By Lexus Owners Club
Introduction & Styling
The first thing that strikes you about the Lexus IS300h F Sport is the way it looks. It’s definitely a car that is capable of attracting attention – particularly in the right colour. Our Celestial Black test car looked simply stunning when it caught a (rare) glimpse of the sun during our time with it. You can tell Lexus has worked hard on the styling of the car to avoid it blending in with the usual drab grey mass of German saloons you find in a typical company car park.
The F sport model in particular with its large trademark spindle grill and aggressive alloy wheels really stands out against the competition. It’s easy to say that this is the best looking model in the Lexus IS range, and in fact everyone that saw the car during my time with it was a fan of the way it looked. So far, so good for the F Sport then.
Step inside and the first things that you notice in the interior of this car are the seats. Our car was fitted the optional Dark Rose leather F Sport seats at a cost of £2,000, and in my opinion they look excellent and provide a nice contrast to the dark exterior. It’s worth noting that the seats are also electrically adjustable, with driver’s side memory, and they’re also heated and ventilated. Slip into the sumptuous leather driver’s seat and you’ll find just the right blend of comfort and support too. The seats are a little firmer than what you used to find in the old second generation Lexus IS, but they also provide considerably more lateral support.
Away from the seats themselves, the interior is genuinely a nice place to be. Everything has a real sense of quality engineering to it in true Lexus style, and there’s a nice weight to the doors as they shut with a nice thud just like you would hope for. Admittedly, there are a few cheaper plastics if you really hunt for them towards the bottom of the doors and the dashboard, but every part of the car that you regularly come into contact with is pleasing to the touch. It’s now nice to see a quality analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard too, as the old digital clock in the 2nd generation IS was a little too 90’s Japanese for my liking. The climate control is also worth mentioning with its unique touch sensitive sliders to control the temperature. Some might call it a bit gimmicky but I think it’s a nice touch. If I were to moan a little bit I’d say the cup holders are in a slightly awkward place, especially if you have a passenger as they are effectively the passenger arm rest. Being an F Sport this car had the dark roof lining which I thought provided a lovely contrast against the dark red leather seats, although this may not be to everyone’s taste.
The new car is larger inside than the old model, finally providing a much more reasonable amount of rear leg room. It’s not a limo by any means but it’s fairly decent now for its class. You can quite happily take four adults in comfort now but you’d still struggle with five thanks to the large transmission tunnel through the middle seat that comes as part of the rear wheel drive chassis. Most driving purists would probably agree that this is a worthwhile sacrifice though. The boot is also slightly bigger than before, which shows how the company’s hybrid technology has improved since the rather small boot on the first Lexus GS450h model. A real bonus in this model is that despite its saloon form factor, Lexus has thoughtfully included split folding rear seats making it much more practical than its ski hatch equipped predecessor. The ability to take larger loads on occasion is of course very welcome.
Along with the Dark Rose leather F Sport seats, our test car had been specified to almost the level of an IS300h Premier. The other options it was fitted with included the wonderful Mark Levinson premium sound system with 15 speakers, plus the Lexus Premium Navigation, metallic paint and the protection pack. This little haul of goodies takes the price up to a staggering £40,425, up from a base price of £32,495. If you fancy yourself as a bit of an audiophile, the Mark Levinson sound system is an absolute must as it simply blows away the standard 6 or premium 8 speaker set up, so long as you dial in the right settings. Do bear in mind though that although this car is fitted with a few rather nice extras, being a Lexus it does come with a whole stash of goodies as standard too, so you’re certainly not left wanting for kit, even without the options.
If you decide do go for the Premium Nav then you get the Lexus “Remote Touch” interface with the joystick to control the infotainment screen. The joystick is definitely something that’s worth trying out on a test drive as while it works quite well for most functions, it can be a little fiddly when for example entering a post code or searching for a point of interest. Best to give it a try and see how you get on with it really. There is also the standard sat nav option available that gives you a much more traditional rotary controller akin to solutions provided by other manufacturers.
As you go to set off and plug your seatbelt in, the driver’s seat slides in and the steering wheel extends out to meet you – a really nice touch and something that in reverse of course is designed to make it easier to get in and out of the car. The only thing I would say though, is that if you’re six foot plus and carrying a rear passenger, make sure you let the rear passenger out first before unplugging your seat belt. You’ll get what I mean if you try it!
With that eerie silence you’ll already know and love if you’re used to driving hybrids the car is ready to go, and it’s nice to be greeted with the LFA inspired instrument cluster from the company’s famous and rare as hens teeth supercar. This particular feature is exclusive to F Sport models and I must say it’s one of my favourite features. To be honest, if you’re into your gadgets then it’s almost worth going for the F Sport just for this. This digital (and motorised) instrument panel is simply a work of art and features many different and lovely graphics that change depending on what driving mode you have the car in. Even simple things like changing the sensitivity of the automatic wipers often presents you with a nice little animation on the screen and it’s little touches like this that really make you think about the attention to detail that’s gone into this car.
On the move and the first thing that becomes apparent is what a great chassis this is. The current generation Lexus IS is still based on the on the same platform as its predecessor, although it has been substantially reworked and you really can tell. This particular model being the F Sport with its sport suspension set up is of course firmer than the rest of the range but I have previously had a chance to drive a Premier model and even the difference with that from the 2nd Generation model is notable. There’s far less body roll and the steering feels more direct. The car also feels more planted at higher speeds and the steering requires less correction when keeping lane on a motorway. Lexus have also done a great job in disguising the extra mass of the battery packs which now sit in a better position than some previous hybrid models to help with the car’s centre of gravity without compromising on boot space.
