first launched in 2015 but here, we're going to look at the facelifted version that appeared three years later. The car was subtly improved in this revised form but its appeal remained much as before, with an extra dimension of class that offers a change from the usual German prestige-branded choices in this segment from the 2018-2020 period this car sold in. Those cars are usually simply sleeker versions of existing saloon models. The Lexus RC isn't like that. If you're after something different in this class, it has its own very distinct appeal.

Models

2dr coupe (RC 300h 2.5 petrol/electric hybrid / RC F 5.0 V8)

History

A sports coupe can be different things to different people. For some, it must be a rewarding driving machine first and foremost. Others though, want to balance dynamic virtues with qualities like cosseting luxury and impressive efficiency. It's to these people that this Lexus RC coupe was designed to appeal. It was launched back in 2015, then in 2018, the brand's flagship LC coupe inspired the updated version we're going to look at here.

In price and performance terms, this car was designed to suit those looking at coupes based on premium-badged compact executive saloons - specifically coupe versions of the BMW 4 Series, the Audi A5 and the Mercedes C-Class. The RC shares some of its parts with a compact four-door model too, the Lexus IS, but the brand said it had also borrowed a little more of its DNA from the larger, full-luxury segment LC coupe model we just mentioned - hence what the Japanese maker hoped was a more up-market feel for the updated version of this model. The kind of thing you'd want if you had to downsize from, say, a used BMW 8 Series, a Mercedes S-Class Coupe or even a Bentley Continental GT, but didn't want to make too many compromises in luxury.

If that sounds tempting, then Lexus hopes you might also like this car's rather exclusive looks, originally derived from a concept car the brand first displayed at the 2013 Tokyo Motor show. A year later, the RC was launched in production form, but only as a pricey high performance V8 RC F variant. It took until early 2016 for two more affordable versions of this car to be made available - a petrol/electric hybrid and a more conventional turbo 2.0-litre RC 200t version that Lexus hoped would have more mainstream appeal. But it didn't, so as part of the changes made in 2018, the only four cylinder engine you could have in an RC was the 2.5-litre self-charging hybrid unit that nearly all customers liking this car wanted anyway. The wild RC F V8 version continued, with a few updates that included an extreme 'Track Edition' version, but our focus here is on the petrol/electric model.

As part of the updates made to this car, the revisions made were certainly subtle, but Lexus insisted they were significant - and went further than the few minor tweaks made to the exterior styling. Enhancements were made to the RC's aerodynamics, tyres and suspension and there were also improvements to engine response and steering feel. None of which of course was ever going to be enough to give this car the handling bite of a BMW, an Audi or a Mercedes. But hybrid buyers don't mind that and will be pleased to find a higher quality cabin with a high standard of infotainment across the range. But it wasn't enough to shift many mainstream RC models in the UK and in Hybrid form, the car was withdrawn from sale in 2020, though the V8 RC F version continued.

What You Get

One of the key reasons you might want this car lies with the way it looks. This mainstream version inevitably does without the arresting machismo of its high performance RC F stablemate, but it'll still turn heads. In terms of the changes made to this updated RC model, well you'd really have to know this car quite well to notice them - or get this facelifted version parked next to an original. Then, you'd pick up the revisions made to the distinctive 'double-spindle' grille. In profile, the low profile styling still looks arresting, seemingly shrink-wrapped, with three-dimensional curves that seem to change in appearance and effect as you move round the car. It's from the rear that this improved RC design is most easily identifiable, thanks to the restyled LED combination lamps with their more pronounced L-shaped lenses.

At the wheel, the leather-lined cabin remains deliciously different to the German class norm in its statement of style and in this updated form, Lexus carefully embellished it with details like a smarter central analogue clock and more supportive sports seats. As part of this update, all variants got the 'Lexus Premium Navigation' system with its larger 10.3-inch screen, though that means you have to have a fiddly 'Remote Touch Interface Controller' mouse pad, which is awkward to use. The instrumentation you view through the satisfyingly grippy three-spoke wheel remains a real cabin talking point. It's based on the layout used by the brand's old LFA supercar, with colours and graphics that change according to the driving mode you select via a silver dial by the auto gearstick. Press the provided steering wheel button and the central dial slides neatly to the right to reveal an informational panel. Lovely.

