Revised exterior, same engines

Introduced in 2014 as a spiritual successor to the SC, the RC is Lexus’ modern take on luxury German coupe like the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and Audi A5. Four years old as of 2018, the RC was updated to mid-cycle specs at the Paris Motor Show.

Somewhat surprisingly given what was revealed through spy shots, the facelifted RC boasts significant upgrades on the outside. Lexus also improved the interior with premium features and revised the chassis for a sportier ride. Overall, the Japanese used the bigger LC coupe as inspiration, but skipped the drivetrain department, leaving the old engines unchanged. Let’s find out more about that in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Lexus RC.

2020 Lexus RC Exterior

  • Redesigned grille
  • Aggressive splitter
  • LC-inspired bumper corners
  • All-new headlamps
  • Revised mirror caps
  • Bigger taillights

*** The headlamps mark the biggest departure from the previous RC, as Lexus removed the hockey stick LED lights ***

Although it’s just a mid-cycle refresh, the exterior boasts notable changes, most of them inspired by the flagship LC model. This comes as a surprise, as the camouflaged prototypes suggested Lexus made only mild upgrades.

Up front, Lexus redesigned the familiar Spindle grille to include a new mesh, while the square cutouts at the bottom were removed for a more cohesive look. The psychedelic looking mesh now stretches over the entire area between the sharp edged grille frame. Lexus also raised the bottom frame of the grille to make way for a slim vent and a more aggressive splitter at the bottom.

*** The traditional round bulbs were replaced by a stack of three LED lights ***

The corners of the bumper were redesigned too and it’s pretty obvious that the flagship LC coupe was used as inspiration. Sure, the RC doesn’t have the same trim element that trickles down from the headlamps toward the splitter, but the bumper was reshaped to suggest a similar design. The outlets are a bit larger too and feed more air to the brakes.

The headlamps mark the biggest departure from the previous RC, as Lexus removed the hockey stick LED lights under the main lamps. The daytime running lights are now integrated into the headlamps, which are notably bigger and feature a more organic design. Also, the traditional round bulbs were replaced by a stack of three LED lights placed toward the outer edge. The V-shaped LEDs that point toward the grille also give the coupe a more aggressive look when the lights are turned on. They also go well with the sharp design of the grille.

*** Bigger changes are noticeable around back, starting with the significantly larger taillights ***

Not much has changed around the sides save for the aerodynamically optimized mirror caps and revised wheels. But this isn’t a problem, as the RC has one of the hottest profiles thanks to its prominent beltline, muscular rear haunches, and deeply sculpted side skirts.

Bigger changes are noticeable around back, starting with the significantly larger taillights. Their outer and inner edges look more refined, while the latter extends all the way into the frame of the license plate recess. The center part of the taillight also extends toward the bumper, which mimics the design of the front bumper thanks to its bigger, deeper vents.

All told, the facelift RC looks surprisingly different and stands out when compared to the German luxury coupes from this segment.

2020 Lexus RC Interior

  • Brushed finish trim
  • Bigger knee pads
  • Analog clock from LC
  • New aluminum trim
  • New upholstery colors

*** The heater control and audio panels now have a brushed finish for a more upscale look ***

Cabin upgrades are far from spectacular, but Lexus made a few notable changes. The heater control and audio panels now have a brushed finish for a more upscale look, while the knee pads that flank the center console are larger and raised higher for increased comfort.

There’s also a reshaped driver’s palm rest with a stitching pattern, the kind of attention to detail you want to see in a premium vehicle. Lexus also added an analog clock identical to the one in the LC high on the dashboard. As it turns out, Lexus wants to make this a distinctive feature for its coupe models.

*** Lexus added an analog clock identical to the one in the LC high on the dashboard ***

You can now choose between five trim options, including real aluminum Naguri and brushed metal. The same options are available for the F Sport model. New interior colors include Mustard, which features subtle yellow accents on a black background and Ochre, borrowed from the flagship LC coupe. In all, there are seven interior color combinations for both the standard and F Sport models.

The fact that Lexus didn’t make too many changes is both good and bad. The good news is that the cabin layout still looks modern and stands out when compared to other coupes in this niche. The squared off center stack, the angled center console, and the infotainment display mounted deep into the dash are pretty much unique in this segment. On the other hand, the Japanese coupe lacks the visual refinement you get in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe and Audi A5, while some of the plastic trim is much too obvious. Still, the RC has what it takes to soldier on for a few more years.

