Does Lexus’s new Radical Coupé live up to its name?
Fast. Agile. Daring. These are not adjectives you would have expected to see in the press kit for a Lexus until just a few years ago. But then again, it was also hard in those days to imagine the Japanese luxury brand calling one of its cars a Radical Coupé. A few sentences into the new RC 350
Sport’s media brief, and you get the distinct feeling that this is not your Grandpa’s Lexus. And one look at the car is all it takes to confirm this.
The RC coupé’s styling is flamboyant for a Lexus, with a large and aggressive spindle grille up front and sharp creases and accents all around, in line with the new L-Finesse design language. In fact, quite uncharacteristically for an L-badged car, this is arguably the flashiest coupé in its segment, which has for long been ruled by the German trio from Munich, Stuttgart and Ingolstadt, and has recently seen the hugely talented Yankee pretender from Detroit join it.
So with an eminent line-up of rivals, the RC has its work cut out, especially since it’s the first proper compact coupé from Lexus in a decade and a half since the SC 400 was discontinued.
While most of its competitors including the BMW4 Series, Mercedes C-Class coupé, Audi A5 and the Cadillac ATS are merely two-door versions of their saloon counterparts, Lexus has taken a different approach to building the RC. Rather than just basing it on the IS saloon’s platform, the boffins at Nagoya have drawn from the architecture of three different vehicles; the front end is based on the mid-size GS saloon, while the mid-section is derived from the IS C convertible, and the rear of the RC’s platform is based on the four-door IS. Apparently this was
done to maximise the rigidity of the car’s underpinnings, which are 43 per cent high tensile steel.
While this does translate into impressively sharp and athletic driving dynamics, almost as good as the 435i M Sport’s, it strangely feels a tad less taut than the IS 350 saloon— which is also 120kg lighter— bringing into question the need to have gone through the amalgamation of three platforms. That said, the RC is still one of the most engaging cars to drive in its class, and even driven hard, displays exceptionally good body control with the double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension always keeping you in that sweet spot between firmness and serenity. Feedback from the variable-ratio steering wheel is arguably one of the best in class. Noise, vibration and harshness are superbly kept under check, better than in any other in this segment. Power comes from the same 314bhp 3.5-litre V6 that does service in the IS 350 and the GS 350, with an eightspeed torqueconverter automatic sending everything to the rear wheels. Although it’s smooth and predictable in its power delivery, the V6 doesn’t feel as quick as the 435i’s straight-six mill despite putting out eight more horses, and feels pushed on occasion when driven hard.
The cabin is nearly identical to the IS 350 F Sport’s, and has supportive and comfortable seats with umpteen adjustment options. Just like in the IS, it’s easy finding the perfect seating position behind the wheel, which itself is a joy to hold. Dashboard layout is also the same as the saloon’s, except for the new touchpad infotainment interface. I found the touchpad’s responses a bit overenthusiastic, making selection of a menu item a distracting chore.
As part of the F Sport trim, the cabin gets a few sporty touches, including an LFA-inspired gauge with a sliding bezel like the one in the IS, aluminium pedals and footrest and perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob. The F-Sport package also brings genuine performance enhancements to the RC, with an adaptive suspension, more control over the driving modes as well as upgraded brakes with larger rotors and highfriction pads. While the driver and front passenger can enjoy the splendid seats and generous leg- and headroom, the same cannot be said about the rear seats, which are at best good for toddlers, unlike the ATS Coupé’s, which can seat an averagesized adult. Being a Lexus, the RC doesn’t see safety or technology taking a back seat though. The coupé is packed with eight airbags, including knee airbags, front-seat side and first- and secondrow side curtain airbags. Then there’s the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system that seamlessly brings the powertrain, ABS, steering, traction control and stability control into action when it anticipates loss of traction. Also offered is the precollision braking system, which uses adaptive cruise control’s radar sensors to detect a potential collision and automatically applies braking.
Lexus’s Radical Coupé does not bring anything radical to the market. But what it brings to the table is a mix of striking looks (something that has been lacking in this segment), top-notch refinement and build quality, and competent driving dynamics. More importantly, it oozes character and has a personality of its own. Reasonably fast and remarkably agile, the RC 350 is a daring comeback to the mainstream coupé class for Lexus.
The Radical Coupé’s a mix of competent driving dynamics, striking looks and top-notch refinement
The RC is one of the most engaging cars to drive in its class i SPECS AND RATING Model RC 350 F Sport Engine 3.5-litre V6 Transmission Eightspeed auto, RWD
Max power 314bhp @
Max torque 380Nm @ 4,800rpm Top speed 230kph 0-100kph 6.0 seconds Price Dh210,000 Highs Transmission, ride, interior
Lows Not as sharp as the lighter IS 350 F Sport saloon