Different Ends of the Same Spectrum: The Lexus RC200t and RC-F

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RC200t
The 2016 Lexus RC200t.
It would be hard to find two more different automobiles of the same make and model than the Lexus RC200t and RC-F.  For while the bodies and interiors are for the most part identically styled, they are widely varied in terms of materials and accessories.

And then there is the 226-horsepower difference.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RC200t
2016 Lexus RC200t.
You read that correctly.  There is a 226-horsepower gap between the RC200t and the RC-F. Before you skip straight ahead to the RC-F, consider the upside for the RC200t:  Its 2-liter turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engine may not be enough to melt the pavement under its 18-inch aluminum wheels, but its 0-60 time of seven-ish seconds and top speed of 143 miles per hour are not to be sneezed at. 

Beyond that, there are the immediate and the long-term relative kindnesses to your bank account. The RC200t's base price is $39,995 and the fuel economy is impressive for a sporting machine---an EPA-estimated 22 city/32 highway.

F SPORT badge on 2016 Lexus RC200t
2016 Lexus RC200t F SPORT badging.

There is also a performance bonus to be had by choosing the RC200t.  Its 2.0-liter turbo four weighs considerably less than the 5.0-liter V8 in the RC-F.  That means less weight over the nose of the car, more balanced weight distribution and better handling.  If the sight of this car makes you think about winding roads, the RC200t is the one to have.

The handling in our test vehicle was aided by the addition of the $4,105 F SPORT package, which upgrades the standard 18-inch wheels to 19-inch, 10 spoke F SPORT wheels,  and trades the all-season tires for summer ones.  It also adds adaptive variable suspension, SPORT S+ mode and active sound control, as well as non-performance items like a special F SPORT grille and front bumper, heated and cooled front seats, blind spot monitoring, TFT instrumentation, perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, a power steering column and silver performance trim.

Ours also had the upgraded Mark Levinson audio and navigation system ($2,610), intuitive parking assist ($500), premium Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint ($595), a rear limited-slip differential ($460) and a moonroof ($1,100).  With $940 for delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price was $50,715.  That is very good value for a luxury-sports coupe with this kind of handling capability and one that won't punish you at every fuel stop.

All well and good.  But some simply want power.

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RC-F
The 2016 Lexus RC-F.
On that end of the Lexus RC spectrum, there is the RC-F.  The numbers are starkly different.  467 horsepower from a 5.0-liter V8.  EPA fuel economy estimates of 16 city/25 highway.  0-60 in 4.3 seconds.  Top speed 171 miles per hour.  Base price $62,805.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus RC-F
2016 Lexus RC-F.
If those numbers sound like a track car, you are getting the message Lexus wants you to.  On the page that lists the exhaustive standard equipment that comes with the RC-F, you will find the 5.0-liter V8 referred to as a "beast", as well as references to "track-proven engineering" and a "race-ready" cockpit.

Interior view of 2016 Lexus RC-F
2016 Lexus RC-F interior.
It is hard to argue with that last.  The seats in the RC-F are snug and supportive, lacking only grippy fabric in place of leather and five-point harnesses to be considered true racing seats.  But Lexus' performance drive is in no way about surrendering luxury for performance.  The leather stays, conveying a "best of both worlds" message. 

Our test vehicle had more than $14,000 worth of optional equipment---19-inch forged alloy wheels ($850), premium triple-beam LED headlamps ($1,160), leather-trimmed seats ($860), the Mark Levinson premium audio system with navigation ($2,610), a performance package with carbon fiber roof and rear wing and torque vectoring differential ($5,500) and the Premium Package which offers heated and cooled front seats (memory for the driver), carbon fiber interior trim, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, intuitive park assist, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors with memory reverse tilt and steering memory ($3,240)---which, with $940 delivery, processing and handling fee brought the as-tested price to $77,905. 

So, which?  Well, if your pocketbook doesn't make the choice for you, then it comes down to how you will drive the RC.  If around-town driving and the occasional winding back road is part of your life, the RC200t seems like the logical choice.  If you have a daily driver and are looking for a track day special and something that stands out from the BMW Ms and Corvettes at Cars and Coffee, the RC-F makes a strong statement.

And if you're still torn, consider the Goldilocks solution of the mid-range RC350, which we reviewed last summer

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