We drive the distinctive hybrid coupe on Irish roads
Pros: Distinctive styling, premium interior, smooth hybrid drive
Cons: Rivals sharper to drive, fiddly infotainment
Sales of hybrid cars increased by over 70 percent in Ireland last year, and this trend is likely to continue into 2018 and beyond. Lexus has been pioneering hybrid technology for over a decade now, and even the sportiest cars in its line-up are available in hybrid guise. The two door, four seat RC coupe is one such example. Mid-sized, rear-wheel-drive and dramatically-styled, it is one of the most distinctive cars in its class alongside the BMW 4 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We spent a week with it on Irish roads to see what it is like to live with on a daily basis.
What is it like?
The RC creates a great first impression with its pronounced front grille, sweeping side curves and eye-catching front and rear LED lights. Buyers seeking something different to the Germanic norm will love its bold exterior styling. We drove the RC 300h, ‘h’ standing for hybrid, and it has subtle badges on the tailgate and side skirts to let you know that it is hybrid-powered. This is the entry-level Executive model and it is well adorned with 18-inch alloy wheels, twin exhausts and a sporty diffuser at the rear.
Inside, the RC has a low-slung driving position and a sweeping dashboard design. The seats are highly supportive and finished in perforated leather upholstery. Both front seats are electrically adjustable with the touch of a button, and there is ample room to get comfortable on longer journeys. It’s a different story in the rear seats though, as leg and head room is limited and boot space is compact at 340 litres. Fit and finish throughout the cabin is excellent and the infotainment is neatly-integrated into the dashboard, though the system does take getting used to.
The RC is available with two drivetrains; a 223-horsepower petrol-electric hybrid (RC 300h) or a high performance 5.0-litre petrol (RC F) with 477 horsepower. We drove the hybrid, and it is the sensible choice, combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor. This is the same hybrid system featured in the Lexus IS 300h saloon that we recently reviewed, and it offers brisk performance with 0-100km/h taking just over eight and a half seconds. Transition between petrol and electric power is seamless and the CVT automatic transmission is smooth, if somewhat slow to respond under brisk acceleration.
Different driving modes are selectable via a rotary dial beside the gear lever, including Eco, Normal, Sport and an all-electric EV mode. There’s even a snow button for wintry conditions. The RC 300h proved efficient during our test and we achieved 5.8-litres per 100 kilometres in economy during a week of mixed driving. Even though it has a large capacity petrol engine, emissions are kep low (113 g/km) courtesy of the hybrid setup, so annual motor tax is rated €200.
The RC places a higher emphasis on comfort and refinement than outright driving credentials. Due to the added weight from the hybrid system, it is a heavy car this shows in the corners where it lacks the agility of a BMW 4 Series. It makes up for this with cosseting ride quality however, and it is incredibly refined on bumpier roads, even with the large alloy wheels fitted. When the RC300h is running on battery power alone, it is incredibly quiet and relaxing to drive with minimal cabin noise.
Prices for the new Lexus RC start from €49,950 in base specification ‘Executive’ trim, which is on par with most mid-sized coupes on the market. In base trim, it is generously equipped with LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch infotainment screen, electric front seats, leather upholstery throughout and a suite of safety aids including Lane Keeping and Hill-Start Assist. The mid-range ‘F-Sport’ model gains 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension and styling upgrades, while the range-topping ‘Premium’ model leaves nothing to be desired, with a 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system and a DVD player amongst many other upgrades.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The Lexus RC offers something different to the rest of the mid-sized coupe pack, and it must be admired for that reason. The RC's styling is distinctive, the interior finish is superb and the hybrid powertrain offers significant savings on running costs when driven with a concious mindset. It isn’t as engaging to drive as many of its German rivals in terms of performance and handling however, and the infotainment and controls feel somewhat dated. That said, those who are looking for a premium coupe that stands out from the crowd, should put the RC 300h on their shortlist.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus RC300h Executive
Prices from: €49,950
Annual Road Tax: €200
Engine: 2494cc four-cylinder petrol and electric motor
Top Speed: 190km/h
0-100km/h: 8.6 seconds
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Body style: Coupe
Boot Space: 340 litres