BUCKET LIST DRIVE: 1970 Re­nault R8 Gor­dini

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Steve Smith Steve­smithza

BLACK is not usu­ally the paint colour that best high­lights a car’s aes­thet­ics. It works on the Lexus RC, though. The un­flat­ter­ing neon light­ing in Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s multi-storey parkade bounces and scat­ters off the brood­ing Lexus, em­pha­sis­ing the blend of an­gled facets and arced curves that is Lexus’ L-fi­nesse de­sign lan­guage. Ar­riv­ing to pick up our press ve­hi­cles at the South African launch of the RC 350 F Sport, it was this Starlight Black ver­sion that I swiftly an­nexed.

A quick scan of the launch route in­di­cated we’d be head­ing along the R44 False Bay coastal road through Pringle Bay be­fore cut­ting across coun­try and end­ing in wine coun­try via the Fran­schhoek Pass. It was a route any per­for­mance car would love … if it were up to scratch.

On pa­per, the RC 350 ap­pears to be a tough sell in our mar­ket. Em­ploy­ing the same 3,5-litre quad-cam V6 petrol found in its GS sib­ling, the RC 350 is good for 233 kw and 378 N.m. Those aren’t bad stats, un­til you see the price: R730 900. Com­pare the Lexus with its nat­u­ral ri­vals in terms of per­for­mance and you’re look­ing at ei­ther a BMW 428i or an Audi A5 3,0T FSI, both of which are sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper; as­sess the com­peti­tors in terms of price and the more pow­er­ful BMW 435i and Audi S5 come into con­tention. Per­haps the cheaper 2,0-litre tur­bopetrol-equipped RC 200t – due here be­fore year-end – will make more fi­nan­cial sense.

In­deed, as a per­for­mance car, the RC 350 won’t blow your hair back. The power and torque fig­ures aren’t ex­actly measly, but with­out tur­bocharg­ing on the V6 en­gine, noth­ing much hap­pens be­fore 4 500 r/min when the ponies kick in and gal­lop along un­til they slow

Lexus’ strik­ing coupé doesn’t quite de­liver in the per­for­mance stakes, but that doesn’t make it a bad car

to a can­ter at 6 400 r/min. It’s also not helped by an eight-speed torque-con­verter trans­mis­sion that feels a tad slug­gish.

Then there’s its mass. We had the ve­hi­cle on test fol­low­ing the launch and weighed it at 1 726 kg fully topped up with the req­ui­site flu­ids, mak­ing it some 110 kg heav­ier than the BMW 428i. As a re­sult, the RC 350 pays the price in both stand­ing-start ac­cel­er­a­tion – the quick­est time in which we could reach 100 km/h on our test strip was 7,19 sec­onds – and han­dling where that ex­tra mass was clearly no­tice­able through Fran­schhoek Pass.

Its steer­ing, too, is un­der­whelm­ing for a per­for­mance car. Turn-in is pretty sharp, es­pe­cially when the Dy­namic Rear Steer­ing sys­tem kicks in, but there’s not enough feel through the wheel.

Per­haps the fault lies with the Franken­steinian un­der­pin­nings; the front-end is from the GS, the cen­tre from the IS C con­vert­ible and the rear cour­tesy of the IS sedan. With the rest of the pre­mium mo­tor­ing world adopt­ing sin­gle (usu­ally scal­able) plat­forms, this is a head-scratcher.

So, there’s very lit­tle rea­son to choose the RC 350, then?

Not ex­actly. If you’re look­ing for an ac­com­plished GT that will ef­fort­lessly eat up the miles, the RC starts to make more sense.

Our route also took in some well-cam­bered B-roads and highways, and there the RC 350 ac­quit­ted it­self well. As stan­dard, it fea­tures Lexus’s Drive Mode Se­lect that works in con­junc­tion with the Adap­tive Vari­able Sus­pen­sion sys­tem and even in sport mode pro­vides an ex­cel­lent ride de­spite big 19-inch wheels and low-pro­file rub­ber.

A tick in the RC 350’s favour is how well specced it is. For now, there’s just this one de­riv­a­tive and seem­ingly ev­ery fea­ture is stan­dard, from sup­ple leather trim on power-ad­justable front seats, an elec­tri­cally ad­justable steer­ing col­umn, eight airbags, 10-speaker au­dio sys­tem and sat-nav dis­played on a seven-inch mul­ti­me­dia dis­play, to a re­verse cam­era, park­ing sen­sors and lanede­par­ture warn­ing.

Of course, there’s also the usual card Lexus’ play – the fact that they’re dif­fer­ent. The L-fi­nesse de­sign lan­guage works par­tic­u­larly well on a two-door shape and this strik­ing car is a welcome al­ter­na­tive to the de­fault Ger­mans. You’re pretty much guar­an­teed ex­clu­siv­ity on South African roads. It there­fore gets an “ad­e­quate” rat­ing in the dy­nam­ics col­umn, but “very good” in the dis­tinc­tive cruiser one.

ABOVE: the stop, rear li­cence, turn-sig­nal, ex­te­rior mir­rors and pud­dle lamps all fea­ture LED tech­nol­ogy. BE­LOW: tra­di­tional in­stru­ments have been re­placed with an eight-inch TFT LCD screen. There’s also a seven-inch dis­play screen cen­trally mounted on the dash­board. OP­PO­SITE: the RC’S spin­dle grille is the widest and low­est of all Lexus’ mod­els.

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