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Lexus RC review: Form over function?

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The Good

  • Real head-turner
  • Refined
  • Comfy seats

The Bad

  • Slightly cluttered interior
  • Bit dull to drive

The Lexus RC is a stylish BMW 4 Series alternative that is a rarer sight on British roads, but can it compete in other areas? We headed to Europe to find out.

The Lexus RC manages to look rather like the concept car unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, which is a good thing because aesthetics matter to a lot of people. The sort of people, in particular, who routinely buy German cars.

Going up against the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes C-Class coupe and Audi A5 is no easy task, of course, no matter how good a car looks.  But then if Lexus does one thing well, it's refinement and that is a big plus in this corner of motoring.

Lexus was kind enough to fly us out to Switzerland to take the RC for a road test and we subsequently booked it in for a week of British weather and pot holes. Here's how it performed.

Lexus RC review: What is it?

The Lexus RC is basically a two-door, prettier version of the IS saloon. But although it has fewer doors, it is actually longer, wider and lower, all of which help make it stand out more.

Three trim levels are available (Luxury, F-Sport and Premier) and two engines, a '200t' 241bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol with an eight-speed auto and a '300h' 220bhp 2.5-litre petrol Atkinson cycle petrol combined with an electric motor and CVT transmission. Luxury is the entry-level and is reserved for the hybrid only.

There is also a speedy V8-powered version known as the RC F, in case you want 467bhp of rear-wheel drive stupidity (and most people would), but no diesels because that is how Lexus rolls.

Prices start from £37,145 for the RC300h, £38,695 for the RC200t and £61,310 for the RC F, which makes it more expensive to buy than the £34,270 entry-level BMW 420i Sport Coupe automatic.

Lexus RC review: How does it drive?

In stark contrast to how it looks, unfortunately. With a gigantic trapezoidal fish mouth and loud styling you would expect it to be a four-wheeled nutter, but the 0-62mph of 8.6 seconds for the hybrid and 7.5 seconds for the petrol hints at the reality.

The RC weighs more around 170kg more than the equivalent 4 Series Bimmer ─ about the same as two adults ─ and you can feel it when you try to corner fast or bury your foot. The RC rolls about more than it should and struggles with agility, especially with the hybrid battery in the mix.

Decent progress can be made when all torque kicks in, but it is boringly linear in the 300h hybrid and only slightly more bearable in the 200t four-cylinder petrol. Still, neither is dangerously slow and both settle down to a modest hum, making them good for motorway cruising.

Eating up the miles is actually what both models do best because both glide along quietly at low speeds and there is barely any wind or road noise at 70mph.

Beefier undulations can really make a noise through the car, especially if you get the bigger alloys, but the ride is typically smooth. As smooth as it can be on awful British roads, that is, and slightly smoother if you go for the Adaptive Variable option. The brakes are similarly competent.

With exception to the RC F, which is a hooligan of a machine, the RC is anything but sporty. A 4 Series is more composed and agile, while the C-Class Coupe offers a slightly smoother ride. Odd, then, you can add a Torsen limited-slip differential to the 200t given there is little incentive to drive it fast.

The RC does back up the exterior with a stylish, if cluttered, cabin. It can take a while to work out what each button does, but most of them feel solid to the touch. A Mercedes looks nicer, but the RC creates its own sense of luxury and identity.

This is largely helped by the sheer level of front seat adjustability and the likes of dual-zone climate control, heated seats and sat nav through a seven-inch display as standard.

Those who want autonomous emergency braking will, however, need to look elsewhere as this is missing from the RC.

It is worth noting the optional 835-watt Mark Levinson surround system is worth considering if you value a good speaker setup because it kicks out a very decent noise ─ far better than the engine one, anyway.

Lexus RC review: Running costs and practicality?

The RC 300h is the cheaper engine to run of the two, thanks to a claimed 57.6mpg. But it still lags behind its rivals, with the 420d capable of as much as 67.3mpg and the real-world figures are higher, too.

The two-litre turbo is also behind its rivals. It scores 38.7mpg compared to 40.9mpg for the thirstiest of the smaller 4 Series petrol engines. Even the 440i is only slightly behind, at 36.7mpg, although the 326hp output means it is near-impossible to drive efficiently.

CO2 for the 200t is 168g/km, meaning a first-year car tax payment of £500 and £140 in addition to £310-a-year for five years if you spec the RC above the £40,000 threshold. The hybrid's first-year rate is £150, owing to 113g/km of CO2.

As for practicality, the RC 200t gets a reasonable 374 litres while the 300h reduces the total to 340 litres (blame the electric motor). Both suffer from a high lip so loading items could be easier and the level of space is below its competitors, but you do get a spare wheel where others don't.

The back seats are also slightly more cramped than they should be (blame the sloping roof), but are only really insufferable if you are in the six-foot club. At least there are places to store your personal items and a drink or two.

Sadly Toyota-owned Lexus has to make do with a three-year / 60,000-mile warranty, as opposed to five years, but that is no worse than most of its rivals.

Lexus RC review: Should I buy one, then?

If you absolutely adore the looks and want a refined, no fuss drive from A to B, the RC 300h will do the job and in a fashionable manner. We would, however, avoid the 200t given the relatively poor fuel economy.

There are better coupe alternatives out there, especially if underpowered motoring is a turn-off, but then being different may be enough for some buyers to enlist in some premium coupe motoring, Lexus style.

Key Specs

  • 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol and electric motor
  • 221bhp (178bhp petrol + 141bhp electric motor)
  • 163lb/ft (221Nm)
  • 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds
  • 113g/km of CO2
  • 57.6mpg (combined)
  • From £37,145

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