Considering its sport suspension, I was pleasantly surprised at the F Sport suspension set up. It’s easy to arrive with the misconception that Lexus had taken a page from the same manual as Audi and BMW with their S Line and M Sport trim levels respectively. Their approach all too often sacrifices ride quality and comfort for the sake of looks, leaving a crashy and uncomfortable ride on British roads. However, I’m pleased to report that this is not the case with the F Sport. Yes it is firmer over bumps as you would expect but it’s certainly not crashy. There’s a certain suppleness to the suspension travel that ensures that car does not move away from the Lexus ethos, yet it still remains perfectly composed and controlled through the twisty bits when you need it to perform. Honestly some may disagree, but I think Audi and BMW could learn a thing or two from how Lexus have set this car up, particularly for the UK anyway. After all, most of us don’t tackle Nordschleife as part of our daily commute do we?
When it comes to outright performance, on paper at least the car is there or there abouts on a par with the old IS250 model and in real life it feels it. You’d be hard pushed to tell the difference aside from lower top speed should you encounter a suitable stretch of Autobahn. Of course, the way the two cars deliver their performance is completely different thanks to the massive difference in engine and gearbox technology. The old IS250 with its petrol V6 engine and conventional 6 speed automatic transmission is a far cry from the hybrid and CVT set up in the IS300h. While the petrol engine is still a 2.5 litre it has lost two cylinders and now runs on the Atkinson cycle. The combined power output of the two motors comes in at 223bhp, up from 204bhp in the IS250. Despite this, and probably due to the extra weight from the hybrid set up, 0-62 mph is down three tenths on the old car to 8.4 seconds, though as I mentioned this is not all that noticeable in the real world. Plus, if 0-62 mph times are of chief concern to you then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere anyway, or maybe at the new IS200t that manages the same sprint in 7 seconds flat.
There has been mixed reports on the use of the CVT gearbox in Toyota and Lexus hybrid models over the last few years so it was interesting to see how the gearbox suited the F Sport model in particular. Can a car with a CVT gearbox really be sporty? The CVT haters out there would tell you no and constantly make references to the DAF 600 of the late 50’s, but I’m pleased to report that as any sensible person would expect, things have moved on a long way since the days of the DAF 600. Indeed, under normal driving conditions, I would actually go so far as saying that the CVT gearbox in the IS300h presents a smoother and more relaxed drive than even the most silky smooth conventional automatic. This of course is due to the lack of gear changes. It’s only when you push on harder that you’ll notice the slightly slow throttle response. Sport mode does counteract this somewhat but it’s still by no means instant. Ninety percent of the time you won’t notice it but try it out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
Lexus are now offering you the chance to book a 24 hour test drive in the Lexus IS, CT, or NX – click here for more details.
Lexus have also done their best to counteract some of the complaints regarding strange engine noise in earlier hybrid models equipped with the CVT gearbox. This is not so bad in the IS300h model anyway thanks to its slightly larger capacity engine and improved sound deadening. To counteract this further still, Lexus have employed something called ASC or Active Sound Control. It’s a similar system to one that has been used in quite a few cars before – often due to newer models losing cylinders for a decrease in CO2 emissions. Basically, the system works by pumping a more “sporty” artificial engine sound through the car’s speakers to give the driver a greater sense of occasion when pushing the car harder. This is particularly prevalent when selecting sport mode on the rotary controller and even more so when manual gear change is in use. I actually quite liked it when driving the car more enthusiastically. Having said that, it may be something you want to turn off when on a long motorway trip as in certain modes it actually creates a kind of synthetic exhaust drone. It’s nice to have the option to turn it on and off though and it’s sure to be a case of personal preference.
Manual mode on the gearbox can either make use of the steering wheel mounted paddles or the gear lever when shifted across into sport. It would have been nice if the paddles were metal rather than plastic (a la RCF), but never the less they feel good to use. Speaking of manual mode, I was curious as to how this was going to work when the CVT really doesn’t have individual gears. It turns out that it effectively creates six artificial “gears” by changing the revs and also the noise (presumably using the ASC). It works well enough although there’s not really any point to it in my opinion, other than for a bit of fun. You can actually use the down changes for engine braking though should you so desire. The ASC also appeared to add in the occasional “pop” sound on the gear change while using manual mode which was interesting.
Running costs are clearly an important factor when it comes to this car and its hybrid drive train. If it wasn’t an important factor then you’d probably be looking at the IS200t right? Well, Lexus claim the IS300h can achieve 61.4 mpg on the combined cycle. Of course, as with all manufacturer figures these were achieved under laboratory conditions so we’re not actually expecting to achieve these figures in real life. We tested the car in mixed used conditions with motorway use as well as town driving in the same journey, achieving an average of 47.6 mpg. It’s somewhat shy of the official figures yes, but this car did only have a few hundred miles on the clock so hopefully the petrol engine will loosen up a bit a time goes on. Also, if you consider that this car still has a 2.5 litre petrol engine under the bonnet then knocking on the door of 50 mpg is pretty good going. I can’t see why 50 + mpg wouldn’t be attainable once the car has loosened up a bit with some careful driving. With a full tank on board the car was suggesting a 600 mile plus range was attainable from its 66 litre tank. I didn’t get a chance to confirm this but that’s on a par with many diesels if achievable. The car also emits just 107 g/km of CO2 putting it currently in the £10 per year VED band. Again this is incredibly cheap considering the car and engine size plus the reasonably good performance on offer. If the cheap tax interests you (and why wouldn’t it) I’d advise getting your order in soon before the tax system changes in 2017, when the CO2 emissions will no longer offer any benefit on a year by year basis.
