Road Test: Lexus RC 200t F-Sport
Alex Grant considers the company car appeal of the RC’s non-hybrid option.
Sector: Coupe Price: £36,495 Fuel: 38.7mpg CO2: 168g/km
Behind the ‘silent revolution’ where 97% of Lexus’s UK volume has a hybrid drivetrain, the RC shows there’s an altogether different revolution in terms of the driving experience.
Lining up to take a swipe at the compact executive coupes, a sector which has large fleet appeal, the RC is carving out its own niche with a striking and unique sense of non-German styling, and an engine line-up which doesn’t include a diesel engine. Like the IS, with which this shares a platform, the economical part of the range is a petrol hybrid.
What this means is, if you’re seduced by the styling but can’t justify the thirst of the RC F’s V8 engine and the hybrid doesn’t appeal, there’s only one alternative. The RC 200t gets Lexus’s new 241bhp 2.0-litre turbo, it’s offered with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and it’s priced at £1,000 less than the hybrid.
It’s certainly not a car that blends in. Lexus has its family styling very well tied up at the moment, and whether you love or loathe its sharp edges and sizeable spindle grille, it’s a car with its own sense of identity. It’s a car that can sell on its own desirability, rather than simply putting a Japanese badge on a German concept.
The RC is also beautifully engineered, particularly in the cabin. It feels impeccably well built, for the most part lavished with excellent materials and high-tech with its futuristic digital instruments inspired by the LFA supercar. Better still, the novelty of its sliding central display hasn’t come at the expense of its ability to offer all the information you’d need where you want it.
If there’s a criticism to level at it, it’s that the LFA has also donated its overly complicated navigation system, which feels dated and lacking in features compared to the competition, and the centre console’s lines of sombre grey plastic buttons let down what’s otherwise a neatly designed dashboard.
So, if you love the way it looks, then the quality won’t dissuade you. But the coupe sector is as much defined by its dynamic capabilities as it is by design. Luckily, the Lexus goes some way to delivering what its buyers will demand. The engine offering a lengthy shove of power for swift acceleration, not held back by a lethargic gearbox, it’s quick to turn in and handles neatly, without the compromise of back-breaking ride quality.
But it’s not particularly sporty, at least not in the same way as even a low-powered BMW 4 Series Coupe feels. The RC covers ground effortlessly, but it’s not a car that gets under your skin and wills you to absorb the drive. It’s an easy grand tourer, rather than a sports car.
Which is where the hybrid starts to come in. The 200t is unquestionably the better driver’s car of the two, but not to the extent that makes its 28mpg motorway economy and 30% BiK banding something you’d want to overlook. If it’s a balance between head and heart, soak up the advantages of the ‘silent revolution’ and shift the decision towards the rational aspects, make do with the battery-compromised boot space, and opt for the hybrid.
The RC 300h is a no-brainer for company car drivers against the 200t; as good as it is, the latter just doesn’t offer enough driver appeal to forego the economy of the hybrid drivetrain.