2021 Lexus RC
2021 Lexus RC
The 2021 Lexus RC is a powerful and stylish sports coupe that seats four and comes in a track-ready V-8 version.
After your eyes get past the brash and busy front end, the 2021 Lexus RC strikes a handsome profile. It’s snug and supportive for the front two passengers, but the rear seat only realistically fits kids, so it works best like a sports car, with the rear seat folded for cargo.
The main thing about the RC is that it’s flexible; with three available engines, it can be as powerful as you want it to be. The base turbo-4 makes 241 hp, a V-6 makes 311 hp, and a big whompin’ V-8 makes 472 hp. The RC is rear-wheel drive, with available all-wheel drive. There are two transmissions, a 6-speed or 8-speed automatic.
For 2021 there’s a new Black Line Special Edition, to be produced in a limited run of just 350 cars; it’s based on the F Sport model with the V-6 and adaptive suspension. Also, for 2021 every RC gets blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts and heated side mirrors as standard equipment.
The turbo-4 in the rear-wheel drive RC 300 is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. With the V-6 and all-wheel drive it gets 19/26/22 mpg. The V-8 earns a 16/24/19 mpg rating.
The 2021 Lexus RC hasn’t been crash-tested by the NHTSA, but the IIHS gives it the top “Good” rating in all six of its crash tests.
Standard safety equipment in the 2021 RC also includes active lane control, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts. Optional safety equipment includes parking sensors and triple-beam LED headlights on the F model with the V-8.
For $43,245, the base RC 300 comes well-equipped with synthetic leather seats that are power adjustable, a 7.0-inch display screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa compatibility, a 10-speaker sound system for the CD player, and a touch pad interface. The main option is a package with a 10.3-inch display screen and a Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system.
For $50,645, the RC 350 F Sport comes with the V-6 engine, sport bucket seats that are heated and cooled, a distinct grille, and dark 19-inch wheels that look cool. All-wheel drive adds $1,600. The Black Line Edition adds about $1,100.
For $68,450, the RC F is the high-performance model, with its V-8 engine. A Fuji Speedway Edition with carbon ceramic brakes and other equipment makes it track-ready.
A 4-year/50,000-mile warranty includes scheduled maintenance for one year or 10,000 miles.
After a few years on the road, the RC’s big hourglass grille has started to grow on us. It’s still a lot to take in, in combination with the RC’s teardrop air intakes and hawkish headlights that point toward the crease along the sides of the car.
The juts and jags come together down the body. The handsome profile is accentuated by a long wheelbase, low stance, and muscular rear end.
That rear end is supersized on the high-performance RC F, which also flaunts stacked quad tailpipes. It adds to its muscles with big 19-inch BBS wheels, side air curtains, and a hood vent to help cool the big V-8.
The luxurious cabin boasts superb fit and finish, with standard synthetic leather and wood trim. And there’s a lot to fit on the very busy instrument panel, whose center stack has every instrument imaginable, starting with a tachometer that can slide into center position in the gauge cluster. The panel includes a haptic slider for temperature controls, dials for volume and tuning, buttons for climate, a console touchpad to control the infotainment.
The excellent front seats are comfortable and supportive with firm bolstering and lumbar support. Red leather and an Alcantara headliner are optional, while aluminum sport pedals and heated and cooled seats come with the F Sport.
The 60/40-split rear seats have so little leg room that you might as well just fold them down. That helps expand the trunk, which isn’t very big either, at just 10.4 cubic feet.
The engine in the base RC 300 is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 241 hp. It’s able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds. After a momentary lag, the 258 lb-ft of torque comes on strong enough at 1,650 rpm, but at cruising speeds it requires a couple flicks from the paddle shifters on the 8-speed automatic to make aggressive passing moves.
The 3.5-liter V-6 makes 260 hp and comes with a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, and can hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. That’s a big jump in acceleration, especially for a car that weighs about 3,800 pounds with rear-wheel drive.
The RC 350 uses the 8-speed with RWD or 6-speed with AWD, but its 3.5-liter V-6 is tuned to make 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It’s a strong engine worth the $3,000 extra cost, as it cuts the 0-60 mph time down to 5.8 seconds in RWD or 6.0 seconds with AWD.
But the RC F brings this car to major sport-coupe status. Its 472-hp 5.0-liter V-8 makes 395 lb-ft of torque, and reaches 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, stats that can’t be argued with. Since it’s rear-drive only, it comes with the 8-speed automatic with a manual mode, and it has a limited-slip rear differential to optimize cornering and grip.
There’s also a RC F Fuji Speedway Edition with a carbon-fiber wing and ceramic Brembo brakes that hits 60 mph in under 4.0 seconds.
The handling on every version of the RC is sure-footed. The independent suspension with double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in back adapts to road conditions and weight shifts well enough to cruise smoothly and stay planted in more aggressive driving.
The adaptive dampers in the F Sport can make the ride even smoother, or even firmer. The F Sport uses 19-inch alloy wheels and lower-profile summer tires, and has additional Sport S and Sport S+ drive modes that quicken throttle response and firm up the steering and suspension. With its rorty V-8 exhaust and heavy front end, the RC F is a reminder that muscle-car track moves aren’t solely the province of American brands.
The 2021 Lexus RC can be a luxury-coupe bargain—or it can be a ferocious, expensive track tool. We’d go to either extreme: There’s nothing wrong with the RC 350’s powertrain and interior, and its ride and handling are tops. The V-8 is awesome, but it’s a special car for a special kind of driving environment.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection