Identification of subtypes and pathological grades of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) prior to treatment has clinical significance in determining a treatment strategy and evaluating prognosis. In our research, we detected microstructural differences of RCC by using diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI). The results showed that DKI had good inter- and intra-observer reproducibility of RCC as a new reliable noninvasive biomarker. Kurtosis metrics showed statistical differences between RCC and contralateral renal parenchyma, among the subtypes of RCC, and between low- and high- grade clear cell RCCs. Thus, DKI has the potential application in depicting the microstructural characteristics of RCC.