2020 Lexus RC Drivetrain

  • Same engines
  • Same output
  • Retuned suspension
  • Sharper steering
  • Grippier tires

*** Lexus only made some fine adjustments to the suspension system and the powertrain ***

Lexus made a big deal in explaining that the RC adopted the "sharper and more graceful" driving concept that defines the LC flagship. The coupe is supposedly "thoroughly fun to drive," but the upgrades aren’t as extensive as Lexus wants us to believe. The company only made some fine adjustments to the suspension system and the powertrain to sharpen the handling characteristics, while obtaining a more stable ride quality.

The revised aerodynamics contribute to this as well, as do the higher grip tires and the new shock absorbers. The latter provide higher damping force from low suspension stroke speeds and work in conjunction with stiffer bushings.

Unfortunately, these upgrades aren’t backed by more powerful engines. The RC continues with the same drivetrain options, including the base turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The intermediate model gets its juice form the same V-6 engine with 311 horsepower, while the range-topping coupe comes with 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque thanks to the 5.0-liter V-8, one of the last surviving naturally aspirated V-8 mills on the market.

2020 Lexus RC Prices

Pricing for the updated Lexus RC hasn’t been announced, but it should remain relatively unchanged after the upgrade. If anything, Lexus could add an extra $1,000 to $2,000 to the old sticker, depending on the model. The outgoing RC starts from $40,640 in base guise and from $64,650 in RC F trim.

2020 Lexus RC Competition

BMW 4 Series

2018 BMW 4 Series Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 702126

The Lexus RC has no shortage in competition. The BMW 4 Series is one of those competitors, and in true Bimmer fashion, it’s offering the coupe with an abundance of options, including as many as 31 different model and powertrain variations. It would take a while to run down the whole list of 4 Series versions, but the important thing to remember is that in terms of power, gas versions generate anywhere from 184 horsepower for the base 420i to 326 horsepower for the 440i.

If you prefer diesel versions of the 4 Series, you have plenty of choices there, as well. The base 420d, for example, comes with 190 horsepower on tap while the top-of-the-line 435d xDrive will give you 313 horsepower to play with. The Lexus RC has its hands full with the BMW 4 Series for good reason as the latter is regarded as one of the best cars in the segment. What’s more, BMW just unleashed a brand-new 3 Series for the 2019 model year and a new-generation 4 Series with better technology is underway. Pricing for the BMW 4 Series starts from $44,800 for the 430i and from $53,200 for the range-topping 440i xDrive.

Read our full review on the 2018 BMW 4 Series.

Audi A5

2017 Audi A5
- image 702947

The Audi A5 is another rival the Lexus RC has to contend with. Just like the 4 Series, the A5’s German roots gives it the kind of equity that the RC is still trying to earn. The Lexus should get to that point eventually, but it will still have to deal with an Audi that has its own share of features and options. Under the hood of the A5 sits a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged to produce 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. There aren’t that many engine options available to the A5 as there are to the 4 Series, but there are places in the world where the A5 is available with a 2.0-liter diesel burner, a 3.0-liter diesel, and a high-spec 250-horsepower 2.0-liter gasoline engine. Pricing for the Audi A5 starts at around $42,000. The A5 retails from $42,800 in base Premium trim but fetches $50,400 before options when ordered in the range-topping Prestige variant.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A5.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

Just like its German counterparts, the C-Class Coupe is available with a range of gasoline and diesel engines, boasts state-of-the-art tech, and looks damn sexy on the outside. However, the two-door comes with just one non-AMG drivetrain in the U.S. It goes by the name C300 and uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 255 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. If you need more oomph, the AMG C43 version, powered by a 3.0-liter V-6, generates a solid 362 horsepower. If you want an alternative to the RC F, the AMG C63 model comes with a 4.0-liter V-8 rated at 469 horsepower. Opt for the S model and output jumps to an unparalleled 503 horsepower. The base C300 model costs $43,800 before options, while the range-topping AMG C63 S retails from a whopping $75,500.

Read our full reviews of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe and the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe.

