THE LEXUS RC was Japan’s balls-out Banzai coupe at this year’s COTY battle. This is thanks, in part, to its jagged, aggressive styling and the NASCAR-like sound of the RC-F’s 5.0-litre V8 at full noise.
Until the entry-level RC200t arrives (see sidebar, right), the RC350 is the starting point for what is essentially the two-door version of the IS sedan.
Yet unlike the coupe versions of its German competition, which often look remarkably similar to their sedan counterparts, the RC brings its own toughened style and a unique 2730mm wheelbase (70mm shorter than IS). So it’s ultimately more than a longer set of doors and a lower roof.
That cabin, too, is surreal. Long, swept-back lines and a low-down seating position, combined with a plethora of digital instruments, made some judges feel like they were in a fighter jet. But does an F-35 have a foot-operated park brake?
The RC350 F-Sport we tested was $60K cheaper than the full-fat RC-F, yet clearly tried to evoke some of its big brother’s sporting flavour. The 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre V6 is serene at slow speeds and has a fruity soundtrack when pushed that belies the engine’s considerable age. Balance is commendable and bodyroll is readily controlled, but it doesn’t quite have the connectedness in its steering or sharpness in its reflexes to make it a serious threat to its rivals.
For outright entertainment, you need the RC-F.
Its naturally aspirated 351kW V8 is a great big chunk of revvy bent-eight goodness that breaks out into a thunderous bellow when you stomp on the throttle, urging you to give it more. But when you’re not getting stuck right into this lurid orange beast, the RC-F’s engine and eight-speed auto combo is all a bit too smooth and demure to get your pulse racing. And if you select Sports+ to counter this, all you end up with is an overly sensitive throttle.
Then there’s ‘Expert mode’, which is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn’t completely disable ESC, leaving some judges slightly frustrated that they couldn’t use the engine’s full capabilities. But the RC-F is a much better car than the old IS-F. It feels extremely solid (as you’d expect of 1780kg), grips hard, and brakes strongly.
Given its big leap in price over the 350, the RC-F does deliver a sizeable step up in personality and driving dynamics. And its very firm ride isn’t uncomfortable. But even though the judges could appreciate its outlandish style, it’s no M4 beater.
While the RC’s exterior is unique and its LFAesque cabin feels special, it falls down in the function department. Intrusive seat bolsters, flawed cabin storage and a rather squeezy back seat were all marks against the RC’s packaging.
Yet despite its foibles, it still reels in fans with its character and quality. The RC-F, in particular, was the red cordial of the COTY field, providing an instant, short-lived hit, at a more affordable price than its big-gun opposition. But with significant weight and efficiency issues, this fleeting infatuation wasn’t enough to move the Lexus forward.
Type 2-door coupe, 4 seats Boot capacity 366 – 423 litres Weight 1680 – 1780kg
Layout front engine (north-south), RWD Engines 3456cc V6 (233kW/378Nm); 4969cc V8 (351kW/530Nm) Transmissions 8-speed automatic
Tyres 235/45R18 – 275/35R19 ADR81 fuel consumption 9.4 – 10.9L/100km CO2 emissions 217 – 259g/km Collision mitigation .
Crash rating not tested Prices $65,610 – $133,110
There is a less expensive way into the RC for 2016: the 200t. The new entry-level model will arrive early in the new year, powered by a 1998cc turbo four-cylinder making 180kW/350Nm, tied to an eightspeed automatic. It’s already available in the IS200t sedan, where Lexus claims 0-100km/h in 7.0sec and 7.5L/100km consumption.
Given the RC’s 100kg-plus weight increase over the already heavy 1620kg IS, expect these both to change, with pricing somewhere around the $60K mark.