Gareth Butterfield takes a spin in the striking new Lexus RC
THE premium coupe market is brimming with automotive superlatives. To cut it in this company, a newcomer must be stylish, fast and thrilling to drive.
The Lexus RC is the first properly sexy car the marque has produced for a long time, if you discount the inaccessible LFA hypercar, and it’s on the market with a range of engines which include a 471bhp V8.
So it’s certainly stylish and it’s obviously going to be very fast but, because the V8 version will only represent a small portion of its sales in the UK, I thought I’d test the entry level model, which is powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, which pumps out 241bhp and 350Nm of torque.
There’s also a hybrid version, which has a bigger engine and a lot more shove, thanks to the electric motor, but the base model does not miss out on any of the sense of occasion thanks to the striking looks.
In fact, the 2.0-litre version has a reasonably mighty 245bhp. I bet that sounds like quite a bit, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s a heavy old thing, the RC, and it’s got eight automatic gears to heave its way through, so in actual fact, it’s by no means a quick car.
And it doesn’t handle quite as precisely as you’d expect. To look at, it’s a multitude of seemingly pin-sharp angles and, especially in the pearlescent orange of my test car, it’s absolutely stunning, probably one of the nicest looking coupes on the market, but it’s simply not as exciting to drive as it is to look at.
This feeling carried on right up to the point I parked it next to a BMW 4-series. In comparison, the key German rival looked dull. And not just to me, either. I stood back for a bit and watched the number of admiring glances directed towards the two cars. Of all the people who stopped and had a look, not one of them could be bothered about the BMW. The Lexus is far more attractive.
And it’s not just the looks I prefer, either. I’ve driven the 4-series and it’s very nice and all that, but when it comes to which one I’d rather sit in, there’s no comparison. The Lexus interior is a much nicer place to be.
And while it doesn’t have a great deal of power, and it might not handle as sweetly as its rivals, it’s not bad. Every day drivers honestly won’t be able to tell and geeky helmsmen who know what a double apex is and always wear racing drivers’ shoes in case they need to use heel and toe would have bought the BMW anyway.
The truth is, the RC is so much better at being a grand tourer than it is at being a sporty coupe. Ignore the fact it looks like it’s ready to tear up the tarmac and deliver an unrivalled, visceral driving experience and you can slump into the wonderful sports seats, turn on some driver aids, get lost in the fabulous sound system and just enjoy driving what is, in its own right, a genuinely good car.
And this is the point at which you realise 245bhp is actually about enough.
So what the RC offers, when all’s said and done, is a refreshingly different coupe. It’s a beautiful, head-turner which looks like it could tear your face off, when actually it’s as pleasant to drive as an S Class Mercedes.
The legendary Lexus build quality is there, it comes with loads of standard kit, it’s available as a hybrid and, if you really must go all silly, you could buy a V8 version.
But I’ve come to the conclusion, during my time with the RC, that picking a loud and shouty engine to match the loud and shouty looks defeats the object. It might not set your pulse racing every time you enter a traffic island, but that doesn’t make it a bad car.
It’s a comfortable, beautiful, cruiser which is surprisingly practical and economical. And that’s good enough for me.
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