Car reviews - Lexus - RC - 200t
Engine and gearbox a sweet match with capable chassis
Room for improvement
Calm temperament doesn’t match its go-fast looks
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2 Dec 2015
By TIM ROBSON
THERE are a few cars that look fast just sitting on the forecourt, and the edgy, swoopy rear-drive Lexus RC is one of them. With more than a hint of LFA in its silhouette, the handsome RC is a revelation for the company, whose line of faithfully luxurious but functionally staid cars is steadily being worked over by Toyota’s head man, Aiko Toyoda.
GoAuto has had the pleasure of belting an RC F around for a few days, and came away impressed with its enormous capability and straight-line grunt, but a little underwhelmed by its lack of theatre.
The entry-level RC200t promises much, with the four-pot turbo’s 185kW augmented by a healthy 350Nm of torque across a 1650-4400rpm range. Its heft, though, is a surprise, at 1675kg, which restricts its 0-100km/h time to 7.5 seconds.
Economy is rated 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.
It differs not at all from the RC350 range in spec, so leather buckets and a stylish, edgy cabin greet us on what turns out to be a very short drive of the RC200t F Sport variant.
The chief upgrade for the F Sport – aside from Bridgestone Potenza tyres on 19-inch rims – is the fitment of what Lexus calls Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). It’s not a new system, but it’s effective, with actuators atop the shocks varying the damping rate depending on various inputs from the chassis.
All of the RC200t models score a limited slip diff, as well as a front performance damper, which ties the front end together and acts to isolate out some of the unwanted harshness a small inline engine can generate.
They do miss out on the dynamic rear-steering functionality of the 350s, though.
On our short loop, the RC200t makes for a highway cruiser par excellence, with nothing but silence from the engine bay, tyres or door mirrors. The ride is firm only in that the chassis itself is bank-vault taut, which allows the suspension to work more actively, keying into the road very nicely.
The front end isn’t as tactile as we had hoped, given the lower engine mass over the front tyres and the fact that those fronts only have to steer, not drive the car. It grips well enough and will take a set when asked, but there’s not a lot in the way of feedback coming through the steering wheel.
The powertrain itself is more GT than GT3, with the long-geared eight-speed automatic set up pretty conservatively in both auto and manual override modes.
It refuses to allow manual downshifts even though road speed is sufficiently low, and it’ll shift up for you at 6200rpm, a few hundred shy of the redline.
The engine itself is a sweetie, though, with lag-free linearity through the rev range and a smooth, refined feel underfoot. It’s not what you’d call lightning fast, but it propels the RC200t along at an agreeable pace.
Our test loop was far too short to get much of a handle on the car’s day-to-day performance, but we can tell you that the moonroof is not a great spec choice – the RC’s roofline is low for tall drivers and passengers at the best of times, and the old-design split-glass roof gobbles up far too much of that precious space.
There’s just a three-grand price difference between the RC200t and RC350 ranges, and Lexus reckons the buyer split will be 40/40, with the remaining 20 per cent opting for the RC F.
We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve had more of a go in the RC200t, but at first blush, it’s an enticing enough package to attract buyers from the top ends of mainstream marques like Volkswagen to check out a handsome, well equipped car from one of the world’s true luxury brands.
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