High on a Plynth

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport
2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport – All Photos by Randy Stern

This is one of my favorite coupes…

I know…I have too many favorite coupes. Yes, the mind changes a few yards to the wind on regular occasion, but life is fluid. So is my engagement with the automobile. With one already winning my heart with its experience, another one can come along and sweep me on my feet. Life works that way sometimes…

However, I must be more specific. There is a distinction between "coupe," "sports car," "grand tourer" and anything else in this category and beyond. If we know these terms well, we try to distinguish each one for their respective machine. I'll admit that these lines have been blurred, but one can parse out a specific car based on a specific class or genre of automobile.

While the Lexus RC remains one of my favorite automobiles of all time, the Porsche 911 simply joined it. If we must be specific, these two do not belong on the same phylum – that is, if I break out the RC F from the others in the lineup. Still, an RC F is considered different than a 911…

Excuse me, while I let out a primal scream.

I rarely work with coupes in the realm of the Lexus RC. I would love to drive a BMW 4-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe, Audi A5, Cadillac ATS coupe, or Infiniti Q60 – the new one, of course. They are of a formula that makes enthusiasts sing its praises. With two doors, a roof, four seats (at least) and a choice of power ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine to a high performance option that could emit more power than sense. All with price tags that certain income brackets would consider to be simply "affordable."

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

It's great we are talking about such machinery. However, do you remember when coupes were considered a dying breed? By the mere presence of the offerings by Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, the coupe is far from dead. These luxury manufacturers realized that there is a market for attainable 2+2 coupes that are designed for engagement and absolute joy.

Until the other manufacturers are able to prove me wrong, I will stick with the Lexus RC.

It was a comfortable week since I tracked the Molten RC F until the Infrared RC 200t arrived at the office. I did not mind which model year it was, as long as I could see its familiar Spindle grille in the mesh denoting the F Sport version. My money will always be on the letter "F" when it comes to Lexus products. The mesh grille finish means a bit more excitement – not the one induced by certain medications.

I once said about the first RC I drove that it reminded me of the coupes of my childhood. It's funny to think about that, especially when I recall the Datsun 280ZX 2+2, Jaguar E-Type or the Audi Coupe. These were coupes that were considered "grown up" from the likes of the Toyota Celica, Chevrolet Camaro, and Volkswagen Scirocco. The ZX, Audi and Jaguar were aspirational for those of us who were of the lower income brackets, because we wanted that extra special feeling behind the wheel.

Again, I look at the lineage of the coupes that are in the way of the RC. They began as sedans and were eventually formed into coupes – maybe with the exception of the Q60 and A5. Actually, the RC is a combination of two platforms melded into one: The IS and the GS. The design is specific for its intended purpose. The result is something that still incites debates between those who think it's a smashingly lovely machine and everyone else.

The purpose-built coupe framework offer further evidence in the RC's details. It is hard to miss the rear quarter gill-work that are aerodynamic aids or the three-dimensional front end with various open and closed ports denoting a balance between form and function. You might see some of this in its competition, but it appears to be more overt in the RC. It speaks to purpose rather than fashion.

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

In terms of the interior, this is where I get into arguments with everyone. If you touch and feel the rest of the coupe class, you always have the feeling that the Lexus RC is not as finished off as the rest. I get the fact that people want to feel as they paid $50,000-60,000 for a car want to feel high grade leather and listen to bespoke speakers when they play their favorite songs through the audio system. There are things that the Lexus RC offers that the others do not. These are the features that stand out for me above all else.

When driving the F Sport, you do get the LFA influenced instrument binnacle, with the sliding large dial. You may call this novel, but it does offer a lot of information within the combined TFT set-up than most drivers want. The touch pad controller on the console is a better solution than a knob. It does help when there are fewer menu choices to run through than most vehicles in its class. I also get a logical shifter and a real foot-operated emergency brake. It does sound corny, but there is something can be said for us who remember the great coupes of the past – tactility and a mechanical feel.

The seats are very supportive with deep bolsters. Do not expect them to be plush, but rather functional for the task at hand – driving. Again, these pieces circle back to the concept that had been lost in today's automobiles. While a lot of cars say they want you to drive, how many of them are truly equipped to do so? Leaving the whole "save the manuals"{ campaign aside, I can argue that only a few vehicles can entice even those of us with lame left legs to actually experience the driving element of a car. And, people look at me funny when I extoll the virtues of the Lexus RC.