If you’re looking for a compact executive saloon that’s enjoyable and comfortable to drive whilst maintaining excellent fuel economy then the Lexus IS300h could be for you, especially if you’re already a fan of the brand. Lexus continues to build a very loyal following, largely helped by its reputation for build quality, reliability and customer service, and the IS300h certainly stays true to the Lexus brand in my opinion. If you’re considering a compact executive then the Lexus IS300h is well worth a test drive and it makes a tempting proposition for those looking to stand out from the crowd.
View 50+ more photos in our Lexus IS300h F Sport Gallery
Lexus Hedge End
A special thanks to the lovely people at Snows Lexus Hedge End for the loan of our IS300h F Sport featured in this review.
By Lexus Owners Club
Introduction & Styling
The Lexus NX is certainly a car that stands out and even turns heads. You may have noticed that Lexus have been keen to capitalise on this with the many adverts featuring a certain Mr. will.i.am and the car in question. Lexus are clearly making a bold statement with this car and it shows, particularly when it comes to the F Sport version with its far more pronounced version of the trademark Lexus spindle grill. If you’re familiar with the Lexus range then the styling and indeed the F Sport version should come as no surprise. The company has been busy over the last couple of years updating its range to the new family face and indeed the trend is continuing with the new 2016 Lexus RX that we’ll start to see on the roads early next year.
The model I tested on this occasion was the range topping £42,995 NX300h Premier which comes in at a staggering £13,500 more than the base but still decently equipped NX300h S at £29,495. I was particularly looking forward to testing the Premier version as being a Lexus I knew I was likely to be impressed with the sheer volume of gadgetry on offer.
In terms of styling the Premier model may not have the added chic of will.i.am’s favourite F Sport model, but the whole NX range with the Premier included looks very modern with lots of neat design touches such as the headlights and LED running lights. In fact, although I think the large F Sport grill looks excellent, it can be a bit of a love it or hate it thing, so the styling of the other models may be better suited for some buyers.
Aside from the stylish creases and other neat design touches, the NX keeps its proportions fairly in-line with what we’ve come to expect from this mid size SUV crossover class in which it sits. In my opinion the NX is probably the best looking car in its class and is certainly more exciting to look at than some of the offerings from other manufacturers.
Lexus really does know how to do interior styling and the NX is no exception. The interior of the NX Premier is a master class in design with clever use of materials and stylish angles. Some may find it fussy compared to German rivals but to me the material quality and attention to detail really sets this apart from other cars in the class. Little touches like the dark wood inlays (on the Premier) and the stitching in the leather seats really makes you believe that someone has thought really carefully about the design of this interior. The leather/stitching combination that can be found
As you would expect, the higher quality materials are featured further up the doors and the dashboard and it’s only if you start to reach right down to the bins at the bottom of the doors that you notice the cheaper feeling plastics and even these aren’t that bad on the NX. If I were nitpicking a little bit, I did find the dark plastic surround for the window switches on each side of the car a little cheap and nasty. On its own it wouldn’t be that bad but considering that Lexus has used such high quality materials in other places it feels as if they should have used something a little nicer here.
The first thing I noticed when I slipped into the NX’s soft and sumptuous leather seat was that the driving position of the NX is really good. Everything is positioned exactly where you need it and it’s really easy to adjust your position, particularly in the Premier model given its 10 way electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s side memory, plus electrically adjustable steering column. The seats themselves may not have the heavy bolstering of sportier models but I must say that they are some of the most comfortable seats I have ever had the pleasure of sitting in. When you combine this comfort with the excellent seating position you really feel like this is a car you could cover some significant distances in without any discomfort. The steering wheel is also pleasingly chunky and though the cabin can at first appear to have an intimidating number of buttons, you’ve got to expect that there has to be some way to control the vast multitude of gadgets that are featured on this model. You’ve got to remember also that although some manufacturers are reducing the number of buttons, sometimes it’s better to have the physical button to control something rather than having to dive deep into a software menu on the infotainment system.
Cabin space is very good as you would expect from a mid size SUV. Everything feels light and airy, especially if you go for the £1000 panoramic roof. Rear leg room is also excellent and you can take adults in the back with comfort. Rear seat passengers are also treated to reclining rear seats (albeit manual adjustment) which is a nice feature to have on longer journeys. A fifth passenger can also travel in relative comfort thanks to the absence of a transmission tunnel.
When it comes to boot space, the NX is a relatively mixed bag. When you pop open the powered rear tailgate you’re presented with a large, wide and flat load area but you will notice that (as is the case with many hybrids) it’s a bit shallow. Bear in mind though that Lexus have thoughtfully included a spare wheel under the floor though and suddenly things a looking a bit brighter. It’s a rare thing to get a spare wheel with many new cars these days so this is definitely a welcome feature for quite a few people. It’s also really easy to remove the parcel shelf and the split folding rear bench folds in one movement with a simple leaver each side. With the seats folded and the parcel shelf removed there is plenty of room for almost anything you could throw at it.
If you can think of a gadget, chances are this car will have it. It would almost be easier to talk about the things that this car doesn’t have. Trust me, it would be a very short list. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk about a few of my personal highlights when it comes to the technology that Lexus have implemented into this car.
