What is it?
The relaunch of Lexus’s striking four-seat coupé, sporting a mid-life revamp three years after its launch.
It’s a niche model, this - coupés make up around 7% of the (admittedly large) premium sector, but the German ‘big three’ have more than 80% of that sewn up. BMW sold around 3900 4 Series in November last year across Europe, when Lexus shifted just 77 Lexus RCs. It’s a minnow in an already relatively small pond.
Nevertheless, it’s got exclusivity on its side, and is a unique prospect in this sector as nobody else offers a hybrid-powered four-seat coupé. Lexus tried to go mainstream with the turbocharged, non-hybrid Lexus RC200t, but that has since been dropped due to lack of interest, leaving just one powertrain and three newly rearranged trim levels.
What's it like?
If you were hoping for a revelation, you’ll likely be disappointed. This is an update to be filed under ‘minor and largely inconsequential’.
Styling updates for the RC for 2019 are largely restricted to a pair of intricate new LED headlights, reshaped tail-lights and a pair of resculptured bumpers. That’s not accounting for some small aerodynamic tweaks, modestly improving an already attractive design bolstered by a range of pleasingly bright colour choices.
The interior is similarly spot-the-difference. A smattering of posher materials adds to what was already (save for a few cheap details) a solid, plushly trimmed cockpit, while tech upgrades include a more comprehensive suite of driver assist systems and optional luxuries like a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
Sumptuous yet decently supportive seats and a great stereo don’t make up for the foibles that remain, like a touchpad-operated infotainment system that’s so fiddly it should surely be illegal to operate on the move, and a cramped, claustrophobic rear cabin.
Elsewhere, there are chassis upgrades such as new shock absorbers and retuned steering. Neither seems to have done an awful lot to alter the RC’s dynamics: if you concentrate really hard, the low-speed ride has improved, but this is still not a coupé that relishes being driven quickly, with steering that (oddly) feels lazier than the front-driven ES, a relative shortfall of front-end grip and a lack of agility due to its substantial mass - the RC is heavier than the ES and carries a great deal more flab than almost every rival.