2016 Lexus 200T F Sport Review: This Turbo-4 is the Engine You Want
When the new Lexus RC sports coupe was introduced, it was available in rear- or all-wheel drive and it was offered with two engines, the 3.0L V6 and the 3.5L V6. The 3.0L was only offered with all-wheel drive, so if you wanted a rear-drive Lexus coupe, your only option was the RC350 or the far more expensive V8-powered RC F, but soon after the new RC hit American shores, the turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine was introduced.
Having had the pleasure to drive the new Lexus RC in every trim, I can say without any question that if you want the driving dynamics of rear wheel drive and you aren’t all that concerned about straight line performance, the new RC200T is the best option for you. The RC200T F Sport includes the same striking exterior and the same luxurious cockpit as the RC350 F Sport, with very similar – if not better – handling capabilities to the more powerful, more expensive and less efficient model.
Time for a 4-Cylinder Sports Car
Ten years back, it was hard for most 4-cylinder sports cars to get a real chance in the American performance market since the V8 was (and continues to be) so popular. The story has always been that if you want to go fast, you buy a V8 muscle car and if you want the look with less performance, you buy a V6 model or a foreign performance car.
Although the V8 still reigns supreme, a new era of American performance cars has arrived, with both the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro being offered with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. There is also a rumor that the Dodge Challenger will soon get a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, following the early success of the EcoBoost Mustang. In short, right now is the ideal time for 4-cylinder sports cars to be accepted in the US market, so the Lexus RC200T comes at the perfect time. Also, this new mill targets other luxury turbo-4 engines, like the ones used by BMW.
Now, I should stress that the Lexus RC200T F Sport is not a package designed for speed freaks, but for those prospective buyers who want the premium interior, the aggressive exterior and the splendid combination of handling and ride quality, this is the best package for the Lexus RC.
Same Beautiful Design, Inside and Out
If you removed all of the badging from the exterior of the Lexus RC200T F Sport and the RC350 F Sport and if you ignored the RC200T boost gauge, it is practically impossible to tell the difference between the two luxury sports coupes based just on appearance – and I regard that as being a very good thing.
The Lexus RC has a very aggressive design in every trim, but the F Sport package adds a handful of cues around the outside to create an even sportier look, including 19 inch F Sport wheels and a similar grille mesh design to that found on the high performance RC F. The F Sport package also adds unique badging and with the exception of the actual RC200T and RC350 emblems, the two F Sport cars are essentially identical.
Take the smooth, sleek lines of the Lexus RC, add the F Sport items and finish the whole car in this stunning Molten Pearl paint and you have one stunning, eye-catching sports car. It has just enough chrome to remind us that this is a luxury car, but the fluid silhouette, the LED lighting and the low, wide stance leave no question that this is a high tech sports car.
If you can’t tell – I love the look of the Lexus RC in every trim and shy of the LFA, the RC is the best sports car that Lexus has ever produced.
On the inside, the Lexus RC200T F Sport is identical to the more powerful RC350 F Sport, starting with the sport bucket front seats with deep side and base bolsters to keep you in place during stints of spirted driving while the padding is plush enough to keep you comfortable for your daily drive. These seats are heated and cooled with plenty of space in every direction, so regardless of the driving situation or the climate, you will be comfortable behind the wheel. The front passenger gets the same level of comfort and support, so even if the driver and passenger are over 6 feet tall, they will both be comfortable on a trip around town or across the country.
Aside from being very comfortable on the highway or on a road course, the interior of the Lexus RC200T F Sport is packed full of technology – all of which is perfectly positioned around the driver for an optimal cockpit feel. The advanced infotainment system is controlled via a large screen mounted high on the dash, but unlike the touchscreens employed by so many companies, Lexus takes a different approach to their user interface. Lexus uses a touch sensitive pad and a few buttons located next to the shifter to control everything on the infotainment screen. In much the same way that you would scroll around the touchpad on your laptop, you move the cursor on the screen with the touchpad located at the end of the center armrest, right where your elbow is on the padded rest. There are some traditional buttons and knobs for the climate control and the sound system, but you can control pretty much everything about the car from that touchpad.
The one thing that the touchpad doesn’t control is the driver information display, which is adjusted via the steering wheel. Like the Lexus LFA and many of the other modern F Sport vehicles, the RC200T F Sport has a gauge cluster that shifts the tachometer to the middle of the driver’s field of vision. You can slide the big tach to the right with a push of a button on the steering wheel, revealing all sorts of information including a digital boost gauge, but when all you care is engine RPM and vehicle speed, the centered gauge mode puts the most important information at front and center – literally.