One of my favourites just for the geek factor has to be the wireless qi smartphone charge that Lexus have thoughtfully included under the centre armrest. Correct me if I’m wrong but this was the first car I’ve seen that has this technology built in. It’s definitely quite a geeky feature, but clearly one that is also very useful should you have a compatible phone, as it’s great to be able to charge your phone without any wires. Do bear in mind though that this is not a feature that is compatible with every smartphone though. In fact, quite a few popular models (including the iPhone unless you get a special case) will not work with the qi charging standard or indeed any wireless charging. A fair few Android phones will work with qi though such as the latest Samsung Galaxy S6/Edge as well as Google’s Nexus 4/5/6 models. This qi charger in the NX has a tray and non slip matting that holds the phone in place although the tray is too small for larger “phablets” such as the Nexus 6. The tray has a motorised coil that will automatically locate the coil inside your phone and the tray can be moved out of the way to access the storage compartment beneath.
Another cool feature (exclusively in the Premier though) is the heads up display that features on the windscreen in front of the driver. Its main function is to display the vehicle’s current speed in front of the driver to avoid the driver having to glance down at the traditional speedometer. Brilliantly, you can also adjust the height of the display which will need to be done for it to remain visible depending on how high you have your seat. I was surprised at how much information you were able to get from the HUD too. For example, if you happen to be driving in Europe you can easily switch the display from MPH to KPH at the touch of a button. You can also choose to display a tachometer or the power/charge/eco meter below the speed. I was also very impressed that other information such as volume adjustments and the next sat nav direction appear there too as you approach a junction. All in all a very clever bit of kit and well worth having in my opinion. It’s not for everyone though but the feature can be turned off should you still wish to go for the Premier model and are not a fan of this feature.
Something that deserves a special mention on the NX Premier is the 360 degree parking camera. The car does of course have a standard reversing camera but its also got 3 other cameras mounted around the car that are used to generate an incredible top down view of the car making all kinds of parking manoeuvres an absolute doddle. It’s a fantastic feature that you definitely need to try out but for me it’s definitely something I hope to see rolled out across other cars in the Lexus range over time. Very useful indeed.
The NX300h Premier comes with the Lexus Premium Navigation system as standard, and although Lexus still use their familiar “remote touch” interface, this time they’ve ditched the mouse for an easier to use touch pad. It’s still a little fiddly at times but overall I’d say it’s a decent improvement. Being the Premier model, a rather nice 14 speaker Mark Levinson sound system is also included which sounded absolutely fantastic with a bit of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” blaring out of it. All the other basics are covered with DAB, bluetooth and couple of USB ports.
It’s worth noting that adaptive cruise control now comes standard across the whole Lexus NX range too, which is particularly nice of Lexus as this feature always used to be an expensive optional extra even on top of the range models. It’s a rather nice feature too that combined with the blind spot monitor and lane departure assist function on the Premier model make for a relaxing and stress free motorway experience.
Ride & Handling
Mid to large sized SUV models aren’t usually known for their handling but the big Lexus handles surprisingly well given its mass and the weight from the hybrid system. It’s hardly going to compete with the finest hot hatches out there but that’s not what it’s all about. For a car of this size I was quite impressed with the way the NX handled itself. The steering is very direct – reacting well to inputs from the chunky steering wheel and there is a reassuring weight to the electrically assisted steering at speed.
Ride quality was also impressive when soaking up potholes on our battered British roads and this combined with the car’s solid build quality meant for no nasty vibrations or rattles within the cabin.
The car is clearly most at home when driven around the congested suburban roads that most of us have to put up with whilst making the dash to and from work/school everyday and this trait really shines through. It’s a breath of fresh air (excuse the pun) to be driving along in a modern, calm, comfortable and luxurious hybrid vehicle rather than the traditional smelly diesels that most seem to currently favour for the morning commute. The car is lovely place to be whilst navigating these sorts of roads and is also a solid and well planted car on the motorway.
If I were to criticise here slightly I did detect quite a noticeable amount of wind noise at motorway speeds that I’m fairly sure was coming from the wing mirrors. They’re fairly large wing mirrors and they do house quite a bit of tech including the extra cameras on the Premier model.
One word I’d use to describe the performance of the NX300h would be “adequate”. Clearly this is not a sports car and indeed it’s not designed to be. In fact, Lexus now offer the NX200t with its 2.0 turbocharged engine if you are after an NX with a little more poke. The NX300h’s hybrid power train does however offer a reasonable mix of performance vs economy for a car of this size.
If you’ve driven an IS300h before you may be expecting a similar driving experience and performance but this is quite the case here. Whilst the NX300h and IS300h do indeed share similar set ups (a 2.5 litre engine and an electric motor), the NX only produces 197 horsepower combined to the 223 in the IS. Add this to the fact that clearly the NX weighs substantially more than the IS and clearly this car isn’t as punchy as the IS300h. The difference is less noticeable pulling away from a standstill or at lower speeds, but accelerating from 50 mph plus or motorway speeds and this difference is apparent.
Lexus quote the NX300h as having 9.2 second 0-62 mph time and that feels about right. Adequate as I said earlier. One thing I’m not so keen on though is that the engine does sound a little strained if you put your foot down and really try to get a move on. This is of course due to the CVT gear box that Lexus fit to their hybrid vehicles. In the IS300h however, Lexus use ASC (active sound control) to inject an artificial sound through the car’s speakers that make it sound a little more meaty. It was something I was a little sceptical about at first if I’m honest but after driving the NX300h without it I think it’s something that this car could have done with or at least had the option to turn it on. The strained engine noise isn’t something you’ll really notice when pottering around town though – it’s only when you really press on that it becomes a little intrusive.
Clearly when looking at the the NX range, many buyers are going to be attracted to the hybrid NX300h over the NX200t because of the increased fuel economy and green credentials, so the running costs of this vehicle are particularly important.