What You Pay

Please fill in the form here for an exact up-to-date information.

What to Look For

Lexus has an unparalleled track record for reliability, and the RC generates a particularly low percentage of warranty claims. We struggled to find any buyers who had a bad word to say about it in our ownership survey. Still, it's worth doing a very thorough check and getting any faulty electrical items fixed under warranty. It's highly unlikely that there will be any (just as well as some of the systems are incredibly complex) but check sunroof and window motors and make sure the leather and paint is in tip top shape. The hybrid drive system is incredibly tough and we've never heard of a failure. The wheels can be prone to kerbing, so factor in any refurb costs if they've been dented or scuffed.

Replacement Parts

(approx prices based on a 2018 RC 300h - ex Vat) Lexus parts aren't that much cheaper than those you'd get from the premium German marques, so don't expect big bargains here. An oil filter is about £7-£14, an air filter is about £25. Wiper blades are in the £6-£18 bracket. Front brake pads are around £34-£76 for a set. Rear pads are around £26-£40 for a set. Front brake discs are about £114 for a set; rear brake discs are about £173 for a set. If you need to replace the door mirror glass, you're looking at around £30.

On the Road

The RC 300h hybrid model that's our focus here uses a 2.5-litre petrol electric engine putting out 220hp. That's a higher output than obvious German diesel rivals offer but it's somewhat blunted, both by this car's rather prodigious weight and by the somewhat frustrating drive characteristics of the belt-driven CVT auto gearbox that all Lexus hybrids have to have. Once you stop expecting this RC to be an out-and-out sports car though, you'll bond with it much better. At a cruise it's in its element, with class-leading refinement and now enhanced aerodynamic stability. Plus with this facelifted model, we were very impressed with the improvements made to ride quality, courtesy of new shock absorbers and suspension tuning borrowed from the brand's larger LC coupe. The 'F SPORT' variant gets an 'Adaptive Variable Suspension' adaptive damping set-up that allows you to tweak the ride via the settings of the standard 'Drive Mode Select' driving modes system.

On commuting journeys, this car feels imperiously superior to its segment competitors. Like all Lexus and Toyota hybrids, it can be driven in three ways. By the electric motors only (as it is from start-off for up to 1.2 miles); with just the engine (if you're giving it full throttle); or more usually, with a combination of both. During deceleration and under braking, the engine switches off and both electric motors act as high-output generators, recovering kinetic energy that automatically recharges the batteries for the next time the hybrid system is able to switch back to electric-only mode. That explains an efficient set of running costs that see this RC 300h deliver a WLTP-rated combined cycle fuel figure of 45.5mpg and an NEDC-rated CO2 reading of 114g/km. That emissions figure helps with a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rating that could see you saving a huge amount over a comparable diesel-engined rival. In other words, you've all the ingredients for what might arguably be the most sensible sporting car you could buy from this period.

Overall

Sometimes, first impressions count and we'd wager that this car, parked alongside a comparable BMW, Mercedes or Audi coupe, would be seen by most as the classier, more up-market proposition. That'll matter to potential coupe customers, as will the fact that this car is not only good looking but also beautifully built, agreeably rapid, lavishly equipped and everyday-usable. As for the changes made to this revised post-2018-era RC model, well they'll be welcome if you already wanted one of these, but irrelevant if you didn't. The claimed dynamic differences are hard to discern, even for us. But the cabin upgrades were tasteful and safety provision is well up to class standards.

And in summary? Well this remains an interesting, more individualistic choice in this segment from the 2018-2020 period - and arguably a rather clever one. Not least because with diesel now a dirty word in some sections of society, this RC 300h model's self-charging hybrid powerplant has become even more of a significant selling point. As a result, a certain kind of buyer will like this Lexus very much. And we can understand why.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get Breakdown Cover. Our patrols fix most breakdowns on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover