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Lexus's four-seat coupé gets a mid-life revamp, but is it still a left-field alternative to recommend?

Our Verdict

Lexus RC

With a Lexus RC F drive behind us, we head out in the lesser RCs to see if they are still as fun

  • First Drive

    Lexus RC 300h 2019 review

    Lexus's four-seat coupé gets a mid-life revamp, but is it still a left-field alternative to recommend?
11 January 2019

What is it?

The relaunch of Lexuss 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 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 RC200t, but that has since been dropped due to lack of interest, leaving just one powertrain and three newly rearranged trim levels.

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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.

It's more within its comfort level when the pace is dropped, allowing you to enjoy low noise levels and a nicely resolved ride. Which is fine in essence - not everybody wants to drive everywhere with tyres begging for mercy - but a disappointment when rivals from BMW and Audi are within scratching distance in terms of comfort but notably more incisive when the going gets twisty. 

The petrol-electric powertrain (identical in capacity to that of the ES but the older, third-generation variant) is unchanged, and remains completely at odds with the sporting premise Lexus’s marketing materials shout about. 

It excels around town, being far quieter and smoother than an equivalent diesel, and is well-mannered at a cruise. But it felt wholly out of its depth on the twisting Spanish roads Lexus launched the car on, needing to be worked hard to make any sort of progress and complaining vocally when asked to do so as the CVT gearbox sends revs soaring uncomfortably high. 

Should I buy one?

We can still make allowances for the Lexus’s lack of a dynamic edge and a powertrain that seems to actively dislike being driven enthusiastically. Think of the RC as a style-led, comfortable coupé with an economy focus (45mpg really is within easy reach) and it does have its place in the market.

The RC also excels for business users, where its favourable benefit-in-kind rate offers significant tax savings over a normal petrol or diesel model. But private buyers are going to have to pay through the nose for the privilege. The RC’s base price is a whisker over £38,000, which is a good few thousand more than the Germans start at.

Granted, you get more standard equipment in an entry-level RC, but the £46,000 Lexus asks our range-topping Takumi model starts to look like weak value when you consider the performance offered by rivals at that price point. 

Lexus RC specification

Where Malaga, Spain Price £45,800 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 2494cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 220bhp at 6000rpm Torque 162lb ft at 4200-5400rpm Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 1775kg Top speed 118mph 0-62mph 8.6sec Fuel economy 47.6mpg CO2 114g/km Rivals Mercedes C-Class Coupé, Audi A5

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Comments
7

11 January 2019

On UK roads, it is increasingly difficult to drive enthusiastically and throw a car around with carefree abandon.

So it is odd that journalists still insist on rating cars down which prioritise comfort, refinement and quality over "sporty" handling and aggressive acceleration.

The Hybrid drivetrain rewards a relaxed driving style. It can deliver great mid-range punch and if drive appropriately, is very linear and smooth, far more so than any diesel.

What it doesn't like is huge dollops of pedal input - thrashing, in other words. In those circumstances, it will moo it's head off as the CVT places the engine in the peak torque band.

So yes, it's not a sports car, but surely it is a superb, comfortable, high quality, stylish and reliable grand touring coupe ideally suited for UK roads?

 

 

 

typos1 - Just can't invert the ionic phase in the thrust margin of the containment field.

11 January 2019

Fair points. However it’s much easier to make a case for the ES, a car that seems fit for purpose in our congested, stressful times. It will be even more economical too. You’d have to really like the looks of this coupe to justify buying one.

11 January 2019

For a 4 pot non-turbo car that's "..wholly out of its depth" on certain roads and has a iffy gearbox. And how does a 2 door coupe end up weighing 1800kg, still explains why it's not that quick.  BMW 4 series walks all over it!

I feel I'm repeating myself with Lexus. RIP

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

FMS

29 January 2019
xxxx wrote:

For a 4 pot non-turbo car that's "..wholly out of its depth" on certain roads and has a iffy gearbox. And how does a 2 door coupe end up weighing 1800kg, still explains why it's not that quick.  BMW 4 series walks all over it!

I feel I'm repeating myself with Lexus. RIP

 

Yet MORE pliagiarising repetition, followed by yet MORE unresearched, irrelevant nonsense. Read the following as many times as needed for you to undersatnd. Not everyone hankers after a BMW...there are some individuals who actively seek out something else and Lexus and others cater for these folks. You are an ill...nope...UNinformed oaf. Did you even read and understand the article...?. This Lexus, is NOT simply "a 4 pot non-turbo".  Stick (with the help of your aversion to cleaning) to your decrepit sofa and know that you are just a TwIT, the w is silent, as you should be.

11 January 2019

I feel Lexus are sadly squandering their advantages. Everyone knows they are reliable, the world has realised that diesel is evil, yet sales still dont pick up. In markets they do well in, most of their sales are non hybrids. But here in Europe where CO2 is SO inportant to many buyers because of tax, you would think a hybrid would give them a great place to start. 

I dont know why they dont follow the Germans route to hybrids, and add an electric motor to an existing TC auto, and at least preserve the driving experience. They must have accepted that people dont like CVTs as they fit false gear steps, or in the case of te LS/LC attach the CVT to a 4 speed TC box. However, it doesnt work. They dont feel like a normal powertrain, and unless you drive with modest inputs, dont live near hills, never want to pass something quickly, the engine will make a lot of noise, without the driver being able to control it.

It wont be many years, and hybrids will have all become plug ins, and eventually just EVs, and maybe at that stage a truely silent Lexus will emerge to be a peaceful, comfortable, and exceptionally well made car. I just feel they have it within their grasp to make something much more appealing in the meantime, afterall the RC here looks great, is wonderful inside, and superbly built. 

12 January 2019

Only buy one of these if you are not a German badge snob and like its looks

Also I have no doubt whatsoever that this car will be more reliable and last longer than its competition.

My family have both German and jap cars and the japs simply run away from the germans in terms of long term reliability 

12 January 2019

Only buy one of these if you are not a German badge snob and like its looks

Also I have no doubt whatsoever that this car will be more reliable and last longer than its competition.

My family have both German and jap cars and the japs simply run away from the germans in terms of long term reliability 

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