JOHANNESBURG – Facts and figures aside, one of the reasons the automotive world remains such an intriguing space is the unquantifiable levels of emotional attachment placed on everything; from a poster mounted on a bedroom or workshop wall to a proposed purchase. While the match-up boxes and comprehensive road test summaries featured across CARs platforms are purposed to assist with making a final decision on where to spend your hard-earned money, no amount of research or comparative fact-checking can replace the emotion of opening your garage door to the sight of a car that simply makes you feel great.
Long-time proponents of sensory appeal, Lexus may not sell a lot of cars monthly in South Africa. Yet, boasting a 70 percent retention rate of satisfied customers, you can be sure those who do opt for the badge denoting the luxury division of Toyota definitely enjoy opening their garage doors in the morning.
This is also likely the rationale behind keeping the mid-cycle updates granted to modern Lexus offerings like the striking RC coupé subtle rather than radical.
Introduced in 2015, the RC’s sleek and elegant two-door stance still does well to hide this model’s somewhat complex underpinnings (a hybrid of GS, IS C and IS platforms). By incorporating the outgoing model’s distinct L-shaped LED driving lights within the updated model’s revised headlamp cluster, Lexus aims to strengthen the lineage between the RC and its larger LC sibling. While newly designed 19-inch alloy wheels and minor modifications to the rear bumper ‒ reducing both the overall length and rear overhang ‒ add further distinction, those with a bold sense of style can now opt for a Lava Orange paint finish (one of 10 colour options).
Updates to the interior include new instrumentation and a fresh focus on the look and feel of materials. While perceived build quality is first class, the brand’s overly fussy infotainment system controls remain a black mark within this car’s interior package. Where previously black was the only available trim colour, owners can now choose between mustard, flare red and white leather.
In refining its local line-up – and in anticipation of the more hardcore RC F and RC F Track models arriving in SA later in 2019 – Lexus South Africa has discontinued the RC300 EX offering, focusing solely on the RC350 F Sport derivative. Here the brand’s 3,5-litre 2GR-FKS naturally aspirated V6 engine delivers 232 kW and 380 N.m of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Viewed in isolation, these figures make for relatively promising reading, but a closer look at the RC F Sport’s specifications reveals an astonishing claimed gross-vehicle mass of 2,1 tonnes.
From a brilliantly comfortable driver’s seat that I would have loved to have dropped further than its lowest setting, the RC F Sport feels every bit as solid as that claimed mass figure suggests; yet, not necessarily in a bad way. Yes, there are certainly rivals within the RC’s lofty price bracket ‒ including the Audi S5 coupé ‒ which feel discernibly lighter on their feet and capable of showing the Lexus a clean pair of heels but there is something to be said for the sense of occasion and surefootedness the beautifully crafted RC delivers. That said, it’s on an open-road cruise where the F Sport feels most at home, away from the optimistic promises offered by sport and sport+ driving modes (the latter corresponds with a firmer damper setting). Instead, enjoy the car’s well-insulated cabin and relative comfort afforded by a new intuitive adaptive variable suspension (AVS) arrangement.
While the facts and figures suggest the updated RC faces a battle to compete with rivals at this price point, what those performance stats don’t consider is the sense of individual style and flair, backed up by rock-solid build quality and enviable levels of reliability (including a seven-year/105 000 km maintenance plan), the Lexus brings to the party. Theres also little to want for in terms of standard specification.
I almost hope Lexus continues to sell cars like the RC in small volumes because it’s so much more of an occasion for fellow road users when you sporadically spot one in traffic...