WHERE HAVE ALL THE SPORTS cars gone? There used to be a time when coupes-in the classic sense of the word- could be found from every manufacturer and there was something at just about every price point. Remember the Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica? While Mazda is still flying the flag with its MX-5, it is more the exception in this post-coupe era that is dominated by crossovers and the term ‘coupe’ is applied even to four-door models.
I’d argue that two-door sports cars are more inspiring and are the stuff that schoolboys – Including Yours Truly -would doodle in their notebooks and fill their toy chests with die-cast models of. Between the Mazda MX-5 RF and Porsche Cayman, there’s not a lot to choose from if you’re in the market for a fixed roof coupe. For the purpose of this story, I’m conveniently omitting three-door hot hatches like the MINI Cooper and VW Scirocco because, they’re hatchbacks. So when a coupe like the Lexus RC comes out, it tends to stand out as something special. More so when it is painted in the type of colour that Tony Stark might finish his Iron Man suits in. Lexus calls it Infrared. The Lexus RC looks the business as a coupe should, it brings a sense of occasion just by looking at it. Mildly facelifted, you would have to park last year’s model next to this one to spot the differences in the headlamp design. With the new car comes anew engine variant. This ti me a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant replaces the previous 3.5-litre V6.
Those with 98 RON coursing through their veins can rest easy knowing that the flagship RC F is still available and continues to be powered by a good ol’ 5.0-Iitre V8 with 470hp on tap. Crucially, this is one of the last few naturally-aspirated eight-cylinder engines you can by today. Get ’em before they’re all gone. For all intents and purposes, the RC 200t or RC Turbo as it is communicated here, is the more pragmatic option. Additionally, it arguably adds better styling into the mix thanks to a sleeker bonnet profile and the option of the a fore mentioned Infrared paint option that is unique to this variant. The RCF’s more bulbous front end not only serves as a visual clue to the bigger engine beneath but is also necessitated by pedestrian protection regulations.
With a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit, the RC 200t presents itself as a credible alternative to those shopping for a BMW 420i and Mercedes-Benz C 300 Coupe that have similar outputs and are rear-wheel driven. While styling is subjective, I think most will agree that the flashy Lexus looks the most like a purpose-built sports car while the other two look like derivatives from their sedan siblings. A stronger argument is perhaps that the RC Turbo is the car its owner buys by choice because it looks better than its flagship. Pull up in the garden variety BMW 4 Series or Mercedes C-class Coupe and it looks like you couldn’t stretch to an M4 or AMG C63/C43.
Step inside the RC and the ambience is more of a cockpit than cabin as that swooping roofline feels noticeable lower than either of its German competitors’. Elsewhere, the Lexus’ sports car experience is bolstered by a cosier, intimate proximity to the controls that fall readily at hand. As this is a Lexus, expectations are high of its interior quality. On the whole, the RC Turbo lives up to this billing, especially with its finely stitched steering wheel that feels wonderful in your hands. However, if we were to nit-pick, some other areas such as the analogue clock and the lack of Apple CarPlay or sat nav keep this car from gaining an edge over its rivals that also offer a touch higher build quality.
The heart of the RC Turbo, its engine, is the bit that needs a bit more work. While the same unit does a fine job in the other Lexus models such as the NX SUV, in a sports car, the engine is expected to take centre stage rather than an obliging supporting role. To this end, this four-cylinder unit needs to be more vocal to convey a more emotional driving experience. Although the RC Turbo’s delivers a decent performance, it does so too quiet for a sports car. It’s nothing a well-tuned sport exhaust system can’t solve. Instead, this Lexus delivers the goods in the typical vault-like silence and isolation that the brand’s sedans are famed for. Fortunately, the suspension is capable of entertaining as much as it pampers its occupants, which is a rare balance these days, while the steering returns a sweet analogue-feeling feedback that even the BMW 4 Series can’t quite match.
The Lexus RC Turbo is a very likeable car; it has got style in spades, which is probably one of two reasons anyone buys a coupe. The other is performance, or perhaps more crucially, how sporty it feels to drive, in this regard, the engine needs a little more character, like the previous V6-powered RC350 did. In the case of the RC Turbo, I’d even trade in a little refinement for some intake snarl, exhaust pop and a sharper drivetrain response that the current Sports mode offers. An F Sport version perhaps?