When it launched in 2014, the Lexus RC gave shoppers a new and compelling way to obtain signature Lexus features, styling, and luxury in a sleek new two-door package.
The various powertrains, options, and packages offered allowed the coupe to be fine-tuned to specific needs and tastes, while its distinctive styling and one-of-a-kind cabin helped set the RC apart from competitors like the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series, and Infiniti Q60, among others.
The RC is able to accommodate two adults comfortably up front, with a little room to squeeze two more occupants in back. Wide door openings help ease entry and exit, and most models are tuned to ride with a nice blend of sportiness and long-haul comfort.
A full suite of connectivity and safety features is aboard, and shoppers could specify the F-Sport package to dial up the athletic appeal with higher-performing hardware and visuals. A high-performance RC F variant was also available, but we’ll cover that with its own review.
Feature content includes climate-controlled seats, an upgraded audio system, navigation, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, a back-up camera, a drive-mode selector, and more.
Most used models will run a 3.5L V6 that’s good for 307 hp. The coupe comes with rear- or all-wheel drive, depending on the model selected. All units use an automatic transmission. A more economical RC 300 variant was available, using a detuned 255 hp version of the V6 engine.
For 2018, the RC range was updated with a facelift, repackaging of equipment levels, and modest power increases for both engines.
What Owners Like
Many owners report a nicely balanced package, with a coupe that’s sporty but comfortable, and punchy but efficient in most driving scenarios. Seats, interior design and quality, instrumentation, and the available high-end audio and lighting systems are highly rated. The delightful naturally aspirated V6 loves to work and sounds good doing it, too. According to most owners, the RC effortlessly looks, feels, and drives like a premium product.
What Owners Dislike
Gripes include limited rear-seat space (especially headroom), and limited rearward visibility. Some owners wish for a more straightforward approach to the central command interface, and others wish for sharper responses from some of the controls in certain conditions.
Pro Tip: Don’t Forget Winter Tires
If you’ll use your RC in winter conditions, budget for a set of quality winter tires. The RC is chock full of traction-enhancing technologies – including all-wheel drive – that work much better when appropriate tires are used. Driving your RC on all-season tires in the cold and snow severely limits its safety and performance.
The Test Drive
Reliability Comes from Maintenance
Here’s one of the first brands that come to mind when we think of reliability thanks to a long history of owner satisfaction, high scores in dependability studies, and a solid reputation for delivering a no-nonsense ownership experience. Just remember that the Lexus badge doesn’t guarantee long-term reliability and vehicle health – proper care and maintenance do. Owners need to follow specific servicing and care requirements to maintain that Lexus reliability.
Check the owner’s manual and all service records, ensuring the model you’re considering has been cared for consistently and on time, ideally in a dealer setting. Poor maintenance and upkeep by former owners can ruin the reliability of any vehicle and may even void remaining warranty coverage.
Check the Consumables
A car like the RC was likely driven hard by past owners. This is hardly an issue, unless said owners wore out its consumable parts and are hoping you’ll pick up the bill to replace them. Approach any used RC assuming that it needs new tires and new brakes until you have proof to the contrary. Also, take note of the tires: you’ll want to make sure the RC you’re considering is running a quality set of appropriate tires from a reputable brand you’re familiar with.
Check the Paint
Some owners have reported issues with the paint and finish, while most have not. Check the vehicle you’re considering carefully for any signs of staining, chipping, peeling, rust spots, or other damage to the painted surfaces, paying close attention to vulnerable areas like the lower corners of the rear bumper, the rocker panels, and the edges of the doors, hood, and trunk. Many owners recommend a regular clay-bar or paint decontamination procedure, which can help remove metallic particles stuck to the paint that can cause rust and scratches.
Check the Shifter
Some owners have reported loose shifter knobs that may spin freely on top of the gearshift lever. Check for this problem, which should be highly apparent on a test drive, if applicable. If noticed, the fix is simple and easy – possibly even do-it-yourself territory for most owners.
Check the Cooled Seats
On your test drive, confirm satisfactory operation of the RC’s ventilated seats, ensuring you can feel cool air across most of your back and bum. Be on the lookout for hot-spots in the seat while the ventilation function is in operation. If present, you’ll likely notice this somewhere in the upper part of the seatback.
Many owners have complained of “hot shoulders” when their cooled seats are activated. Here’s a lot of reading on the topic. The gist? In some situations, the cooled seats generate more heat than they’re able to dissipate while trying to cool the occupant.
This issue seemed worse in first-year units, and the owner’s community says that Lexus improved the operation of the cooled seats after the first year of production. The culprit may relate to a loose or dislodged internal vent within the seat. Assess the cooled seats carefully on your test drive, noting that poor performance seems less likely from model year 2016 and on.
On seating, test-drivers should also carefully check the condition of all seating surfaces, focusing especially on the outboard edges of the driver’s seat, which take the most abuse. Some owners have reported less-than-stellar durability from the seats, citing the artificial leather used to cover them. Check carefully, and call any signs of wear, abrasion, or damage into your pricing negotiations.
Central Command Checkup
Here’s a discussion about wonky central command systems that can lag, freeze, or crash. Any funny business with the central command system should be addressed by a dealer, who will likely install updated system software to address the issue. Note that disconnecting and reconnecting the RC’s battery to try and initiate a reset of the central command system is not advised.
While running the infotainment system through its paces, check the display screen for signs of scratching or other damage. If you see any, it was probably caused by use of improper cleaning products and procedures. Some aftermarket films and covers are available to help restore the look of a scratched screen.
Skip the Mods
There’s a large sub-community of RC owners who enjoy tuning, modifying, and altering their vehicles for more speed, power, and glory; exhaust and intake systems, lowering kits, and wheel and tire upgrades are some of the most common add-ons. Just remember that non-factory parts – and especially engine-related electronics – may have negative effects on the vehicle’s long-term durability, and may even void any remaining warranty coverage. The average shopper is best to stick to a stock unit where possible.
The RC has one major thing going for it in terms of reliability as a used car. Specifically, much of its major hardware, componentry, and electronics have been proven, honed, and improved over years of use in other applications.
Thus, the owner’s community looks to be largely satisfied with how their RC’s have aged so far. Discussion forums are uncharacteristically low on threads about electronics, engine or driveline issues. So, buy confidently after making the checks above, and confirming that all maintenance is up to date. A pre-purchase inspection (PPI) in a dealer setting is highly advised before you buy for maximum peace of mind.
Here’s a recall.
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2015)