The Lexus RC 300h F Sport aims to combine a rear-wheel drive coupe with an efficient hybrid powertrain; two of the results that it delivers are an official economy figure of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of just 116g/km.
Toyota and Lexus are well known for their hybrids, but primarily for vehicles such as the Prius rather than for desirable drivers’ cars. The Lexus RC 300h F Sport aims to change all that – but can it really offer efficiency, performance and a sporty driving experience?
The Lexus RC 300h F Sport has a 4-cylinder, 2.5-litre petrol engine together with an electric motor and battery, and electric CVT transmission. The selling point of such a hybrid is that the powertrain captures energy when braking and puts it into the battery, and this energy can be used later when accelerating – and all of this happens without having to plug the car in to an electricity supply.
Unlike Toyota hybrids, but like other Lexus hybrids, the RC is rear-wheel drive.
The RC has a fairly striking exterior – more so from the rear than the front – and the interior is also a lot more visually interesting than your typical Toyota/Lexus product.
Of course, this is a coupe, so rear seat space isn’t great, and it doesn’t have a very practical boot.
The RC’s electric seats help you to obtain a good driving position, and the dashboard gives the feeling that this is a purposeful car.
Once underway you’re aware that the RC has a low centre of gravity and that the rear-wheel drive chassis delivers rewarding handling. The ride is also comfortable, the steering has decent feel and weight, and the brakes appear to be more effective than the brakes of many hybrids.
So it’s all good so far, but the concern is that the hybrid system, mated to the electric CVT transmission, will result in lots of revs – and associated noise – under acceleration. However Lexus appears to have cracked this – the revvy CVT hybrid sensation has almost been banished.
Although it’s a CVT, you also have the ability to change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles – although these are simulated gear changes.
Around town the RC works well and is fun to drive. This is no doubt helped by the electric motor providing instant torque from standstill.
On the motorway the RC is generally quiet and refined. The ride remains impressive, although there is some tyre and road noise. However if you want to overtake at motorway speeds there’s a disappointing lack of power and acceleration. There are a number of drive modes to choose from – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ – but even in Sport/Sport+ you’re left wondering where the performance has gone. Predictably, Eco mode is even worse.
BMW seems to have led the trend for a gear selector that you just pull once to select Drive or Reverse. In comparison, the gear change gate of the RC seems unnecessarily obstructive, with a notchy dog leg to negotiate.
And if we can mention BMW again, its cars have the excellent iDrive infomedia system, featuring a rotary dial and menu buttons to control the information on the screen. Lexus has instead opted for a computer mouse system to control the infomedia. We’ve tried really hard to get to grips with this, but it just doesn’t seem like an effective, precise system for use in a moving vehicle. Even to select the satnav on the infomedia system you have to use the mouse as there’s no shortcut button, and then entering a destination seems frustratingly difficult.
And although our test car had the option of Premium navigation (for an extra £1,995), the mapping quality wasn’t as good as many rivals.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy for the Lexus RC 300h F Sport is 56.5mpg, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km. At 70mph on the motorway we achieved an indicated 46.3mpg. It was actually around town when the real-world fuel economy dropped – to 35.7mpg. Overall after a week of mixed driving we averaged 41.8mpg – which may be reasonable for a coupe, but is quite a way short of the official 56.5mpg average figure. So the RC’s real-world economy isn’t amazing – which is in part due to the fact that the electric driving range is very short. However the RC displayed a useful driving range of 500 miles when full of fuel.
The Lexus RC 300h F Sport costs £41,640. Our test car had options of F Sport white paint (£625), Premium navigation (£1,995) and Mark Levinson upgrade (£1,000), bringing the total price to £45,260. The RC is also available with a V6 petrol engine (in RC F form).
If you’re looking for a hybrid driver’s car then the Lexus RC is one of the best options. It has rewarding rear-wheel drive handling, and the revvy drivetrain that is typical of so many hybrids has (almost) been banished. Performance is better at lower speeds; there’s not much acceleration on offer if you’re trying to overtake on the motorway.
Because it’s a hybrid, it’s efficient; but only under certain driving conditions. Because the RC weighs a fairly hefty 1736kg, lots of acceleration and deceleration around town doesn’t do any favours for the fuel economy – even though the perception is that such use is an ideal driving cycle for hybrids.
So the Lexus RC looks fast, but it isn’t; a sheep in wolf’s clothing may be a good description for it. But it’s still one of the best Toyota/Lexus hybrid products to drive (aside from the Lexus LC of course), and it shows that progress is being made in terms of improving hybrid technology. The Lexus RC 300h F Sport gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.