Review and road test of the 2017 Lexus RC 300h – the Lexus competition for the BMW 4-Series – in entry-level Luxury trim with hybrid powertrain.
Not only do current Lexus models have real style and real individuality, they are, on the whole, perfectly targeted at their main demographic, and offer rather a lot for the money.
Even the hybrid powerplants and CVT gearboxes have matured to the point where you appreciate their refinement, most of the time, and start to thing “This isn’t much of a hardship to not have a diesel engine”.
None of all that is better illustrated than with this review car – the 2017 Lexus RC, which looks terrific, is well equipped – even in this lowly ‘Luxury’ trim – and appealing.
But what’s the RC like to live with? Is it a good buy if you want a stylish coupe, or would you be better off with a BMW 4 Series or Mercedes C-Class?
RC 300h Luxury Inside and Out
If you want a ‘Premium’ Coupe of a sensible size, there are a trio of options from the German trio of BMW, Mercedes and Audi, although nothing really from Volvo or Jaguar.
But Lexus has an offering in the RC Coupe – essentially a coupe take on the IS – which has a very different take on what buyers want from a premium coupe.
For a start, the looks are properly standout, with lots of angles and curves, a big statement grill, powerful haunches and delightful touches like the small grills on the air outlets at the back. It is, to our eyes, a far more appealing look than any of the competition.
Not only is the exterior a standout design, the interior is a delightful place to be too.
The (very few) scratchy plastics are well hidden, the seats are comfy, the tiered dash a delight to look at and everything feels just right, and better than you would expect.
It’s not the most practical car – although Coupe’s aren’t really meant to be – with only children really at home in the cosy back seats, and the boot not exactly a big ‘un.
But it’s very well equipped with stuff like Cruise, Keyless, Climate, Park Assist, auto lights and wipers, leather, electric seats, Hill Start, Auto high beam, LED lights and more all in the standard spec, even in this entry-level Luxury trim.
In fact the only extra (apart from the metallic paint) Lexus has fitted to this review car is Premium Nav which comes with Remote Touch Pad (which is a bit of a pain), Traffic Updates, Reversing Camera and upgraded sound.
It’s hard to fault the looks, the build quality or the spec of the RC 300h. It’s as good as it gets at this price point.
RC 300h Luxury Performance
Where the RC 300h really departs from the German competition is the way it’s set up and the way it’s powered.
Lexus has been blowing the Hybrid trumpet for decades, but it’s mostly fallen on deaf ears as the world embraced diesels. But that’s changing as buyers turn away from diesels, and hybrids suddenly seem more appealing.
But if you don’t care how a car looks (and if that’s the case, why would you be considering a premium coupe?) and you want a car with a real sporty feel and cracking performance, then you might be a bit disappointed with the RC.
It’s 2.5 litre engine and electric assistance add up to about 220bhp, and it gets to 62mph in 8.6 seconds. Which is okay, but not exactly designed to get the hairs on the back of your neck playing games.
But actually, even with the paper figures not looking hugely appealing, the RC is actually really nice to drive.
You can float around town letting the hybrid thing do its stuff, and you’ll be in a hushed cabin, cosseted and pampered as you float around town letting the rest of the world get wound up.
Play on a nice little B-road and you can drop it in to Sport and play with the flappy paddles to deliver a stepped control to the gearbox, and make the RC lift its skirts a bit to play.
Then, the RC turns in well, although it’s hard to feel it drive out with real conviction and it does roll a bit more than a keen driver would want, but the steering is accurate and grip is good.
But unless you’re pushing as hard as you can to make the RC fall over, it’s very competent on back roads, and on motorways and dual carriageways it’s a real delight.
It’s a setup and combination of abilities which suits the vast majority of driving you’ll do.
RC 300h Luxury Edition Verdict
Despite many in the business thinking the only thing that matters is how quick a car is and how well will it go round a bend on a back road blat, most buyers care more about the things that really matter.
Of course they care it’s competent when you want to get a shake on, but most care more about how a car looks, how it feels and how comfortable and cosseting it is. And how much it costs.
And on those key wants, the RC 300h ticks all the boxes.
The interior is a delightful, slightly left-field, take on what ‘Premium’ should be. It’s also generously equipped, even in this entry-level Luxury spec, nice to drive, and good looking enough to make you glance over your shoulder as you walk away having parked.
Despite not having a chassis honed at the Nurburgring – and carrying a bit more weight than perhaps is ideal, thanks to the hybrid’s batteries – the RC is actually a decent drive when you want to push on, handles bends well, has great grip and easy to point steering.
But it’s a frankly terrific place to be in town, where the hybrid powertrain just floats you around in refined comfort. And on motorways it’s hushed and calm, fuss-free and very competent.
It all adds up to a car which does exactly what its should. And did we mention it looks great too?
Lexus RC 300h Luxury Specs
- Engine: 2494cc Hybrid Electric 220bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.6 seconds / Top Speed 118mph
- Economy: 57.6mpg – Official / 39.2mpg – Test
- Emissions: 113g/km
- Price: £37,145/ Price as tested £39,765
- Test car supplied by Lexus UK