Published: 10:35, 19 August 2016
No one can accuse Lexus of being reserved.
The latest LS, GS, NX and RX models are strong, eye-catching designs with huge grilles, sharp lines and bold creases projecting a confident, premium image.
As unique as the styling is, however, I imagine it would be a struggle to find anyone who would describe any of the models as beautiful or stunning.
There’s a new Lexus on the block, however, that might just change a few opinions.
The RC – and I’ll just give you a couple of minutes to get that irresistible urge to giggle, child-like, at the somewhat unfortunate choice of moniker – is a car that takes Lexus into new territory.
It’s a two-door coupe with a swooping, fluid profile that manages to combine all the trademark Lexus styling cues, including the boldest interpretation of the unmistakeable spindle grille to date, in a stunning, desirable, sexy design.
The interior largely forgoes the curves of the outside of the car, the dash adopting a squarer, layered design. Build quality is impeccable but Lexus, in a world where most other manufacturers are ridding their cabins of buttons, have seen fit to ignore that particular trend and do things their own way.
Consequently the dashboard is littered with controls. Personally, I don’t have issue with that, particularly as they are all within easy reach, function well and are much more reliable to operate than a touch-centric interface.
To manage the functions of the seven-inch screen Lexus have kindly provided a touchpad which requires a little patience to master. Haptic feedback helps, sending a pulse through your fingertips when the cursor alights on an onscreen function, and once acquainted I didn’t find it to be any worse, or better, than most other input methods I’ve encountered.
The sat nav is easy to operate and the instructions clear but there were occasions when the traffic updates were, well, out of date and hold-ups that were reported simply weren’t there. Had I accepted the detours on offer it would have increased my journey time unnecessarily. Bad sat nav!
The driving position is close to perfect – just a little on the high side with a lack of adjustment in the steering column to blame for my failure to get everything exactly as I’d want it – but the front seats are very comfortable and supportive.
The seats, in Premier spec, are electrically adjustable, heated and cooled while a not-to-be-sniffed at 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround system that sounds, quite frankly, amazing is also included.
There are two rear seats and, though some reviewers might suggest that adults would find it 'a bit of a squash', I’d go as far as to question the wisdom of putting anyone you like in there. The long doors open wide, so access is reasonable but, with a six-footer behind the wheel, there is so little leg room that rear-seat passengers would have to sit with their knees tucked under their chins. Or behind their ears.
Start the car and, as is usual in a hybrid, you’re greeted with absolute silence. You’ll always pull away in electric mode, unless you plant your foot in which case the engine will start, they’ll be a momentary and unwelcome pause, and then power will be delivered to the rear wheels, propelling you to 62mph in 8.6 seconds.
That’s not something you’ll be encouraged to do too often as continuous hard acceleration is rewarded with uncomfortably soaring revs and little in the way of additional pace.
Top speed is 118mph which, while perhaps not quite the headline figure a car that looks this dynamic implies, is still far beyond any legal limits in the UK and, consequently, largely irrelevant. That doesn’t stop a lot of us caring though, does it.
Powering my test car is the familiar – to anyone who has driven a modern Lexus – 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine mated to an electric motor. Combined they produce 178bhp and 163lbft of torque.
Numbers like that explain why phrases like ‘high performance’ and ‘fun to drive character’, which crop up in the marketing material, can be a little misleading, particularly in the 300h version that I drove.
The RC, in hybrid guise at least, is more grand tourer than lightweight sports coupe. Its heavier than its key rivals and that mass is most evident during changes in direction, when it does its very best to undo the tyres' good work as they admirably battle to keep the car on the road.
The controls are precise, and the steering has a nice meatiness to it, but it’s on the vague side which disconnects the driver from road, making it difficult to read what’s going on beneath the wheels.
The CVT gearbox is a delight. Picking up speed and shifting through the metaphorical gears is, as it should be, seamlessly. You can change manually using either the gear selector or paddles on the steering column but, in my experience, there’s no advantage in doing so.
The RC 300h is not, then, a point to point racer. To properly enjoy its qualities, of which there are many, you have to adopt a different viewpoint.
Instead of flooring the throttle, and attempting to ring every last ounce of performance out of the hybrid drivetrain, relax, take your time and relish the traquility, the peace and the comfort as the RC – go on, have another snigger – conveys you in absolute comfort to your chosen destination.
This is, despite appearances, a car that’s happier cruising, relentlessly devouring motorway miles with a bottomless appetite, dispatching A roads with barely a glance backwards and carrying you over broken B roads without complaint.
It’s a cosseting, calming and considered environment that you reside in and trying to hustle the hybrid along does little more than spoil the ambience.
The 300h is likely to be the most popular model in the RC – stop it now – range. People who are looking for a high performance coupe will be disappointed, because it lacks both the power and the poise to fulfil that remit.
On the other hand, if it’s a strikingly good-looking, remarkably comfortable, reasonably efficient grand tourer – if you can live with cramped rear and small boot – then this could easily be the car for you.
Lexus RC 300h Luxury Premier navi
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder
Transmission: Electric CVT driving the rear wheels
Max power: 178bhp
Max torque: 163lbft
Max speed: 118mph
Acceleration (0-62mph): 8.6sec
Extra urban: 57.6mpg
Emissions (CO2): 113g/km
For more information visit www.lexus.co.uk
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