2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport review

Lexus used to be all about luxury and comfort, but the brand is making a conscious effort to add a sporting edge to its cars. Part of this shift is the introduction of F Sport trim across the range, which on the mid-sized RC 200t coupe means more aggressive styling inside and out – including 19in alloy wheels and reprofiled front and rear ends – and dynamic upgrades designed to offer a more rewarding experience for keener drivers.

While the RC F is the barnstomer of the RC range with its 471bhp V8, the RC 200t employs a 241bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine to drive the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. We drove the F Sport RC 200t model, which costs £36,495; the 200t is also available in more luxury-focused Premier trim for £3000 more.

What’s the Lexus RC 200t F Sport like to drive?

For a sporting coupe, the RC 200t is on the weighty side at 1675kg – more than 10% heavier than its BMW 420i M Sport rival – and this is reflected in the car’s performance. Despite a 60bhp advantage over the BMW, the Lexus is actually 0.2sec slower to 62mph at 7.5sec. It still feels swift up to a point, but acceleration noticeably trails off once up to motorway speeds. The engine is very quiet at idle and when cruising; under acceleration it’s smooth if a tad noisy.

The F Sport has a Sport S+ drive mode as well as the Eco, Normal and Sport modes offered on other models. In adjusts the steering weight, engine and gearbox response and the firmness of the adaptive suspension (another feature that’s exclusive to this specification).

The gearbox swaps gears smoothly, but even in Sport S+, manual shifts don’t come especially quickly using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, and kickdown can be hesitant in auto mode. The gearbox is fine for driving around town, though.

To give the RC 200t F Sport more dynamism on the road, Lexus has given it firm suspension, and even in Normal mode there is the occasional thump on urban roads and some jittering on the motorway.

The payoff comes when pressing on over country roads, where the car remains impressively stable for such a heavy machine and the accurate, well-weighted steering allows a decent amount of driver involvement. The F Sport also gets a rear limited-slip differential – an unusual item to have as standard at this price – for improved cornering.

What’s the Lexus RC 200t F Sport like inside?

This might be the sporty version but there’s still plenty of plushness, with figure-hugging leather seats and top-drawer build quality, while touch-operated features, such as the temperature controls contribute to the premium feel. The plastics are generally of a high standard, though some surfaces, such as the carbon fibre-effect panels, let the side down a bit, and the vast array of buttons could look more interesting.

Standard-fit equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, DAB, lane departure warning and dual-zone climate control. Surprisingly, sat nav is optional on the F Sport, but some smartphone navigation systems can be mirrored on the 7in central display. Our test car was fitted with the premium navigation system that includes a touchpad controller. It’s a bit fiddly to use, and the standard-fit rotary control is more intuitive.

Additional sporting touches include aluminium pedals and perforated leather trim on the steering wheel and gear lever. There’s also a motorised central instrument dial taken from the Lexus LFA supercar that shifts sideways as you explore menu options.

The front seats fold and slide to allow access to the rear. It is dimly lit due to thick window frames, and seating really only adequte for two children, with very limited head and leg room.The rear seats split 60/40 and fold forward to supplement the 374 litres of boot space – a little below average for this class. The boot has a high lip, but it is both deep and uniformly shaped.

Should I buy one?

Unless you’re swayed by the RC 200t F Sport’s looks and unusualness, there are more recommendable alternatives to consider for the money, such as the BMW 420i M Sport.

Once you’ve added items such as the automatic gearbox, adaptive suspension and 19in wheels to the BMW, it costs around the same as the Lexus, yet it is a bit quicker, a bit nimbler and much more economical, posting 44.1mpg on the combined cycle against the RC’s 38.7mpg. The German car also attracts 2% less benefit-in-kind tax than the Lexus’s 28%.

On the other hand, if performance is your priority, a much quicker BMW 428i M Sport – or indeed the new Mercedes C300 AMG Line Coupe – specced without the extra options costs about the same, too.

Richard Webber

What Car? says

Rivals

BMW 4 Series

Mercedes C-Class Coupe

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