Conclusion

Since taking shape in 2014, the current-generation Lexus RC has had an uphill battle competing against the likes of the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and the Audi A5. It’s done well for itself considering the competition, but it still has plenty to prove in the face of its rivals. The good news is that Lexus has done a good job keeping the RC competitive in a number of ways. The facelift goes a long way in refreshing the coupe to a newer audience. Combine that with the coupe’s performance chops and you have a car that’s slowly becoming more and more of a threat to the establishment. It might take some time before the RC can be considered in equal footing with the 4 Series or C-Class Coupe, but it’s getting there. This update gives me hope that the next-generation RC will finally have what it takes to steal a lot of customers from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

  • Leave it
    • Interior materials could improve
    • Competition is fierce and dangerous
    • Still doesn’t have that enduring quality

Further reading

2015 - 2016 Lexus RC High Resolution Exterior
- image 649178

Read up on the previous 2015-2018 Lexus RC

2019 Lexus RC F Sport Exterior Spyshots
- image 736288

Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Lexus RC F Sport.

2020 Lexus RC F GT Spyshots Exterior
- image 787985

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Lexus RC F GT.

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Read more Lexus news.

Lexus is proud to announce a new version of the RC luxury sports coupe, which is scheduled to make its global debut at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Since its introduction in 2014, the RC has played a major role in promoting the Lexus brand’s commitment to delivering an emotional driving experience. Thanks to its aggressive styling and versatile driving character, the RC has become a highly sought-after coupe by enthusiasts who value performance and world-class craftsmanship.

The fresh new styling of the 2019 RC retains all the virtues of the previous model yet further refines the design language first established by the flagship LC coupe. Inside the cabin, everything from the high- quality materials to the design of controls and gauges were reevaluated to maximize driving pleasure.

Enhancements have also been made to the RC’s aerodynamics, tires and suspension, as well as improvements to engine response and steering feel, all of which result in a sharper and more refined drive. This provides a high level of driver confidence and a reassuring ride quality, making it an ideal companion whether you’re challenging a twisty mountain road or taking a long-distance journey on the open highway.

New RC Features Sporty, Yet Elegant Design

Lexus designers sought to maintain the RC’s dynamic coupe proportions, while adding a high level of elegance to the exterior. This was done through the addition of distinctive design elements, such as a new front bumper corner that flows down from the headlamps and a grille mesh pattern that gradually transforms from top to bottom. Optional triple LED headlamps and L-shaped LED clearance lamps also add to the car’s more refined appearance. Air ducts have been added to the corner of the RC’s rear bumpers along with revised rear combination lamps that now house more pronounced L-shaped lenses, a new signature design feature for Lexus coupes.

The new RC F Sport receives the grille mesh pattern that graces all F Sport vehicles, as well as numerous other custom exterior and interior items exclusive to the F Sport, including aggressively-styled 19-in. alloy wheels that were inspired by those on the LS and LC.

A total of 10 different exterior colors will be available for the RC, including a new color, Blue Vortex Metallic, that truly convey the car’s sporty nature.

Updated Interior Details Further Refine the RC Experience

In order the enhance the feel of the cabin, a new Dark Gray Streamline treatment has been applied to the heater control panel and audio panel, while enlarged knee pads have been raised to create a heightened sense of space.

New ornamentation, also Dark Gray Streamline, will be made standard on the RC F Sport. In all, the customer can choose from six different types of interior trim. Interior colors include Glazed Caramel and Black with Yellow accents. In all, there are seven exclusive interior color combinations available, including those for the F Sport.

The New RC Adopts “Sharper and More Graceful” Driving Concept

The idea of “sharper and more graceful” defines the LC flagship, so Lexus engineers have applied the same concept to the new RC. This included enhancing the car’s aerodynamics and fine-tuning the suspension system and powertrain. Armed with a more stable ride quality and sharper handling characteristics, the new RC is more athletic and responsive than ever.

Enhanced aerodynamics—such as a new fin shape on the side window mold and a duct on the rear bumper that improves air flow, result in improved stability. New 19-in. wheels and tires with increased grip deliver excellent steering response. Stiffer suspension bushings have been incorporated along with new shock absorbers which provide significant damping force from low suspension stroke speeds. Thanks to a significant amount of real-world testing that allowed constant fine-tuning by the chassis engineers, the new RC delivers an extremely supple ride quality and razor-sharp handling characteristics.

More details on the 2019 Lexus RC coupe will be revealed in October when the it makes its world debut at the 2018 Paris Motor Show.

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