The Lexus RC may be familiar to some, as there has been a V8 version on sale for almost a year now. As that model was always going to be a niche product, thanks to its thirst for fuel and high carbon emissions, the range has been expanded to include the hybrid model we’re testing here.
Under the bonnet of the 300h is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 178bhp that drives the rear wheels through an automatic CVT gearbox. As with other Lexus hybrid models, there’s also an electric motor and a battery pack that can either augment the performance of the petrol motor (total output is 220bhp) or run the car on electric power alone.
This combination is good for a claimed 56.5mpg and carbon emissions of 116g/km when fitted with 19in wheels, which are standard issue on the Premier model tested here. Entry level Luxury trim does even better; its 18in wheels mean claimed economy is boosted to 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions drop to 113g/km.
What is the 2016 Lexus RC 300h like to drive?
Although it can run on electric power alone, you’ll need a light right foot to stop the 2.5-litre motor taking over. Past 30mph, it’s almost impossible to gain speed without the assistance of the petrol engine, although higher electric-only speeds are possible at a constant cruise.
Come off the throttle at speed and the engine will also shut down, with regenerative braking kicking in to charge the small battery pack. All this means that real world economy of more than 40mpg is easily available. This figure isn’t bad, but it’s still behind the likes of the diesel BMW 420d and Mercedes C220 d Coupe.
Not only is the RC 300h less efficient than similarly priced and sized rivals, it’s also significantly slower. The RC isn’t a light car, with the 300h tipping the scales at nearly 1800kgs thanks to the added weight of the battery and electric motor. As such, its 0-62mph time of 8.6secs and 118mph top speed are nothing to write home about.
With so much weight, the engine has to be worked hard to gain swift progress, and it can get thrashy when pushed. Initial acceleration is strong thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor, but the engine is needed soon afterwards. Although the 300h's ride is pretty firm and you do feel imperfections in the road, at no point does the Lexus ever crash or become uncomfortable. The stiff set-up also ensures little in the way of body roll.
Ultimately, you’re never tempted to drive the 300h particularly hard. The steering may be precise, but there’s not a great deal of feel and the stability control is keen to rein in any slippage. It feels stable and secure but not exciting - a BMW 4 Series would still be our choice for the keen driver.
What is the 2016 Lexus RC 300h like inside?
As we’ve come to expect from Lexus, there’s a real feeling of quality to the interior. All switches, stalks and other controls operate with a solid precision, while the materials used on the dashboard, doors and centre console add to the luxury feel.
The heated leather sports seats are comfortable and supportive, and both the chairs and steering wheel have plenty of adjustment. Less impressive is the standard fit infotainment system that features dated graphics and a fiddly control interface.
While Premier models get a sat-nav as standard, this is only an option on Luxury and F Sport trims. At least you get dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, parking sensors, leather seats, an automatic gearbox and cruise control on all variants.
Those hoping to carry adults, even occasionally, may be disappointed by the space offered by the RC. Anyone nearing six-foot will find their head brushing the roof lining in the back, while a six-foot driver will decimate rear legroom. The boot is also on the small side; its 340-litre capacity doesn't even match that of a Honda Jazz.
Should I buy one?
The 300h is arguably the Lexus RC variant that makes the most sense. While it’s sizable heft prevents it from ever feeling truly sporty to drive, the smooth hybrid powertrain allows relaxed progress at low speeds, with half decent economy. Being petrol, the RC is also cheaper in terms of company car tax rates, despite having higher CO2 emissions than its diesel German rivals.
Even so, it’s still far from perfect. The refinement is ruined should you require full power, there’s little space for rear seat passengers or luggage and fuel economy is still worse than a diesel Mercedes C-Class Coupe or BMW 4 Series.
With prices starting at £34,995, and rising to £40,495 for the model tested, you can get a comparable a diesel 4 Series, C-Class Coupe or Audi TT for similar money. Unless you spend all your time on congested urban roads and are taken by the RC’s distinctive styling, we’d recommend one its aforementioned rivals.
What Car? says...
Lexus RC 300h Luxury
Engine size 2.5-litre petrol hybrid
Price from £34,995
Power 220bhp (total)
Torque 163lb ft (engine)
0-62mph 8.6 seconds
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy 57.6mpg (claimed)