Lexus RC 200t: Perfection free of fuel bill shock

2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport2015 Lexus RC 200t F Sport

 

I love both the RC 350 (read about it here), and the RCF (read the launch here, and the full review here) but even the silky 8 speed auto can only do so much for a smooth but thirsty V6 and V8 engines. Enter the brand spankers eco-friendly 180kw 2.0L turbo.

Outside it looks as sexy and muscular as the butcher V6 and V8 siblings. Inside, the feel is of the same elite club lounge with its art deco analogue clock looking so classy and refined. The instruments look like the bespoke home entertainment system of a luxury man-cave for the kind of guy who wants to spoil himself without looking like a flash git.

The 4 cylinder entry to the world of luxury 2 door Lexus’ing has never felt less poverty stricken. However, rather unforgivably, there are no auto-wipers, and an even greater transgression is the lack of Apple Carplay which is positively contemptable. At least you can opt to pay more to get a fully loaded F Sport Luxury where you might not notice the lack of CarPlay.

The centre 7” LCD is where most of the infotainment action happens. Input is via the laptop-style touch pad between the front seats. It’s far too pernickety and I’d much rather a touch screen. There is a second smaller LCD between the driver’s dials for driving info. At first it feels a bit finicky but familiarity would make use a little less like guesswork.

Since the cabin is the same as the RC350, I’ll keep more to the drive comments. If you want to read about either the RCF or RC350, the links are above.

If you thought the entry level Lexus coupe might feel low-brow you’d be dead wrong. The audio system is excellent with deep rich tones and lots of volume. The Levinson system is worth the extra pain.

One thing Lexus does well is lowering cabin noise to a whisper, so the coupe is eerily quiet. We spent most of the week in town. You do a lot of time sitting in the car doing no more than 20kph but the occasional sprint makes the RC feel far more powerful than the figures suggest.

On a side note, I stopped in my not-so-local Motor cycle shop. I was selecting my future two wheeled travel companion and one of the big tough sales staff said, “we thought the bloke driving a car like that would have plenty of money. It’s a beauty.” People notice the RC and they think it is very expensive. When asked if they think it costs more or less than a Mercedes, they say it is.

Some say a Grand Tourer must have an engine the size of a small moon. They also say the power output must rival a sun, and be able to propel you to 100kph shortly before you press the accelerator. What utter rubbish. Surely a GT should be able to cross continents in comfort with that being the only criterion. If a canny driver choses economy over raw power, who is to say he is wrong? Why pay for a huge engine you’ll never get to use? The 200t 4cylinder turbo is fast becoming Lexus’ best seller and has been the missing link Lexus so dearly needed. The 180kw/350Nm engine is no slouch and claims a 7.3 L/100k economy figure. Lexus want you to use 95ron fuel, but when you open the flap to top-up, the sticker says E10 compatible. They say if you don’t use 95ron, performance and economy may suffer. Well, here’s the kicker: E10 is 95ron. Ethanol gives you more bang for your buck and there is no evidence that E10 makes a car perform worse in any way.

It was almost time to part ways and we couldn’t do that without doing the obligatory country run.

We took a longer drive along the M5, through Macquarie Pass in the Southern Highlands, then back via the Royal National Park back to Sydney. The scenery is postcard tourist stuff. The highway is not so interesting because its top priority to get you places fast, not to admire the pretty scenery and stop for scones and tea. The set-and-forget cruise control does a reasonable job of keeping the speed and slows down when the radar detects slower vehicles. Unlike Lexus’ RX450h we drove a few weeks ago, the RC cruise control switches off at around 30kph. It gives a beep as it does so but then you’re on your own, so you had better be ready for it. A Lexus should take you to zero kph, then pause to shine your slip-ons. I thought this slightly disappointing.

As we turned off the highway to head into bucolic Bowral, the RC seemed to switch from GT mode to urban cruiser with no action needed by the driver. I don’t mean some mechanical magic took place, rather that the RC is perfectly suited to anything you’d throw at it.

We didn’t stop in the unofficial capital of the Southern Highlands because there were corners to be had at warp 4.