Lexus claim a combined fuel economy figure of 54.3 mpg – a figure I wasn’t expecting to replicate from experience. I tried to drive the NX as normally as possible across a mixed series of roads with some town driving and some motorway, finding myself with average MPG figures of between 37 – 40 mpg. Whilst this may not seem spectacular at first glance it’s not a bad result compared to other similar sized diesel SUVs in this class, plus we all know that petrol burns a lot more cleanly than diesel too. CO2 emissions of 121 g/km put the car into the £100 per year road tax bracket which is again pretty competitive for this class. For the base 2wd model this drops to 116g/km too and a pretty amazing £20 per year.
I have no doubt that with a few more miles on the clock and a little practice of the correct hybrid driving technique should see this figure increase a bit. Residual values are currently looking good too, with demand strong thanks to the NX being considered a sales hit for Lexus.
If you’re in the market for a mid size premium SUV the Lexus NX300h is well worth a look and a test drive. It’s a solidly built, good looking car that’s very comfortable and has plenty of kit. The overall driving experience is good for what it’s intended and running costs are very reasonable too. Also, if you’re increasingly concerned about NOx emissions from diesels as many people now are, then there really aren’t many rivals in this class and certainly none as good as the hybrid NX300h. If you can justify it then go for a Premier with the panoramic roof and you won’t be disappointed with the staggering level of kit on offer.
Lexus Hedge End
A special thanks to the lovely people at Snows Lexus Hedge End for the loan of our NX300h Premier featured in this review.
By Lexus Owners Club
Introduction & Styling
You may be thinking that the Lexus RC has been around for a little while already now, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, up until just recently the only model available was the 5.0 litre V8 powered RC F which is likely to remain the enthusiast’s choice thanks to its high CO2 emissions and thirst for super unleaded. With that in mind, Lexus has recently made available “normal” versions of the RC coupe – the RC 300h and RC 200t for Lexus fans looking for a taste of the RC’s looks without the high running costs.
The model I’m testing is the RC 300h F Sport which I think looks fantastic in “F Sport white” with contrasting “Dark Rose” leather seats – a lovely colour combination. Incidentally the new “Sonic Red” is also a lovely colour – Lexus Hedge End had one in their showroom if you wanted to check it out. The car hasn’t lost any of the wow factor you get with its RC F big brother – the main notable omissions being the bonnet scoop and unique stacked exhausts. Yes, it doesn’t look quite as muscular as its V8 powered sibling, but if you like the look of the RC F then you’re still going to like the look of this. Only enthusiasts will likely spot the difference at a glance – aside from replacing the V8 burble with hybrid silence that is. Speaking of the exhaust, if I’m not mistaken this is the first Lexus hybrid I’ve seen that actually features visible exhaust tips and it looks all the better for it in my opinion, particularly when the RC is much more of a sports car/GT than other models in the range. Lexus previously had a habit of hiding exhaust tips on hybrid models to show off their green credentials, but I’m guessing customer feedback could be responsible for the change.
Let’s get one thing straight though – this car turns heads. While its styling and large grill may not be to everyone’s tastes (I’m a big fan by the way), it certainly draws looks pretty much all the time. Everywhere I went in the car people would stop and stare or ask me questions about the car, with one pedestrian even going so far as to stop in the road and nearly get run over whilst trying to get a look at the RC. The detailing on this car is exceptional with the LED lights really looking the part and RC 300h even has unique looking fins either side of the rear bumper that remind me of 90’s era Ferraris. Pretty cool stuff then.
The interior of the Lexus RC 300h is a familiar affair if you’ve ever been in a 3rd generation IS300h, or indeed an RC F. The dash and general layout is pretty much lifted straight out of the IS which is no bad thing. The RC is essentially an IS coupe after all – think what the BMW 4 series is to the 3 series.
With that in mind, you get the usual touch sensitive climate controls as found in the IS, and our F Sport model features the wonderful LFA inspired instrument cluster à la IS F Sport (shown above). The interior generally feels great with high quality materials featured everywhere except in the usual lower down parts of the cabin. If I were nitpicking a little the buttons below the CD slot on the stereo seem like a bit of a cheap afterthought, but it’s easily forgiven as you end up using the steering wheel controls most of the time anyway. There’s also a really classy frameless auto dimming rear view mirror which looks great.
One thing definitely worth mentioning in this car is the seats – they’re absolutely fantastic. Lexus seems to have managed the impossible and struck the perfect balance between comfort support – something many manufacturers still seem to struggle with. All too often you get into a sports car or even a hot hatch that has great looking seats offering plenty of lateral support only to find the seats rock hard or uncomfortable on a long journey. I would go as far as to saying these are some of the best all round seats I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in from any vehicle, period. That’s a bold claim, yes, but I urge you to try them for yourselves and I’m sure you’d agree.
The only other obvious changes from the IS are the larger and redesigned door cards which I think feel of higher quality than the IS thanks to their sculpted design and use of aluminium. The rear is of course a little different due to the car’s coupe form also. It’s worth noting that although the car does have four proper seats, space in the back is fairly tight. You can definitely get adults in the back but 6 foot does seem to be pretty much the limit both for rear passenger and driver. I’m 6 foot and my head was just about touching the roof lining in the back of the RC, and with the driving position set for a 6 foot driver I could (just about) get my legs in – any further back and my legs would have been crushed. A shorter driver would obviously generate a moderate amount of rear legroom though and all being said I’d probably find a short journey perfectly acceptable in the back of the RC, but wouldn’t fancy a long run in the back. The electric seat mechanism was also quite nice in the way that it allowed rear passengers to get in and out, although of course this could seem quite slow in the rain!
