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Motoring: Lexus RC Coupe – refined not raw

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 June 2016

Lexus RC Coupe - aimed at attracting a younger audience to the luxury marque

Lexus RC Coupe - aimed at attracting a younger audience to the luxury marque

Archant

The new Lexus RC Coupe oozes style from every angle but doesn’t have the same wow factor for performance, writes motoring editor Andy Russell

The cabin 'oozes quality' (photo: RIPLEY)The cabin 'oozes quality' (photo: RIPLEY)

A sleek coupe is a great way to boost brand image and attract new customers, something Lexus aims to do by wooing a younger audience to the luxury marque with its stunning new RC Coupe.

On looks alone, this is a sharp-suited class act with flowing flares, eye-catching angles and a wider version of the Lexus trademark spindle front grille (made even more in your face on the F Sport model). But does it have a similar wow factor when you drive it?

Under the bonnet

Your head will tell you to go for the 300h Hybrid with its 2.5-l petrol engine and electric motor, your heart the 2-l turbo petrol 200t. The RC Coupe is the Lexus that makes the best case for the latter – also offered in IS and GS saloons and NX and RX SUVs – to really bring out its sporty flavour. So it’s a shame that, despite 241bhp, at 7.5 seconds to 62mph for the 200t (the 300h takes just over a second more), it lags behind German rivals. At up 1,725kg it feels solid but carrying more weight doesn’t help it get off the mark sharpish.

Once rolling, it picks up eagerly, particularly in Sport mode, with the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifting seamlessly. It doesn’t change as quickly as twin-clutch automatics but you can have some fun shifting with the gear lever or steering wheel paddles.

The RC is more about refinement than raw power – a capable, comfortable and exceptionally quiet cruiser for two people and luggage.

If economy and emissions are the priority, the 300h Hybrid makes most sense with the 200t returning 28-34mpg in mixed driving.

Driving appeal

Keen drivers looking for an entertaining sports car might be disappointed. Again, the weight tells, so the RC Coupe lacks the agility of some rivals. It’s still fun on a twisty road with good poise and balance but it’s more refined cruiser than brash bruiser.

F Sport gets adaptive variable suspension to enhance the handling, an extra Sport S+ driving mode to further sharpen the dynamics and, on 200t, a limited slip differential to maximise traction.

Even with the F Sport’s 19in alloy wheels, the RC rides well once it overcomes the low-speed sensitivity and stretches its legs on a fast run. You’re always aware of what’s going on beneath the tyres but not uncomfortably so, helped by the F Sport’s shapely and supportive front seats.

Space and comfort

It may be a two-door but access to the back isn’t too bad, once you’ve waited for the electric front seats to slowly slide forward. When it comes to head and legroom, average adults could cope with short journeys in the rear bucket seats provided those up front aren’t space greedy.

The 374-l boot has a wide opening but is awkwardly shaped with the wheelarches eating into useable space but it’s sufficient for two people’s luggage. An added bonus is 60/40 rear seat backs that fold flat.

At the wheel

The cabin oozes quality when it comes to the trim and settling into the snug cockpit is a big part of the sporty feel. The layered fascia has two distinct sections – an upper display for instruments, which change colour according to driving mode, an infotainment screen and a lower operation zone. Some controls are extremely clever, such as electrostatic switches you slide a finger along to alter temperature and upgraded remote touch pad for the media display and optional Premium Navigation, but tricky to use on the move compared to a rotary control knob. I loved being able to move the large rev counter with digital speedometer to the right of the instrument binnacle at the press of a button on the steering wheel to bring up a large driver information display panel.

A reasonable glovebox and lidded box between the front seats make up for narrow, next-to-useless door bins.

Equipment

That the entry spec, only available in 300h guise, is Luxury says it all when it comes to standard kit. Then there’s the more dynamic-looking F Sport and range-topping Premier which wants for nothing.

Final say

On looks alone, the RC Coupe injects some serious excitement into the Lexus line-up and, even though performance doesn’t quite live up the promise, for many people that will be enough to attract them to what is a very likeable and luxurious, if not the most lively, coupe.

Fact File

Price: Lexus RC 200t F Sport £36,495 (range £34,995 to £40,495)

Engine: 1,988cc, 241bhp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds; top speed 143mph

MPG: Urban 29.4; extra urban 47.9; combined 38.7

CO2 emissions: 168g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 30 per cent

Insurance group: 40E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Size: L 4,695mm; W (incl door mirrors) 2,069mm; H 1,395mm

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