What the experts say about the 2018 Lexus RC

The 2018 Lexus RC. —Lexus

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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.

2018 Lexus RC

These days, it’s tough finding a two-door luxury coupe with room for four passengers. But if that’s what your heart desires, consider the Lexus RC, a car that’s small, nimble, and offered in a high-performance trim that delivers an impressive top speed of 170 mph. As a bonus, Lexus doesn’t sell many, so you’re unlikely to show up at the valet in the same ride as someone else.

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The Lexus RC comes in three trims — 300, 350, and F — with a significant range in performance. The RC 300 base model runs on a respectable 241-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. The all-wheel-drive version ekes out 260 horsepower using a 3.5-liter V6. The mid-grade RC 350 beefs up power to 311 horsepower with a 3.5-liter V6. With the performance-oriented RC F, you’ll get a 467-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8. Rear-wheel-drive models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive models get a six-speed automatic.

Inside, the car feels reasonably upscale, with standard NuLuxe upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, and power-adjustable front seats. The RC also comes equipped with a 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, a 7-inch display, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, Scout GPS Link navigation, and the Lexus Enform infotainment system.

Boston.com Dealer Specials:

The 2018 Lexus RC received top safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All models come equipped with a rearview camera and Lexus Safety System+, a suite of safety features that includes lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beam headlights, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, and forward-collision warning with brake assist. Buyers can add blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

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The RC 300 base model delivers 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Those numbers fall for all-wheel-drive models and upper trims.

The 2018 Lexus RC 300 starts at $40,640. The RC 350 and RC F begin at $43,570 and $64,650, respectively.

What the experts are saying

Watch the headlights

“The 2018 RC is one of our top-rated large luxury cars, earning the Top Safety Pick+ designation for overall safety performance. The RC is rated ‘Good’ across the board in six crashworthiness evaluations, including the new passenger-side small overlap front crash test. This car also has a standard front crash prevention system that is rated ‘Superior’ in track tests that measure how well the car’s automatic emergency braking system can avoid some kinds of crashes altogether. The coupe’s base LED headlights earn a ‘Good’ rating for how well they light up the road at night while limiting glare for oncoming vehicles. The base headlights get extra credit for standard high-beam assist, a system that automatically switches between high beams and low beams, depending on the presence of other vehicles. Watch how you option the RC, though. In an unusual twist, this car doesn’t qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ award when equipped with an optional premium headlight package, which earns only a ‘Marginal’ rating.”  Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Comfortable coupe

“Aside from some name-shuffling (the car formerly known as the RC Turbo is now the RC 300, and the RC with the V6 engine is now the RC 350), the Lexus RC coupe is mechanically unchanged for 2018. That means it’s a comfortable and solidly-built four-seat coupe that puts a big emphasis on everyday ride comfort at the expense of outright performance. And this is the right compromise to make as drivers can enjoy the RC’s quiet and well-appointed cabin every day. An available all-wheel-drive powertrain ensures year-round usability for those living in the snow belt, and those looking for a little more edginess can opt for the F Sport model with its more aggressive styling and tuning. But it’s not all perfect; the rear seat space and trunk aren’t as spacious compared to sedans in a similar size category, and the infotainment system can be confusing. But thanks to a plethora of hard buttons, core functions are easy to manage.” Calvin Kim, road test engineer at Edmunds

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Drop-dead gorgeous

“Credit the designers at Lexus for sculpting a drop-dead gorgeous coupe that turns the heads of every passerby. Artfully modern, yet immediately recognized as a member of the family, the RC exudes luxury — the interior is immaculately crafted with premium materials and loaded with innovative technology. Where the two-door falls short is in the performance category. It’s several hundred pounds overweight, and its physical stature is anything but svelte — there are better performance choices, if that is what the buyer is seeking.” Michael Harley, executive editor for Kelley Blue Book