Boot space is fairly decent for a coupe and gives plenty of room for your weekly shop or everything you’d need for a weekend away. The rear seats also fold just like the 3rd generation IS giving a nice bit of extra flexibility too. I’m led to believe the RC2 00t gives a little more boot space thanks to its lack of battery pack also.
The RC 300h starts at £34,995 in luxury trim, with F Sport and Premier versions also available. All versions are well equipped in general – sat nav is only standard on the premier version but is available as an option on all grades.
Our F Sport test model came in at £40,565 as tested with the £1,995 premium navigation option and £450 protection pack – still pretty good value in my opinion for what you get. The premium navigation option is (although expensive) definitely an option box you should tick. As well as making the car easier to move on come resale time, it adds the better of the two navigation systems, an upgraded 10 speaker audio system, reverse camera with guidelines and DAB/DVD playback. The 10 speaker audio system sounds great and is a worthy upgrade from standard, if not quite as good as the optional 17 speaker Mark Levinson system. You’d have to listen to them to determine if it’s worth you spending out the extra £1000 for the Mark Levinson system, or failing that just go for the Premier version which includes it as standard anyway.
That being said, I still think the F Sport is the pick of the range when it comes to the RC 300h, as the extra sporty touches really suit the car’s looks. If it were my money I’d definitely go for an F Sport with the option boxes ticked which is unusual as if you asked me about any other model in the Lexus range I’d usually go premier every time.
Premier and F Sport models both feature electric heated and ventilated leather seats with drivers side memory as standard, while the Luxury model makes do with only heated seats and no memory. The memory function also covers the electrically adjustable steering wheel and outside mirrors too which is really nice, particularly if your partner also drives the car regularly.
Dual zone climate control, keyless entry and start, LED headlights and cruise control all feature as standard across the range, with even the entry Luxury model being reasonably well appointed as tends to be the Lexus way. I’d still recommend going for the F Sport model over the luxury all day long though, and the £2,500 difference seems well worth it for the extra kit and enhanced looks that come with the F Sport styling package.
Ride and Handling
The RC 300h is a very refined car to drive, thanks in part to its hybrid power train. If you’ve driven other Lexus hybrids, the system will be vary familiar – allowing you to propel the car up to around 30mph in electric only mode, albeit if you don’t require even moderately fast acceleration. The system will also allow you to cruise steadily at higher speeds using electric only mode if you’re gentle with the throttle. Thanks to the hybrid system, cruising around town is often beautifully quiet, and even when the 2.5 litre petrol motor cuts in, it’s a seamless transition.
Personally, I felt the car’s ride was a little more comfortable than the equivalent IS. The platform for the car is actually a bit of a “Frankenstein” of other Lexus models, with the front end from the current generation GS, the mid section from the 2nd gen IS convertible and rear section from the current gen IS. It sounds strange but it works well with the GS derived front end soaking up imperfections in the road nicely – especially when you consider this is the F Sport model on 19 inch wheels. I never once felt that the car was crashing over bumps or potholes and the car’s ride together with the ever so comfy seats I mentioned earlier make for a great long distance companion.
In terms of handling, I’d start by saying that you should think of this car more as a comfy GT cruiser rather than an out and out sports car and then you’d be thinking along the right lines, especially in hybrid guise. The car does handle well – the electrically assisted power steering has a nice weight to it, although it is lacking a little in feedback. There’s little body roll which is impressive because the RC is quite a heavy lump and the traction/stability control does a good job of keeping everything in check. The Sport + mode on the F sport model does rein in the traction control a little as well as sharpening up throttle response and tweaking the adaptive variable dampers too, which definitely allows for a little more fun.
Ultimately it’s not a car that feels as if you need to push it hard to get the most out of it. It feels like it’s at its best cruising along at a relaxed pace, whilst still giving you the confidence to have a little fun with it on the occasion that you feel like popping it into sport + mode.
The hybrid set-up in the RC 300h is the same as the one in the IS 300h so if you’ve ever driven one of those you should pretty much know what to expect. Just like its IS counterpart the RC 300h produces 220 hp from a combination of the 2.5 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine and its electric motor.
Straight line performance can be a little deceptive as the official figures quote a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds, 3 tenths down on the IS300h (presumably due to the RC 300h weighing almost 1800kg) but Lexus are well known underestimate performance figures. Indeed, the RC 300h feels quicker than the figures would suggest, with the surge of initial acceleration feeling quite strong thanks to the extra torque from the electric motor.
At higher speeds, you may notice that the motor has to be worked quite hard to make swift progress, and the CVT gearbox that is featured across the Lexus hybrid range doesn’t necessarily lend itself to performance driving. You do of course have the option of using the steering wheel mounted paddles but these only create artificial gear changes by restricting the revs due to the fact it is a CVT gear box. Still, for an occasional bit of driving fun they do the job and when combined with the ASC (active sound control) and the LFA inspired instrument panel, the car can make you feel as if you are driving in a video game – in a good way.
The active sound control is worth mentioning and also features on the IS 300h range. This time it’s only on the F Sport RC 300h I believe. Basically, it generates artificial sound and plays it through the speakers to make the car sound more muscular. It sound a little cheesy yes, but many manufacturers are doing the same these days due to downsizing engines for emissions reasons, and in this case it works quite well. The sound the car makes in sport/sport + mode is fantastic and really gives the impressions that you’ve got something potent under the bonnet. It even occasionally seems to “pop” on lift off and manual gear changes which is cool. Sure, you know deep down it isn’t real (there is a switch to turn it off if it really offends you) and the sound outside the car is completely different, but if you pick up an unsuspecting passenger, there’s no denying it at least sounds impressive and they’d probably never know!
