Lexus RC

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Convincing in some ways, less so in others

If you’re going to try to sell a car that’s at a statistical disadvantage, you’d better be very sure to have some stardust up your sleeve. Such is the case with the new Lexus RC, a more affordable sister to the RC-F sports coupé reviewed on these pages little more than a year ago. So in place of a £60,000 price tag and a 5-litre V8 under the bonnet comes a rather more homespun 2-litre turbo that costs £36,495 (for the F-Sport Premium version, with all the tricks including a limited-slip diff and adaptive damping).

But just as its big sister suffered an excess of avoirdupois, so too does the RC, a whole 150kg of it compared to the benchmark BMW 428i M Sport that has the same power, the same torque and the same price to within £35.

It’s true that the BMW is less well equipped and will cost more if you want an eight-speed autobox like the RC has as standard, but that will have to count for a lot to offset the fact the RC’s acceleration is so poor that from a standing start you’d have no chance of keeping up with a Ford Fiesta ST costing half the money, let alone the impressively rapid BMW. And because weight infects all areas of a car’s endeavours, the RC uses more fuel than the BMW, so will cost more to run and tax.

Yet there are times when the RC is genuinely enjoyable to drive. Given a reasonably open road, it will flow from apex to apex with considerable élan thanks to classy suspension, well-judged settings and one of the better electrically assisted steering systems available in this kind of car.

The RC looks the part, too, both inside and out, thanks to design far more adventurous and exciting than the tedious steady-as-she-goes approach favoured by the unimaginative styling studios of its European rivals.

What’s more, it feels like a proper sports car, not a saloon that’s been massaged into a very slightly more svelte shape. You sit low in the cabin, in a proper sports seat, pull the wheel close to your chest and survey a driving environment impressively appointed with screens and a multitude of switches. It doesn’t function with quite the ease you’d hope (especially the mouse that controls the navigation), but with acclimatisation you get used to it, and when climbing aboard you feel a sense of occasion that never wears thin.

This, then, is the RC’s USP and there’s no doubting it has some merit. If what you want is a car that looks good, is pleasant to drive and will stand out from a crowd of visual Eurobores, there is quite a lot to be said for it. Remember that, for the money, it’s also well equipped. To me, however, it is just too slow to carry its appearance with conviction. A car should always be able to rise to the promise of its looks and, bluntly, this one can’t.

It deserves the position of the credible niche player it will undoubtedly achieve, but without posing a genuine threat to the European establishment.

Factfile

£36,495

Engine 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged

Power [email protected]

Torque 258lb [email protected]

Transmission eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Weight 1675kg

Power to Weight 144bhp per tonne

0-62mph 7.5sec

Top speed 143mph  

Economy 38.7mpg

CO2 168g/km