Finally, the F Sport steering wheel has controls for the sound system and the voice control system, along with a set of paddle shifters that I will discuss later on in this review.
From top to bottom, inside and out, the 2016 Lexus RC200T F Sport is everything that you expect from a luxury sports car and I really can’t think of anything that I would change. I love the exterior design (especially in this bright orange paint) and the cabin is one of my favorite of all of the cars that I have tested.
Where the Lexus RC200T Differs
There are three key areas where the Lexus RC200T F Sport differs from the rear wheel drive RC350 F Sport – price, fuel efficiency and, of course power.
In terms of pricing, the Lexus RC200T F Sport starts at $44,100 and when you add the features from my test car like navigation, the power moonroof and destination fees, the price as tested sits at $47,705. The RC350 F Sport starts at $46,885 and with the same options, it prices out at $50,790, so the bigger engine and the supporting features add around $3,000.
If you are making a list of reasons why the Lexus RC200T F Sport is the better buy than the RC350 F Sport, price is a very good one to add.
Next, the 200T F Sport is the most fuel efficient option in the coupe’s lineup, with EPA ratings of 22mpg around town, 32mpg on the highway and 26mpg combined. In my experiences, I found that this numbers were very accurate, and in the event of long highway drives, you can get better than the 32mpg highway number. For comparison, the RC350 F Sport offers 19 around town, 28 on the highway and 22 combined, so the RC200T has a significant advantage in terms of MPG.
Finally, the most crucial difference between the RC200T and the RC350 is the engine, with the RC200T relying on a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder with 241 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque while the RC350 is powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 with 306hp and 277lb-ft of torque. As you can imagine, that differential of 65 horsepower and 19lb-ft of torque has an impact on acceleration, with the RC200T being more than a second slower than the RC350 in a 0-60 dash. That being said, if you are considering an RC200T, you likely aren’t all that worried about acceleration and if that is true, then the difference in low-end grunt won’t bother you – mostly because the RC200T is just as much fun to drive as the RC350 in every situation.
So Much Fun to Drive
The only thing that the 2016 Lexus RC200T F Sport doesn’t do well is drag racing. From a stop, the turbo 4 doesn’t pack the punch of the V6 and with a reported 0-60 time in the 7 second range, this is clearly not a car that you will love if your key driving interest is drag racing. However, the RC200T F Sport shines in pretty much every other driving condition, including mid-range acceleration and top speed. Of course, there is the performance tuning angle of the Turbo-4, but I am talking just about stock power.
The small turbocharged engine takes some time to get the RC200T moving from a stop, but when you are rolling, the 2.0L mill does a great job of building speed. With the use of the steering wheel shift paddles, you can keep the RPMs up and, in turn, the boost levels are quick to push the engine to its peak performance. The RC200T pulls well through the mid-range and on the top end almost as well as the V6, so while it isn’t going to be a drag racing monster, the turbocharged 4-cylinder provides plenty of power for spirited driving.
Acceleration aside, the Lexus RC200T F Sport is just as much fun to drive as the RC350 F Sport, and with a slightly lower curb weight, the RC200T might be a touch lighter on its toes. It is still a 3,700+ pound car, but particularly when you set the drive mode to Sport+, the RC200T is a ton of fun to toss into the turns. The steering input and feedback in Sport+ mode gives a very connected feel while the sport suspension cuts body roll down to a minimum on even the hardest turns. This is the kind of car that people who like to drive will enjoy driving, especially when you are in a section of twisty roads. The RC200T handles broad, sweeping turns nicely and when you get to a tight turn, the big Brembo brakes get the sporty coupe slowed down in a hurry.
Best of all, even when the RC200T F Sport is set to the Sport+ mode, the ride quality is still comfortable enough for every day driving. The ride is stiff, as this is a sports car, but it isn’t the kind of stiff that beats you up during your commute to work. The chassis and suspension setups of the RC200T F Sport really combine handling and ride quality nicely, leading to a great daily driver luxury sports coupe.
The Final Word
In my opinion, if you are considering a Lexus RC200T or RC350, the turbocharged 4-cylinder model is the better option. It is a little short on power compared to the V6 models, but it offers the same aggressive exterior, the same luxury-sport cockpit and the same corner-carving agility as the V6 models. Also, it costs less and gets better fuel economy, so when you consider all of the aspects that are as good or better than the RC350 – the RC200T’s difference in power is a fine compromise.
Just to be clear, I am talking strictly about the non-RC F models. If you are really considering the RC F, the odds are good that you aren’t cross-shopping the RC200T and RC350, but if you are considering the RC200T and the RC350, the turbocharged 4-cylinder model, my advice would be to buy the RC200T F Sport.