The country roads, with their gentle bends and sweeping views, make a Sunday drive a pleasure.

You then become aware that you’ve started to descend. With no other cars around, you can let loose the dogs of pleasure where fun will ensue. The chassis has 3 settings to change the suspension, throttle and gearbox. Here is where the RC shows its worth. Moving the selector knob to Sport Mode makes everything come over all sharp and responsive instead of the easygoing and soft personality she shows on the open road. The suspension still feels luxurious with excellent ride, but feels as if it psychically firms up in the tight bends.

The steering switches direction leaving the 8speed auto to read your mind so it stays in the right gear. Normally a conventional auto is caught out in the wrong gear when cornering. Not the Lexus. It holds a gear to keep the twin-scroll turbo spinning. It keeps all that power and torque on tap when you need it. Sharp corners with dips add to the excitement rather than add a note of panic. The body roll is negligible as you turn faster and faster. As you switch quickly from right to left, the body stays flat as it hunkers down super-car-style. You only need the occasional dab of brake before you’re back on the throttle. For a GT with a small engine the RC200t certainly feels like a sports car.

I arrived at the bottom of the pass emerging into the deep green fields of the valley with a somewhat heavy heart. It’s a long way from Sydney to Mac Pass so not to go back for a second round of corners would be criminal, right?

After the shenanigans of a second run, we stopped at the Albion Park Rail pub to replenish our resources. Lunch and bevvy safely downed, we set off for the remainder of the afternoon. A half an hour later we were taking on the Royal National Park which usually feels like a thorough workout, but not this time. After Mac Pass, the park feels like the tame cousin.

The Lexus was thrilling but not in the eager-lap-dog kind of way a Toyota 86 is. Much of the 86’s immediacy is absent leaving the driver to be as adventurous as he feels able to cope with.

Importantly, none of the fun is missing. You don’t need a massive throbber to propel you at near SciFi speeds round near vertical corners. People say they want to be smacked in the face every time they get behind the wheel, but that kind of vehicle is very wearing on the nerves. Rattling your teeth loose on urban tarmac is horrible too.

The trade-off is that you can be on a track with confidence when a car has rock hard suspension, but that never happens because so few ever go near a track. I can name on one hand the number of non-journalists I know who have ever been to a track let alone driven on one. I suspect the size of the engine and the name on the badge has more to do with self-worth than performance. What do you think?

What people want and what they need can be very different. That’s one of the reasons a long test drive should be taken before signing your life away.

Conclusion:

The 200t is good looking with a classy cabin, and like most Lexus models, has a range of grades. The grade doesn’t greatly affect the look or the drive, but the extra gadgets like auto wipers and lane warning are nice to have. All have DAB radio which I’ve come to love. I looked for a reason to poo-poo the turbo in comparison to the gorgeous 233kw/378Nm 3.5 V6 but can’t find one. You notice the 53kw difference in power and the 28Nm of torque, but at no stage did I think “this Lexus is gutless”. The kerb weight of 1725 sounds ludicrous for a car this size and this does affect handling to a degree. Taking into account the GT nature of the chassis, you certainly don’t notice the weight on the highway.

The RC200t does everything you ask of it. Price: $72,381 (Luxury), $81,730 (F Sport) $92,755 F Sport Luxury. (drive away NSW)

The as you rise through the grades you get adaptive suspension, a Torsen limited slip diff, Blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, Auto High Beam and the killer Mark Levinson audio system.

You can get better performance, or more luxury, for $92,755. But, you can’t get better performance and more luxury together for$92,755. The Audi A5, BMW 4 series, Mercedes C coupe, and even Jag’s XE are all in the same ball park for performance, build and price. There are those who’ll argue Lexus is not in the same arena, and they’re entitled to their hackneyed, cockeyed, biased opinion however wrong it is. There are some who buy on badge alone, and some who will buy what best suits their needs. Those are the shoppers Lexus is trying to tempt in to show rooms.

Would I buy one? Yes, I love the 200t but I would get the top grade with bells and whistles.

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