Lexus brings us its RC coupe in two more accessible forms. It's not the obvious executive choice if you're looking for this class of car, but it's quite a beguiling one if you like your luxury. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Lexus RC is a premium two-door coupe that delivers smart design, Lexus luxury and craftsmanship, plus a refined and even quite engaging driving experience. The idea is to attract new and younger customers to the Lexus brand and there's the choice of two engines, a 2.5-litre petrol electric hybrid and a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol unit.
Perhaps you're looking for an Executive Coupe selling in the £35,000 to £40,000 bracket. If so, your shortlist is likely to have a very Germanic feel to it, including cars like Audi's A5 and two-door coupe versions of the Mercedes C-Class and the BMW 4 Series. Infiniti's Q60 coupe offers an alternative to these brands, but it's only sold through a very small dealer network. Realistically then, you're stuck with the rather buttoned-down Teutonic makers when it comes to a car of this kind - or at least you were until the arrival of the car we're going to look at here, the Lexus RC.
Lexus actually introduced the RC coupe at the beginning of 2015, but only in fire-breathing 5.0-litre V8 RCF guise. That car offered frightening performance but matched it with equally frightening running costs. So Lexus followed up with more accessible RC coupe models, the '200t' petrol turbo and '300h' petrol electric hybrid variants that now make up the standard range, the cars we're going to look at here.
We tried the RC in the 300h petrol electric hybrid form most buyers will want. You probably won't be expecting this Japanese contender to match its German rivals for handling involvement - and it doesn't. That said, it's more involving than we expected it might be. Vehicle dynamics benefit from tuned electric power steering and an Adaptive Variable Suspension system that emphasises handling agility as well as ride comfort. If you want to settle back though, there's nothing quite like the quiet, refined and sophisticated driving experience provided by the full hybrid powertrain and the E-CVT auto gearbox. As usual with a Lexus hybrid, you get the benefit of a fully electric EV driving mode for silent running over short distances. The engine is a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol unit aided by a powerful electric motor. Total output is 220bhp, acceleration from nought to 62mph can be accomplished in 8.6 seconds, while the top speed is 118mph. The alternative to hybrid motoring for RC customers is provided by the conventional 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit installed in the 200t model. Here, you get a little more performance thanks to 241bhp and 350Nm of torque. The nought to 62mph benchmark is 7.5 seconds and the top speed is 143mph.
Design and Build
The RC's exterior design features a compact cabin area, powerfully flared wings and contoured bodywork with deeply sweeping lines. The trademark Lexus spindle grille is wider than on saloon models and has a longitudinal rather than lateral mesh pattern, projecting the car's wide stance and low centre of gravity. The rear design features prominent, muscular wheel arches and an echo of the front spindle styling. Inside, you get a snug, driver-focused cockpit that feels as luxurious as much more expensive luxury coupes - say Mercedes' E-Class Coupe for example. As with other Lexus models, the dash is divided into upper and lower zones, the upper display zone communicating information and the lower operation zone housing all the principal controls and switchgear. The centre console also features electrostatic switches that allow air conditioning temperature to be adjusted with just the touch of a finger.
There's a touch more rear seat space than you'd get in, say, coupe versions of the BMW 4 Series or the Audi A5 and access to the back is made easier with a one-touch walk-in function using a lever mounted on the shoulder of the front seats. This automatically slides the front seat forward while folding the seatback forward. There's 340-litres of bootspace in the 300h - and 374-litres in the 200t, both figures unexceptional by class standards, but likely to be enough for most owners.
Market and Model
We think most buyers will want the RC 300h petrol/electric hybrid version. Prices here start at around £35,000 for the base 'Luxury' model. Around £37,500 gets you more dynamic 'F SPORT' trim and around £40,500 is enough to deliver the ritziest 'Premier' version. If you'd prefer the more conventional four cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol RC 200t derivative, pricing starts at around £36,500 for the 'F SPORT' variant, or there's a plusher 'Premier' version of this derivative if you can push your budget up to around £40,000.
All models are very well equipped. Standard kit across the range runs to 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, folding/heated door mirrors, parking sensors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, LED headlamps and daytime running lights. Inside, you get leather seats that are heated and power-adjustable at the front. Plus dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a six-speaker DAB audio system, a seven-inch multimedia screen with rotary Remote Touch controller, electric steering column adjustment and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The safety and driver assistance features include Lexus's 'Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management' system, eight airbags and Hill Assist Control with Brake Hold. Options include two Lexus Navigation systems, a sunroof, metallic paint and a full-house Mark Levinson sound upgrade.
Cost of Ownership
If running costs are in any way significant to you, you'll want to look at the RC 300h petrol electric hybrid version first. This manages 57.6mpg on the combined cycle and 113g/km of CO2 in 'Luxury' form - or 56.5mpg and 116g/km if you go for the 'F SPORT' or 'Premier' variants with their bigger wheels. Either way, that's not bad for a relatively heavy, performance-minded petrol-powered luxury coupe. The more conventional four cylinder 2.0-litre petrol RC 200t variant of course can't match that. Here, you get 38.7mpg on the combined cycle and 168g/km of CO2.
Otherwise there's a three year/60,000 mile warranty for reassurance, a period of cover I'd normally call 'unremarkable'. I won't in this case because this is a Lexus. They don't tend to go wrong and if they do, you've got the best after sales care in the business to fall back on.
The Lexus RC is a welcome addition to the ranks of relatively affordable executive coupes. Not everyone prioritises ultimate driving dynamics in a model of this kind and for those in search of luxury, this car may well satisfy. Compared to coupe versions of obvious rivals like Mercedes C-Class, BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5, this is a very different kind of contender. It feels more expensive and has the driveway presence and cabin feel of a £50,000 car rather than one costing £35,000 to £40,000. A certain kind of buyer will like this very much. And we can understand why.