Whether you like it or not, hybrids are the future of cars – but saving the planet doesn’t just mean putting up with a Prius.
At the opposite end of the sporty spectrum, Lexus is painting an altogether prettier picture.
The RC300h takes the same hybrid engine tech as Toyota’s mainstream motor and squeezes it into something that’s a lot easier on the eye.
Pure power might not be high on the agenda for this 2+2 coupe, but arriving in style is much more important than arriving early.
It’s not all good news, though – beneath the eye-catching exterior are are few throwbacks to yesteryear that are overdue an upgrade.
DESIGN: head-turning hottie
You wouldn’t know it to look at it, though. On the outside, the RC is every bit the looker.
It’s got swooping lines, a stretched bonnet and absolutely colossal grille – it’s like the wide-open mouth of a manta ray barrelling down the motorway. It most definitely divides opinions.
For a coupe, it’s all rather grown up from certain angles, but angry and aggressive from others: look at the back end and you’ll spot angular taillights, pointy canards and two huge exhausts – not what you’d normally expect from the Lexus brand.
The bonnet-lid spoiler is a bit less in-your-face, but it’s enough to earn you a few looks at the lights.
It sits low to the floor, but not so much it’s a chore to clamber in and out of the driving seat. You’re riding high enough to get a decent view of the road, too – but still low enough to feel suitably sporty.
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DRIVE: Hybrid cruiser, not B-road bruiser
Considering it tips the scales at a not insubstantial 1700kg, the RX300h doesn’t go crazy on the power – it’s got the same 2.5l petrol engine and electric motor combo you’d find in most of Lexus’s other hybrid models.
Combined, you’re looking at 220bhp, which is enough to propel you from standstill to 62mph in 8.6 seconds.
There’s no angry exhaust note to accompany you, either. The engine either sits off or idle when you’re running on electric power, or the CVT gearbox kicks in and maintains a droning range somewhere around 4500rpm. It’s not a satisfying sound in the slightest.
There are flappy paddles and a manual mode, but there’s really no need to use them – revs just soar without giving you much extra grunt.
You won’t be bothering the current crop of hyper hatches with performance like that, but then that’s not the point of this car. It’s much better to leave things in auto, and cruise to your destination, wit the electric motor taking over when things get slow.
You can push it on more challenging roads, but you aren’t rewarded with the most dynamic of drives. Steering might be sharp, but the regenerative braking means braking can be inconsistent.
At least it feels comfortable, absorbing the bumps and potholes of Dorset’s B roads.
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IN-CAR TECH: lets the side down
Plonk yourself down in one of the sculpted leather front seats and the RC300h is a perfectly pleasant place to be.
Everything looks the part, and feels well-built too. The analogue clock sat in the centre of the dash adds a touch of class, and the Electric heated seats keep your bum nice and toasty on long motorway cruises.
Don’t squeeze into the back and expect the same level of comfort, though. Knee and headroom come at a premium. It’s a similar story in the boot, but 340 litres is still better than a lot of the 2+2 coupe competition.
It’s the sat-nav where things really take a turn. The screen is centrally mounted and easy enough to see without pulling your eyes off the road ahead, but the low-res panel and naff icons just don’t match the rest of the car.
The touchpad control scheme is a nightmare to use on the move, too. There are too many tiny icons you’ve got to swipe around to hit.
The 17-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system is fantastic, at least, so you can concentrate on music instead of the grainy screen. You get Bluetooth and USB playback from a phone, but there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
It does everything you’d expect, just not to the level you’d want given the price.
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LEXUS RC300h VERDICT
Do you care about raw power, engine noise and steering feel? Then you’re probably not ready for the hybrid future just yet – the RC300h doesn’t really deliver on any of those things.
It is ridiculously economical, though, barely costs any more than the standard petrol model, and will get you to your destination in great comfort. The good looks are the icing on the cake.
For a more power, an angrier exhaust and a generally more involved drive, you’re looking at an extra £20k for an Audi RS5, so if you can look past the last-gen infotainment system, this is the rational coupe of choice. It has enough grunt for a daily driver and a design that will set you apart on the road from the more commonly spotted German competition.
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|Engine:||2.5l 4cyl turbo, plus electric motor|
|Transmission||CVT automatic, rear-wheel drive|