Continuing just-auto’s review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look at the Lexus RC. The deeply contoured body shape of the RC (Radical Coupe) gives it an edgy, extroverted stance. Offered in a choice of two powertrains, ours came in the shape of a white RC 300h F Sport with a 2.5-litre petrol engine.
Launched at the 2013 Tokyo motor show, the RC appeared in the UK early last year. As a two-door version of the IS (XE30), its rivals include the BMW 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe and Audi A5.
One of the design elements that distinguishes the F sport model is the Lexus spindle grille with an ‘F’ mesh pattern. The grille itself is also wider and set lower than on other Lexus models. Above the main grille, the signature three-LED lamp triangular headlight design is underscored by separate LED running lights arrayed in a Lexus L motif (distinguished at night in low beam mode). Other features that set this particular model apart from the rest include 19-inch alloy wheel designs in contrasting silver and black spokes, body colours, trims and detailing.
The RC is quite heavy, weighing in at almost 1,800kg partly due to the battery and electric motor. That said, the bodyshell weight has been minimised thanks to the use of high-tensile sheet metal and aluminium in a few areas. The bonnet inner and outer skins and the bumper reinforcement are all made of aluminium.
The thing that strikes once seated in the RC is the harmonious match of colours, grains, gloss, and materials, as well as an apparent flawless fit and finish of assembled components. The dashboard reflects a premium car industry trend for wrapped, leather constructions with pronounced stitching. This is interspaced with touches of mesh-patterned aluminium and polished metal details dotted around.
The snug, driver-focussed cockpit area divides into two distinct areas – an upper display zone for relaying information, alerts and data, and a lower operation zone, housing all the main controls and switchgear.
A novel feature in the centre console – in place of where you might expect to see the hand brake – is mini touchpad that provides intuitive touch tracer control. This is Lexus’ second-generation Remote Touch. It works by moving your fingers over an electrostatic, textured pad and pressing or double-tapping to select the required function displayed on a (non-touch) screen just above. It feels a little like using a smartphone. As the cursor moves close to the different on-screen icons, you can sense the pulsation feedback through the surface of the pad. You can also use pinch-in and flick motions, again like a smartphone. It’s a neat addition but, like smartphones, a fiddle until you get used to it.
The centre console also features electrostatic switches that allow air conditioning temperature to be adjusted by sliding a finger over it. All the other switches and stalks operate with solid precision. We also appreciated the analogue clock sitting centre stage of the dash with a polished chrome surround.
Back in the 1970s, a car seat was a functional component with few or no added value features. Nowadays, with drivers spending more time in their car on longer commutes, they expect a comfortable ride. Consequently, the seat has become an integral part of the car’s overall design and appeal in the showroom. More and more power content in the front is becoming common. The front seats of the RC typify that trend. The eight-way power-adjustable front seats felt duly firm and supportive, making long journeys feel painless. They are made using an integrated forming technique. We understand this enables large concave surfaces to be moulded with the elimination of any gaps between the upholstery and foam padding.
The raised stitched leather upholstery in a shade of dark red flowed across the instrument panel, door trim and quilted seating. The heated and cooled seats added to comfort levels as we drove from A to B in early autumn. Other F Sport exclusive interior features include perforated leather coverings on the three-spoke steering wheel and gear lever, aluminium sports pedals and scuff plates.
Although access to the rear seats is made easier via a one-touch function using a lever on the shoulder of the front seats, once seated in the rear it’s a tight squeeze for adults and tall tweens with heads brushing against the roof liner and knees swept to one side. The squinty rear side windows – even on this compact premium coupe – make it feel a little claustrophobic. The same squashed sentiment applies to the small boot space of just 374 litres, compared to an Audi A5 offering 455 litres. However, while boot space is not a primary concern of coupe drivers, the back seats may be split (60/40) and folded to open up ten cubic feet.
The cabin is refreshingly quiet while on the move thanks to a variety of measures taken by Lexus engineers to deaden road noise and vibration. For example, the dash panel and floorpan have been resonance-tuned and the transmission of vibrations from the underbody has been countered by optimising the thickness of the dash and centre floor panels and the shape and layout of the centre floor beading.
Other neat tricks to suppress noise, vibration and wind noise include optimising the cross-section of the front pillars; using foam and damping materials in the door and quarter window aperture; and sealing in the wings and sides of the bonnet to reduce the level of engine noise penetrating the cabin.
Audio-wise, the F Sport comes with a 160W ten-speaker Pioneer audio system that uses Coherent Source Transducer technology. This works by integrating the mid-range speaker and tweeter of the left and right-hand instrument panel speaks to give more natural sound reproduction.
Not so long ago, car interior lighting, in general, consisted of central and side headliner lights, complemented by low-level ambient lighting located mainly in the cockpit area. Today, the accent has changed, thanks to widespread use of LEDs enabling personalisation of car interiors. The interior lighting of the Lexus RC goes a step further, providing upward rather than the familiar downward reflecting illumination and includes door trim lighting which automatically adjusts in brightness to suit driving conditions.
On the road
Driving the RC certainly sets pulses racing, accelerating from 30 to 60mph in a heartbeat with shockingly good braking performance. Our road test – covering some 353 miles along a mixture of winding country roads, crawling town traffic and clear motorways – returned a combined real world economy of 39 mpg. Although this hybrid can drive around town using electric power alone, the engine soon kicks in without any judder once further out.
The F Sport is also equipped with an electronic suspension system (or Adaptive Variable Suspension in Lexus Parlance) as standard, giving the driver two damper settings: normal and sport. In Sport mode, the AVS increases the difference between the damping force on the inner and outer wheels through corners, further reducing body roll.
All of the above innovations emanated from Lexus’ R&D department. In terms of its organisation, a spokesperson for the carmaker told us that Lexus International is in charge of planning, sales and marketing, public relations, and human resources of Lexus. It is also responsible for its business activities and revenue as an in-house virtual company, and manages the development of the body structure, trial experiments and electronic systems for Lexus vehicles.
Last year, Lexus Australia let it be known that it has developed the world’s first vehicle to display a heartbeat on its exterior in a demonstration of advanced technology and the connection between man and machine. Lexus collaborated with creative agency M&C Saatchi to produce a one-off RC F V8 coupe that integrates a series of technologies to display a person’s heartbeat in the vehicle’s bodywork. The first stage of the system works by transmitting the heartbeat of a connected person from a heart rate monitor to a bespoke electrical system in the RC F. The on-board system captures and processes the data before sending an electric charge through the RC F’s body panels that are painted in electroluminescent paint developed by US-based specialist Lumilor. This innovative paint finish glows when the electrical charge runs through it and displays the person’s heartbeat via a real-time animation sequence.
Lexus has also developed a Lexus RC F virtual reality driving experience allowing users to feel the thrill of a high-speed race track in Marbella, southern Spain. The result is as close as you can get to experiencing the speed handling and sound of an 475hp RC F without actually sitting in the cockpit.
On balance, the Lexus RC has the interior feel and quality you would expect from a premium brand. The fit and finish of the plush leather interior – together with lots of equipment to hand – make it a pleasure to drive. Its bold styling and front-end grille give it a real presence, too.