Overall, I’d say the performance of this car is good, given the hybrid system and economy that you’re likely to be able to achieve with it. For the type of car that the RC is, it does feel like it could do with a little more power in certain higher speed situations, so it would be interesting to try the slightly quicker RC 200t back to back with it to find out if the extra performance is worth sacrificing a little of the hybrid’s refinement and running costs for. That’s ultimately the choice you’ll have to make if you buy one and it’s really going to be down to personal preference. I don’t think you’d be disappointed with the performance of the RC 300h, as you’re buying into the hybrid system too and the benefits that brings. It would definitely be interesting if Lexus decided to make an RC 450h with the larger petrol engine, but I sense that’s unlikely to happen. Incidentally Lexus do offer an RC 350 for the US and certain other markets which is still a quick car in its own right and could be a genuine “sensible” alternative to the RC F – if only Lexus would bring it to the UK.
Being a hybrid you should expect running costs to be pretty reasonable and the RC 300h delivers on this. CO2 emissions of 116 g/km mean VED of just £20 per year in the current system, though it’s worth bearing in mind that when the new tax system comes into play in April 2017, this will not be the case.
Lexus also quotes a combined MPG of of 56.5 for the RC 300h F Sport. In my hands I found this to be a little way off as is usually the case. My test route consisted of some motorway, some town and some spirited driving and I saw the Average MPG vary from high 30’s to low 40’s. From past experience with Lexus hybrids and with a bit more effort put into maintaining electric mode for the most time possible (and a few more miles on the engine), I have no doubt that at least high 40’s would be possible. From my point of view I find the fuel consumption is very reasonable considering the nice balance of performance and running costs on offer from this car. Yes, there are some equivalent diesels out there will deliver slightly better MPG, but I’m not generally a diesel fan anyway and would take a hybrid over a diesel any day for the increased refinement and lack of potential DPF problems, but ultimately that’s a choice buyers have to make. As is obvious from the recent VW emissions scandal and episodes of bad smog in cities like Paris, it appears public opinion could slowly be turning against diesels anyway, and hybrids like this provide a real credible alternative.
The RC 300h is likely to be the biggest seller in Lexus RC range, and with good reason – it probably makes the most overall sense for most buyers. The car’s hybrid drivetrain provides an excellent all round balance of performance, refinement and running costs, and the build quality and interior are excellent. Combine that with the Lexus reputation for reliability and customer service and you’ve got a pretty compelling package, especially if you’re looking for a well equipped luxury coupe that’s a real head turner.
A special thanks to the lovely people at Snows Lexus Hedge End for the loan of our RC 300h F Sport featured in this review.
By Lexus Owners Club
Introduction & Styling
Thankfully the weather Gods were on my side as I went to collect our CT200h F Sport for this review – a stark contrast from the torrential downpours I battled whilst reviewing IS300h F Sport recently. The autumnal sun proved to be just what we needed to make the most of our test car’s glistening “F Sport White” metallic paint (£610). I’m personally a big fan of metallic/pearl white finishes on cars but if it were my choice it would be a pretty close call with the also rather nice “Ultra Blue” finish.
Lexus F Sport models are traditionally the most aesthetically pleasing models in their respective ranges and the CT200h F Sport is no exception. The car gets a unique and more aggressive version of the company’s signature honeycomb spindle grill – something that graces even the flagship RC F. There’s also other enhancements to the front bumper, flared side skirts, unique wheels and a rear diffuser. In the right colour combination there’s no questioning that the CT200h F Sport is a good looking car. As with other models in the Lexus range, the car certainly stands out against the competition and is sure to attract some head turning in the company car park, thanks to its unique styling and hybrid drive train.
In typical Lexus fashion, the CT200h interior is a nice place to be. The seats are comfortable and supportive (with plenty of electric adjustment in the F Sport model), plus there’s a nice selection of gadgetry and F Sport touches. There’s a rather nice F Sport badged steering wheel, which feels nice to use – if not quite as chunky to grip as some others. You also get aluminium pedals which adds a little extra quality and helps to set this model apart from others. I can’t help but thinking that Lexus should have extended the silver/carbon inlay that sits above the glove box to also feature on the surrounds that house the window switches. Currently they use some slightly cheaper looking black plastic which spoils things a little if I’m being fussy.
Overall cabin quality is good though with quality materials used in most places. The Lexus connoisseurs out there will be quick to point out that some cabin materials are not quite as good as other models in the Lexus range, and while they are correct to an extent I’d say the CT200h still holds its own compared to rivals in its class. Yes, the CT200h is the cheapest way into new Lexus ownership, but that doesn’t mean it steers wildly away from the brand ethos. Apart from some of the lower rent plastics that sit lower down in the cabin, there are also plenty of nice touches too. The contrasting stitching looks smart and the extra bits of leather material that feature on the centre console and on top of the dash give a real feeling that this a compact luxury car – something that Lexus are very keen to point out.
For a car in this class, the CT200h provides a reasonable amount of cabin space considering its hybrid drive train and the space lost to batteries. Rear leg room is OK if not spectacular. You could happily take 4 adults around town but it would start to feel a little cramped in the back on a longer journey, although to be fair this car really isn’t built to be a long distance cruiser. When you take a closer look at the boot space this is really the only obvious pointer that the car is a hybrid. At first glance it is fairly shallow but there is more to the car’s boot space than first meets the eye. Firstly, in what appears to be a rather rare move these days, the CT200h actually comes with a space saver spare wheel – a welcome change from the all too common air compressor and foam. Secondly, if you remove the various storage trays from under the carpet in the boot, it appears that Lexus could have actually given owners a deeper boot, albeit not a flat one. If you combine some of this additional space/trays there’s actually quite a bit of space – especially when you remember that being a hatchback you can still fold the seats down and remove the parcel shelf/divider. Practical if not class leading then, but probably sufficient for most people in the market for a car of this size.
