Say hello to our new Lexus RC 300h long-termer

Published: 03 February 2020

► CAR lives with a Lexus RC
► Ours is a 300h F Sport hybrid
► Regular reports from James Taylor

Product design theorists reckon there’s an optimum relationship between complexity and simplicity. Psychologist Daniel Berlyne reckoned that if you were to plot a graph with its x axis travelling from simple to fiddly, and its y axis for level of attractiveness, the result would be a bell curve. Too simple and people are indifferent; too complex, people are turned off. 

In recent years, Lexus has spent too much time down the complicated end, its cars’ styling a riot of competing creases, slashes and embellishments. But with the knee-weakening LC flagship coupe and this, the recently facelifted RC (less flagshippy) coupe, I reckon they’re finding the sweet spot. It has just the right balance of sharpness, smoothness and rear-wheel-drive muscle around the haunches. The RC first came out in 2014, and this is the gently updated version, with mild trim tweaks inside and out and new safety kit. Plus the steering column and driver’s seat now automatically motor in opposite directions to make climbing in and out easier.

Lexus RC LTT interior

This is not the 5.0-litre V8-powered RC F supercoupe but an RC 300h in F Sport spec, a trim level à la M Sport or AMG Line. For around £3500 over the regular RC, that gives it triple-stack headlights, more exciting grille and bumpers, 19-inch wheels instead of 18s, sports seats, orange calipers and adaptive dampers. There’s one trim above it, Takumi, with a few extra niceties we can live without, such as a heated steering wheel. 

It used to be possible to get the RC with an unhybridised 2.0-litre petrol engine, but now the only game in town apart from the V8 RC F is this 300h hybrid version. It pairs a 178bhp 2.5-litre petrol four with a 141bhp electric motor and battery pack (turning out a combined peak power of 220bhp when both are in optimum harmony), running through an electronically controlled CVT to the rear wheels. 

As fast as it looks? It’s early days at the moment but, erm, no. A kerbweight in excess of 1.7 tonnes means the 300h feels like it’s powered by something much smaller than a 2.5-litre engine, even with the motor to help it along (which also serves as a generator to top up the battery under deceleration). The way the powertrain works takes some getting used to as well, with a choise of drive modes that sharpen up the initially slovenly throttle response and the option to shift manually.

Lexus RC LTT wheel

We’ve six months to establish whether the Lexus’s way of doing things is different/better or just different/different. Until then, the good news is that the RC handles. Lexus has stiffened the RC’s structure as part of its updates, and this is a well-balanced, grippy car (exceptionally so in the wet – thank the Dunlops).

So it looks like an alluring coupe, but that style doesn’t carry through from the exterior to the interior – the cabin could be that of any Lexus: big steering wheel, oblong buttons, clock mid-dash. Thankfully it doesn’t have the borderline-unusable mouse system that afflicted the Lexus RX Tim Pollard ran recently, but the RC’s trackpad is still fiddly. Best take another look at that graph, boys.

By James Taylor

Logbook: Lexus RC 300h F Sport

Price £42,305 (£43,725 as tested) 
Performance 2494cc hybrid four-cylinder, 220bhp, 8.6sec 0-62mph, 118mph 
Efficiency 47.6mpg (official), 30.1mpg (tested), 114g/km CO2 
Energy cost 21.1p per mile 
Miles this month 233
Total miles 2818

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer