Mo­tor­ing

Does Lexus’s new Rad­i­cal Coupé live up to its name?

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

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 @

6,400rpm

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

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