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2017 Lexus RC200t – Personal Luxury Coupe, Hardcore Enthusiast Need Not Bother

Eric Trytko November 9, 2016 Featured, Lexus Reviews, Reviews 2 Comments

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Lexus call it “Molten Pearl”, I called it “Creamsicle”, my wife, “The Pumpkin Spice Car”, whatever you call it, RC200t F-Sport, may be the best attainable daily driver GT car you can buy today.

If I’m correct, you’ve had one of three reactions. Number one, “are you FU#$ING MAD!!! Number two, that car is hideous to look at, it doesn’t matter how good it is. Number three, “you’ve given away the whole plot at the beginning man!”

Let’s pull out Bob Ross’ four-inch brush and paint with some broad strokes, shall we? Enthusiasts discount anything that doesn’t come with a manual, unless it’s some exotic supercar, and then only reluctantly. The number of cars from Japan that they have time for can usually be counted on one, maybe two hands. With a Lexus nameplate, there is one, but it is no longer in production.

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On the surface, a 3,700-pound coupe with a barely usable back seat, a two-liter turbo motor and no manual option doesn’t look good on the surface. Well, then there is the surface, i.e. the looks. You either dig the Cylon grill and the angular lines, or you can’t look away fast enough. Both are fair points, and the upside is, forward looking design is decisive, you like it or you don’t, but it makes you have an opinion, and it isn’t going to fade into the background.

The thing is, the RC200t is a great place to pound out the miles. The seats are comfortable, the entertainment system sounds good, the interface could use a major rethink, but unlike Audi, you don’t have to turn the navigation wheel in an unnatural direction to get places. It’s quite, the ride has the correct amount of firmness without being harsh. A tight canyon road, not ideal, long winding roads, two lane back roads or four lane highways, this car will eat them up.

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Get on a four lane highway, work your way through traffic, you aren’t working hard, the car doesn’t feel like it either, yet you look down and your speedometer reads in the triple digits, again, and again, and again. The eight-speed auto trans in this car is geared so tall that at 55 mph, it’s turning 1,600 rpms! This car likes to RUN!

It’s very easy to see tossing a couple bags into the trunk with your significant other for a long weekend, and your plans are, “second star to the right, and straight on till morning.” The car isn’t fast in a straight line, but it’s quick enough. The transmission isn’t as good as the ZF 8 speed unit, but only when you are operating in manual mode. Like all modern vehicles with six- gears it’s way too eager to upshift, and in doing so, it can expose a hole in the turbo’s power band. However, rotate the selector into Sport or Sport+, the transmission and throttle mapping sharpen up, and that problem goes away.

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Most of the self-proclaimed enthusiasts are yelling at their screens at this point with words like BMW 4 Series, Audi A5, Cadillac ATS Coupe. Yep, you are right, they have more enthusiast credentials, they are more performance orientated, they are more “drivers cars”. If you were to lease rather than buy any of those three I can see your argument. Own one, for and extended period of time, i.e. longer than five or six years, well then, to paraphrase B.B. King, “as long as you’re paying the bills, you’re paying the cost to be the boss.” German cars out of warranty, depreciation for any of the above models, if it’s worth it to you, cool.

On the other side of the argument is Lexus reliability and the dealer network, better resale value, the most practical side of the equation. What’s more important to you, maximizing the part that you use 10% of the time, (performance aspects of the BMW, Audi, Caddy) or maximizing the 90%, the daily driver aspect, that is the Lexus and it excels at.

Personal Luxury Coupe, Luxury GT these are two labels that this Lexus wears well. It’s meant to coddle, not excite, it’s Kenny Burrell rather than Angus Young. It’s the day to day life rather than the weekend thrash. It’s a generalist rather than a specialist.

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With a starting price a Lincoln shy of $40,000 and as tested $49,410 with delivery included, there is no value play here. When you are dropping fifty large on a two door coupe, it’s an indulgence. Even with today’s cheap money, 0-3% financing for 72 months, it still requires a six-figure income to put one in your driveway. The requirements for that person are very likely far different than those of the internet car enthusiast.

It’s always interesting looking at sales numbers, in the U.S., Lexus moves about 1,000 units of the RC a month, Audi moves around 700 A5’s, BMW around 2,800 4-Series and Cadillac doesn’t break out the Coupe numbers. For such a low volume segment it draws a significant amount of scrutiny from the auto enthusiast community. Sure as cars evolve more and more to be just another commodity, we try to hold on to anything that has a distinctive personality. The problem lies in that we want something so specialized that only the enthusiasts would buy it, and maybe 10% of them have the income and resources to purchase them. Basic economics say that will lead to extinction rather than a rebirth, so, rather than ridicule the RC because it doesn’t meet your blood purity requirements, “vive la différence”!

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  • Maymar

    I think my biggest problem with the RC (in all forms) is the IS sitting right across the showroom. Since this is a weird amalgam of the IS and GS platforms (I think there might be something else in there as well), it actually comes out heavier, and I’m not sure what the benefit is (no one ever seems to talk about how it compares to the IS, I can’t see there being any real difference until you get to the F, which doesn’t currently have an IS equivalent). I suppose there’s the odd tall person (specifically, long of leg) that hates having the B-pillar right next to them and doesn’t use their back seat all that much, but that’s a tiny market. Other than that, it’s a more expensive, uglier version of a better car.
    And to be fair, I sort of get the IS. That new turbo engine is a bit outgunned on paper, hopefully for the sake of being overbuilt and understressed, to be able to run 250k+ easily. Other than that, it’s one of the better implementations of Predator-face, and drives nicely. I don’t even know how much of a loss the stick is as the 6-speed IS250s I’ve tried have felt a bit crude and crunchy.

  • Rudy™

    >> Number two, that car is hideous to look at, it doesn’t matter how good it is. <<

    That's it, right there. That gaping maw on the front is some unfortunate design element that is afflicting their cars as of late. Although if you owned an all-black car, at least that mess would be minimized. From the other angles it just looks bland, which is something that has turned me off from Lexus from the beginning…albeit, very finely crafted blandness. The rear/side view above just makes it look like what should be a 2017 Celica. (Although I always thought those early 90s Celicas looked pretty cool.)

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