Good: striking appearance, high-quality interior, quiet and refined.
Not so good: doesn't engage the driver, no satnav as standard.
Lexus, sensibly, continues to reference its iconic LFA supercar in anything moderately sporty it produces. The new RC coupe, for example, features a very swish instrument pack that takes inspiration from the LFA's. Press the menu button on the steering wheel and, assuming you have no music blaring through the excellent stereo, there's an audible electric motor whirr as the whole rev counter smoothly slides to the right, revealing a digital display behind with further information on it. All this and more would be possible from a fully digital set-up (see the Audi TT or Jaguar F-Pace for the best examples), but the Lexus mechanical feature is unique and it's certain to grab the attention of potential buyers when they experience it in the showroom.
Indeed, the Lexus RC has plenty of showroom appeal. It might not be a pretty car in conventional terms, but it certainly is striking. The RC 200t is only offered in F Sport guise, so it does a good job of mimicking the range-topping RC F sports car, helped by handsome wide 19-inch alloy wheels and plenty of suggestive detailing - such as those 'vents' behind the rear wheels. The interior is lovely too, especially in terms of fit and finish. We reckon the German premium marques have Lexus beaten in terms of cabin style (those cool instruments aside), but the Lexus is at the top of the class for quality and materials used. While we found the automatic gear selector a bit clunky to use, the steering wheel is perfect and the switchgear is well-damped throughout. It's a little quirky, though, with touch-sensitive sliders for the dual-zone climate control and a strange rotary switch to select the various driving modes, but with familiarity you soon learn your way around. And there's the sense that it'll all still work and feel exactly as it does now in 30 years' time.
Take the RC 200t for a test drive from a dealer and you'll be impressed at first. It's a highly refined car, whispering along effortlessly and keeping the outside world at bay. Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing peak figures of 245hp and 350Nm. Useful outputs by any measure, but Lexus has developed this car for comfort and refinement rather than out-and-out driver appeal so it never truly comes alive. The upshot is that it's never anything other than quiet, even when you are asking for all of its performance. Sending that power to the rear wheels is a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. It's so smooth that I began to wonder if it was indeed a CVT unit and adding to that suspicion was the lack of direct feeling between the throttle position and the engine response. Choose Sport S or Sport S+ modes and it livens up a little, but not to the same extent that a BMW or Audi would. It doesn't like to kick-down, for example.
That's a shame, as the ingredients are there to allow the RC be a comfortable cruiser one minute and something rather sportier the next. The Drive Mode Select system (allowing a choice of Eco, Normal, Sport S or Sport S+) affects the transmission, electric power steering assistance, throttle response and, as standard, the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), so why not allow the sportiest mode to ramp it all up a notch? In fairness, the AVS system does, giving the RC tighter body control when required. The S+ setting is probably too firm for Irish back roads, but it makes the RC feel more agile and sportier. Likewise, the steering is quite direct and surprisingly communicative. Perhaps an active exhaust would help the car come alive and it certainly could do with a transmission recalibration to allow keener drivers access the full potential of the engine.
Of course, most coupe buyers in Ireland make a beeline for the diesel model in any case, so demand for cars like the 200t is low. Lexus doesn't make any diesels now, but there is an alternative in the guise of the RC 300h hybrid. It's offered in Executive and F Sport variants, with pricing usefully lower than the pure petrol car at €49,950. We'll have to wait for another day to see if that can live up to the legend of the Lexus LFA.