One particular modern touch that is welcome is an infotainment system that has the power to entertain and inform you. It does so with less effort and the lack of arrogance. Then again, having driven a couple of dozen Lexus models over the past five years, I am indeed used to its system's logic and operation. It always help to see the name Mark Levinson on the lower position of the center stack. That means I can experience superior playback of music files and higher frequency radio signals – read: HD Radio.

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

This is my third RC that I had the chance to work with on a full term. The RC 350 F Sport was a great match for my wants, with its V6 power, rear drive and engaging manner. Then came the RC F – a powerhouse that combined muscle with technology and effortless propulsion. This RC 200t brings this car down to a fundamental level. The 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is now the norm in its class. Lexus added one for the RC with 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap. Considering this engine has 3,737 pounds of car to pull, I found that it was just fine for the job. It makes a sound when pressed, but it falls back into a quiet cruise when the shouting is over. The transmission works extremely well and there are only the rear wheels to drive in this car. I read the complaints about this driveline being "inadequate" for this car, but I think it is fine. In my opinion, the RC 350's V6 works best. For those with less money to spend will find the four cylinder motor simply good enough to push around.

There is an advantage to the four-cylinder turbo engine, however. In terms of fuel economy, I returned an average of 24.5 MPG. Compared the RC 350 F Sport and RC F I worked with last year, the turbo's consumption average is the best of the three. You still have to put in Premium fuel – that's what the label inside the fuel door dictated.

What makes the entire car sing is its chassis. The driving dynamics are the same – smooth ride and great handling in Normal mode, improved steering feel and cornering response in Sport S+. While the turbocharged engine works hard to keep the velocity on, everything else falls into place. Braking power is good with solid stop sin normal and panic situations.

The tester I received in the F Sport package came with a sticker of $50,345 for the 2016 model year version. For an exactly-equipped 2017 RC Turbo (the new name for the RC 200t) F Sport, that price jumps up to $50,780.

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The Lexus RC is still a great coupe, right? Well…let's talk numbers, shall we? I get that the Cadillac ATS coupe and Infiniti Q60 are less expensive on the base price and the Germans have higher price tags than the standard 2017 RC Turbo, but what do I really get with each one? I also get that the Cadillac rules the roost in terms of engine performance, while the BMW offers excellent execution. My take on these numbers are quite simple – who cares? I'm sure if you are a brand chauvinist for BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti or Mercedes-Benz and that you will defend your steed above my choice – and that is your prerogative to do so.

We can all agree on one thing: The car we choose as the one we love – or the one we own – is based on one overarching reason: Satisfaction. How does a car satisfy you? How does it satisfy your soul?

The answer to this question came with the ultimate test. What happens if you were separated from that car for a period of time? The circumstances revolving this separation came by my being hospitalized for an infection that was complicated by other health concerns. Three nights in a hospital room with only my mobile device – no laptop, a couple of visitors, a bunch of medical professionals and staff and the keys to the Lexus back home. Granted, home just happens to be a few blocks from the hospital I was admitted to.

When a connection is made with a car, you feel that connection. This is what makes the Lexus RC a great car. Once you understand the dynamics and enjoy every mile of it, then it becomes a part of you. It is like the pet that misses you when you're gone – simply because they stayed at home and cannot be transported elsewhere.

I know – this is a corny segue that feeds into the love I have for the Lexus RC. It could apply to any vehicle – your's, in particular.

2016 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

Why the RC? It reminds me that I can enjoy a wonderful 2+2 coupe – regardless of what engine lies underneath its hood – and not feel afraid to shake it up and down the road. However, I challenge the other manufacturers to show me otherwise. Infiniti – I see the Q60 and know that I have plenty of readers that want me to drive it. Cadillac – I might take you up on the ATS Coupe, but we can discuss arrangements to doing so. Audi – you have the new A5 coming, right? BMW and Mercedes-Benz – your odds are tougher than the others, but perhaps a sampling wouldn't hurt.

I place the Lexus RC on a plinth – for now. I dare someone to knock it off from there.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor Sales, USA

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