Lexus RC 300h review
The Lexus RC 300h is like most similar coupes at this price, in that is based on a saloon – in this case, the IS. However, this four-seater with its dramatic styling is unique in being a hybrid coupe.
So, while it’s natural rivals are models like the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5, they don’t include a hybrid model in their line-ups. They’re still rivals, of course, particularly when you consider how economical the diesel-engined versions of those cars are; but, if you’re considering alternative hybrids at this price with a similarly prestigious badge, you’ll have to look at the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Audi A3 Sportback e-tron, both of which are sporty, if not coupes.
Where the RC 300h differs from both of those, though, is that it’s not a plug-in hybrid. Instead, it’s what Lexus calls a self-charging hybrid. So, it has a much smaller battery than the Audi or Volkswagen and has a far shorter range on electric power only – just a mile or two, as opposed to the near 30-mile range on the GTE and e-tron.
Arguably, it makes the Lexus easier to live with, as you never need to plug it in to charge it up. But, it also means that the RC is nothing like as economical as the Audi and BMW. Indeed, with claimed economy of less than 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km, it’s no more economical than some of the diesel-engined models in the 4 Series and A5 ranges.
However, it does have the advantage of not incurring the surcharge imposed on all diesels when calculating BiK company-car tax liabilities, which make it attractive as a company car.
In common with its main rivals, it comes in a variety of trim levels, but even the most basic – just called RC – comes with 18-inch alloys, the adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, automatic high-beams and traffic-sign recognition. On top of that, F Sport cars get a mesh grille, LED headlights, orange brake calipers and adaptive suspension – the latter making this our favourite version. The top-of-the-range Takumi receives a Mark Levinson stereo and some extra safety kit.
The exterior styling may well be what sells this car to most of its buyers, but the cabin is also very stylish. It’s also well built from some lovely materials, but if there is an issue, it’s that form has occasionally been allowed to overtake function. Some bits look great, but aren’t the easiest to use, with the touchpad controller for the infotainment system being perhaps the worst offender.
While the RC caters very well for anyone in the front, this is some way from being the most practical coupe. Not only are the rear seats cramped, they’re awkward to get into, and the boot is smaller than in the car’s most obvious rivals.
Again, when you look at how the RC drives, it comes up short against its coupe rivals. Above all, the extra weight it’s carrying because of the hybrid system and its batteries does the performance and handling no favours, so it’s neither as quick nor as sharp as, say, the BMW 4 Series. And, when you want full acceleration, the CVT automatic gearbox sends the engine revs – and the noise levels – soaring uncomfortably.
Where the RC is at its best is as a comfortable and relaxed tourer. Once you’re at a steady cruise, it’s beautifully quiet inside and the ride is smooth, despite the suspension being set up a little firmer than in the Lexus IS saloon.
For all that, the RC is not that easy to recommend. If you’re looking for a hybrid, it’s not hard to find something that’s more economical, even with a similarly prestigious badge; and, if you want a sporty coupe, models like the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series are much more rewarding to drive. Styling aside, the only reason you’d have an RC on your shortlist is if you must have a hybrid coupe.
For a more detailed look at the Lexus RC 300h, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.