It’s taken me some time to write this up thanks to computer problems and a period of illness but now is the time for an overview.
I was very excited to get the opportunity to work with a new manufacturer when Lexus Birmingham agreed to provide me with a car to photograph. The car in question was the Lexus RC 300h F Sport Black Edition. Coming equipped with the Lexus Self Charging Hybrid system it was the first hybrid vehicle I have experienced as well so I was intrigued by how this technology could be integrated into a useable package day to day.
I collected the car from the showroom and was shown around the basic controls before being sent on my way. First impressions were the car looked even better in the flesh than in photographs with its sharp lines and aggressive styling. It’s so refreshing when a manufacturer doesn’t just play it safe but makes something that’s modern and stands out from the crowd in a sea of bland alternatives. It got lots of admiring looks and it’s not easy to tell it apart from its big brother the 5.0l V8 RCF. The cabin is tightly wrapped around the driver so immediately feels sporty and the quality of the interior was fantastic.
One of the first things I picked up on was the complexity of the infotainment system. It looks fantastic with a high definition display and beautiful graphics but I found it very difficult to navigate during the first part of my drive. The more time spent with it however and you learn where everything is and soon realise it is a hugely customisable system with all of the features you could need in a car and options to change pretty much any parameter you require. It is far from a bad system, it just takes a little time to learn to navigate. My advice would be to leave it alone until you have had time to sit when stationary to have a comprehensive play with all of the features. Having to learn a new car is part of the fun after all! And when it looks as good as it does learning to navigate it is no hardship!
During my time with the car I experienced driving in most environments from motorways, trunk roads and rutted b-roads in the Peak District and everything in between. The biggest compliment I can pay the RC and the thing that impressed me more than anything else from my time with the car is its ability to ride comfortably and still maintain excellent body control when you reach a bend. It soaked up bumps on the worst of roads sublimely and yet when you turn into a bend it remains flat and stable and feels genuinely sporty. I’ve not driven a car, particularly at this price point, that can boast the ability to handle like a sports car and ride like a luxury saloon at the same time quite like the RC can. This paired with the heavy but perfectly weighted steering means you can place the car exactly where you want on a spirited drive on even the most uneven roads and it feel stable and controlled at all times with very little body roll. It isn’t just the ride and handling that are sport traits in the RC, the seats are some of the most supportive I’ve experienced short of a bucket seat and despite this remained comfortable throughout several hours behind the wheel even for a larger guy like myself. The excellent ride comfort and heavy solid feeling makes the car an impeccable cruiser as well and it really shines on a motorway where it feels smooth, solid and quiet. This really is an excellent sports coupe but the perfect GT car as well.
A good GT car needs a quality power plant to really stack up and this is here Lexus really has something its rivals have not. In a world of plug in hybrids the Lexus range offers Self Charging Hybrids with no need to plug the car in at any point. The hybrid drive train pairs up with a 2.5 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine to give a combined horsepower figure just short of 230ps. The power plant is mated to a CVT transmission which when combined with the hybrid system and petrol engine makes for a driving experience unlike anything I have experienced before.
Firstly, Lexus have been known for doing the hybrid thing successfully for the longest and this really shows from behind the wheel. The car switched between electric and petrol mode seamlessly with no hint of vibration or judder. Under low loads you are hard pressed to even notice whether you are in petrol or electric mode from sound alone. Even at high speeds it is keen to move back into electric mode when you are off throttle and there is never a lack of power or response when you need to make a quick acceleration or overtake.
Four driving modes are available, ECO which maximises efficiency, normal which the car defaults to on start up and offers more response than ECO. Sport makes the engine more responsive still whilst maintaining good ride quality and Sport Plus stiffens up the chassis for optimum sporty driving. I did find Eco mode dialled back power too much for me so is best kept for around town where it is smooth and more than adequate in performance, although in any mode fully compressing the accelerator gives you all the power should you need to make an overtake. Sport and Sport plus really make the car feel like the sports coupe it is with good pickup all of the time and it even makes a nice engine sound under hard acceleration more akin to a 6 cylinder motor than a 4.
Open your mind to the CVT transmission and while it takes a little getting used to it works well with the car and its hybrid system. You always have power available and with fake gear shifts engineered in you get less of the drone under acceleration traditionally associated with this type of gearbox. You can manually change ‘gear’ with paddles but for me this was missing the point somewhat. Think of it as a single geared car, as it is and so are many electric vehicles, and it is executed perfectly.
Thanks to that gearbox and the extra weight of the hybrid system the car didn’t feel as brisk as a 230ps car would normally be but it certainly feels much quicker than a 0-60 time of 8.6 seconds and car with a 112mph vmax would elsewhere. The immediate torque from the electric motor gives you good responsiveness and once the revs build and that gearbox winds up the mid range pull is excellent and between 30 and 70 mph it feels brisk. It feels more like a 7 second 0-60 car and it’s only the nature of the gearbox and hybrid system that limit the on paper figures.
Putting the transmission, hybrid and petrol power and a well sorted chassis all together and I had some great drives both on the first day taking the car to the Peak District and on the second day on some more local roads better known to me. I really fell for the way it drove as well as the way it looked and was disappointed that my time with the car had to come to an end. In a car I would ideally go for a sporty look, a comfortable quality interior with a sporty drive but with a ride that doesn’t constantly jiggle around as a result as well as being refined on a long motorway run and this car ticked all of these boxes.
The Lexus RC 300h F Sport Black Edition comes with pretty much every bit of equipment you can imagine as standard from LED headlights, Leather sports seats which are heated and cooled and digital dials as well as that gorgeous 10 inch infotainment screen. Based on the F Sport model it features the extra sporty touches such as an LSD as well. I actually totted up the options required to bring a BMW 4 series in line with the equipment in the Black Edition and it added £11000 to the list price! The only bit of the interior setup which might be a negative for certain buyers is rear seat space which is an issue shared with all of its direct competitors. While it has 4 seats the rears are short of head and leg room especially if behind a tall driver but then you don’t buy a sporty coupe if you regularly have rear seat passengers and my toddler had plenty of room with the passenger seat moved forward a little.
And then there’s its party piece, the economy. Thanks to the hybrid system despite some spirited driving over the two days I had the car it still achieved around 35-38mpg and thanks to the electric mode this did not drop dramatically in traffic where my X1’s consumption would traditionally take a big hit. In electric mode you aren’t using any fuel after all. If you have a stop start commute or live in a city this type of car would be revelation and whilst a diesel car may be able to match its economy it cannot match the health benefits petrol and electric cars have over their diesel cousins and diesels certainly don’t sound as good!
The Lexus RC 300h F Sport Black Edition is a Sports Coupe that is both refined and comfortable but offers a sporty drive, has a quality feeling interior and every bit of equipment you could hope for. It has looks which are a revelation and is a rare sight on the roads and offers a Self Charging Hybrid power train that stands out in a sea of Diesel Coupes from the Germans not to mention Lexus consistently lingering around the top spots of customer satisfaction and reliability surveys year after year. Lexus offers a hugely compelling package in the RC 300h and to not try one if you are in the market for this type of car would be a huge over sight. You have been warned!
I want to say a huge thank you to Lexus Birmingham for providing me with the car. Make sure you pay them a visit and follow their social media profiles listed below. Also make sure you follow and like me on here and on my social media channels. You’ll also find all of the photographs from my time with the car on my Instagram page.