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Review

Lexus RC 300h Coupe (2018 - ) review

The Lexus RC is a slightly leftfield alternative to other prestige coupes such as the Audi A4, BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class Coupe.

Words by: First published: 13th February 2019
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0
The Lexus RC has a tough job on its hands, competing with popular prestige coupes such as the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series and Mercedes C-Class. It makes its case with individual – not to mention pretty handsome – styling, impressive build quality and an intriguing financial proposition thanks to its hybrid drive system. Unfortunately, it’s not as polished to drive as its main rivals, and it has some pretty fundamental ergonomic issues. Still, if those things matter less to you than individuality, it’s certainly worth a look.

Pros

  • Mean, aggressive looks
  • Heaving list of standard equipment
  • Lexus has a brilliant reliability record

Cons

  • A lot less powerful than the looks suggest
  • Anaesthetised controls take the edge off the handling
  • Some ergonomic issues

Interested in buying a Lexus RC 300h?

How good does it look? 4/5

Looks will be one of the main attractions for anyone considering a posh two-door coupe, so it’s good news this is where the Lexus RC is arguably at its strongest. Crucially, its sharp angular details and flowing lines make it look aggressive and exotic at the same time, but what many buyers will like most is that it looks very different to all the other cars it competes with, giving it a good slice of individuality. All versions come with LED technology in the headlights, daytime running lights and rear lights, and alloy wheels of at least 18-inches are also standard. The F-Sport version gets 19-inchers and a bespoke grille, while the range-topping Takumi gets a different design of 19-inch wheels and a sunroof.

What's the interior like? 2/5

The RC’s interior is just as individual as the outside, with different finishes and textures coming at you from all angles, and some unique design. The heavily bolstered seats are very supportive, and because they – and the steering column – have electric adjustment as standard, it’s very easy to find your favoured driving position. What’s more, the digital instrument panel looks rather nifty, and the information displayed changes according to which driving mode you’re in. From there, however, things take a turn for the worse.

The infotainment system is rather slow to react, and whether you control it through its touchscreen functionality or via the mousepad-like controller between the front seats, it’s not all that intuitive to operate. The slinky roofline means your rear visibility isn’t much cop, either, and for all the interior’s individuality, the quality of the materials isn’t as high as you’ll find in rivals from Germany, so it doesn’t feel quite as plush.

How practical is it? 3/5

Two-door coupes are never going to be chosen specifically for their practicality, but they should have enough space to cope with four people and some luggage occasionally. The Lexus, does, but only just. Adult passengers will fit into the back seats, but they won’t be particularly comfortable – especially for long periods – due to the limited headroom and legroom. The boot is a reasonable size at 340 litres, but rivals give you more space.

What's it like to drive? 3/5

Thanks to rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, the dynamic standards in this class are pretty high, and unfortunately, the RC300h lags a fairly significant way behind.

Judged in isolation, it’s not a bad car to drive at all, with a ride that’s firm-but-fair and has decent body control in corners. Compared with its rivals, though, the ride is rather less polished and the handling feels rather more laboured. It’s a heavy car, and you can feel that weight shifting from side to side as you string a set of bends together. Outright grip isn’t as strong, either, and steering that’s overly light and has a very detached feel doesn’t inspire much confidence. The brakes don’t deliver much in the way of sensation, and the weight of the car means you have to give them a good old shove to slow down or stop from speed.

How powerful is it? 2/5

At the moment, the RC is only available in 300h form, which means it’s a hybrid that brings together a 2.5-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery to produce a combined output of 220 horsepower. That’s comparable to most mainstream versions of rivals. Even so, though, the 300h still feels rather outgunned for performance. Like with many hybrids, any meaningful pressure on the throttle pedal sends the revs soaring, making a thrashy noise that’s disproportionate to the modest increase in pace you feel. That’s the case whether you’re accelerating from a standstill (0-62mph takes a leisurely 8.6 seconds) or picking up speed on the move.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The RC 300h is designed to compete with diesel-powered versions of the A5, 4 Series and C-Class Coupe, and it makes a rather compelling case for itself. There’s not a vast amount of difference in what you’ll pay for any of them, and because the Lexus clings on to its value as well as any of its competitors, it should treat you just as well financially come resale time.

Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are in broadly the same ballpark, too, but where the Lexus has the advantage is on tax for company car drivers. Because it’s a petrol-electric hybrid, you avoid having to pay the diesel surcharge, meaning much lower monthly tax bills. So, if you’re looking for a stylish fleet car, this could prove a very shrewd choice.

How reliable is it? 5/5

Look at any reliability survey going, and Lexus is always on or near the top of the pile. The same is true when it comes to customer satisfaction surveys, and this combination of mechanical dependability and excellent customer service means owning a Lexus is usually a pain-free experience. This should give you peace of mind. You’re also covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, while the hybrid parts are covered for five years/60,000 miles.

How safe is it? 4/5

The RC hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, and with the low numbers it’s likely to sell in, it probably never will be. However, you can take heart from the impressive list of standard safety equipment. You’re protected by eight airbags, and all cars come with a suite of sophisticated driver aids that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control automatic high beam, lane keeping assist and road sign recognition. Range-topping Takumi cars also get rear cross traffic alert and a blind spot monitor on top of that, but these extras are optional on the F Sport and not available on the standard RC.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Lexus has always been very good at giving customers loads of kit for their money, and the RC does nothing to change that. The entry-level trim, imaginatively named RC, comes with electric windows, dual-zone climate control, leather-effect upholstery, front seats that are both heated and cooled, parking sensors at either end, a reversing camera and an infotainment system with sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB, DVD player and ten speakers. The F Sport adds rain-sensing wipers, bespoke seats and various interior styling changes, while the Takumi gives you a heated steering wheel, high-grade leather upholstery, a sunroof and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system.

Why buy? 3/5

The Lexus RC looks dramatic, and it’s a little bit different to the usual German prestige coupes everyone else buys. For some buyers, that’ll be enough. Thanks to the financial benefits of its hybrid system, the RC could also be a very shrewd choice for company car drivers.

Interested in buying a Lexus RC 300h?