One thing that many of you will already know if you’re familiar with the brand is that you’re never left wanting for kit in a Lexus, and the company tends to be a bit more fair when it comes to options than rivals. Where other manufacturers models can easily see their list prices increase substantially with a few tick boxes on the options list, Lexus generally prefer to include far more as standard, therefore significantly undercutting other similarly specified cars. The problem with Lexus tends to come when you’re used to driving a top of the range model (SE-L or now Premier) and then you have a go in lower spec or mid range model. Even in a “lower spec” Lexus, all the basics and more are usually there, but you know you’ve been spoiled when you miss things such as ventilated seats and an electric rear blind. Most people would just be happy with heated seats and window tints!
The CT200h F Sport sits one tier below the top of the range Premier model in terms of standard kit, but as the F Sport is the better looking of the two, it’s not unusual for F Sport owners to spec their cars up a little bit to almost Premier levels of kit – should the options list allow.
This particular car only had a few options added to it though. It had the Lexus “Premium Navigation” system (£1,995) that includes a DVD player, 10 speakers, reversing camera and connected services. Although a little pricey it’s probably the most worthwhile option offered on this car. It was also fitted with the protection pack (£350) consisting of rubber boot mat, cargo net, rubber floor mats and bumper protection plate. The car’s F Sport White paintwork (£610) brings the total as tested of this particular car to £29,950, up from a list price for the F Sport of £26,995. The CT200h range currently starts from £21,245 for the entry level “S” model, increasing to £29,745 for a Premier.
The premium navigation works well enough and if you have tried the system in other Lexus models its a familiar affair. If you’ve never used a Lexus remote touch system before then it takes a bit of getting used and it can be fiddly particularly when entering in individual characters. Having said that, it’s intuitive enough to use, and I actually find the system far easier to use than the standard Lexus navigation with the rotary controller, in terms of menu navigation anyway.
With the Premium Navigation package, you get the upgraded sound system with 10 speakers, which while not quite up to the standard of the Mark Levinson system found in the Premier model, it’s not all that far off. It still includes a sub woofer in the boot so bass is nice and punchy too. I’m not too sure what Lexus were thinking in putting the USB ports under a flap in the centre console though rather than in the arm rest as in other models. This makes it for more difficult to leave a device permanently and discreetly hidden away.
Other standard features include heated leather electric seats with driver’s side memory, keyless start and entry, LED running lights, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB and DAB radio. In fact, the only notable omissions from the Premier model are the LED headlights (the F Sport sticks to standard halogens) and the Mark Levinson sounds system. I must say I think the LED headlights would have looked great on this car considering it’s the F Sport. Put it this way though, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the specification levels found on this car. As standard, it’s far more generously equipped than most rivals at this price.
Handling and Ride
The pre-facelift version of the CT200h was well known for being a little on the firm side, and Lexus has worked hard on the facelift model to counter some of these criticisms. By increasing structural rigidity with 20 additional spot welds, Lexus were then able to work on the car’s spring rates to help deliver a more compliant ride. Not only this, but the company have also added increased sound deadening to give occupants an experience far more akin to the rest of the Lexus range.
So has it transformed the car? Well, yes pretty much. For those of you who have driven the pre-facelift model, the first thing you will notice is definitely the change in ride quality. The car is still firm yes, but the extra suppleness that Lexus have now managed to fettle in means that the car is much more competent at soaking up broken surfaces on all but the most pot hole ridden roads. This being the F Sport model of course featuring firmer sports suspension anyway, I’d expect the standard suspension bearing models to be even more compliant. However, if you’re worried about firm suspension but still fancy the looks of the F Sport, I’d suggest taking it for a 24 hour test drive and testing it over a decent selection of road surfaces anyway.
In all honesty though, I think Lexus have done a pretty good job on the chassis of this car. It’s got plenty of grip and the body roll is kept fairly well in check at least with the sports suspension anyway. It certainly gives you plenty of confidence through tight and twisty bits that the car will hold on and go where you want it to. If I were to be a bit fussy I’d say that the steering is a little too light for my taste, something that is particularly evident when pushing on a bit.
Let’s get one thing straight here – this model may be called an F Sport, but a hot hatch it certainly is not, and that’s not the point of this car. The F Sport philosophy to Lexus is all about styling and handling. The proper “F” models are the fast ones in the Lexus range (think RC F, IS F, GS F), so the CT200h F Sport is about taking a luxury compact hybrid and making it look a bit sportier and handle better.
In terms of straight line performance then the figures are the same as the rest of the CT200h range, giving the car a 0-62 mph time of 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph. It’s not exactly a rocket ship then, but I’d describe performance as absolutely adequate for the car it is. It has enough power for most situations (track days aside) and can happily keep pace with traffic where needed. The car does sometimes feel a little quicker than the figures would suggest too, thanks to the extra 153 Ib ft of torque provided from the electric motor that gives the engine and its 105 Ib ft of torque a bit of a lift. The car also produces 136 bhp as a combined output.
To be quite honest though, the CT200h is far more suited to a more gentle and controlled style of driving, and that way you’re also able to extract the best economy and also refinement from the hybrid system and its automatic CVT gearbox. The EV mode is usually happy to cut in as soon as you hit traffic, and if you’re careful you can also use the electric motor to maintain speeds of up to around 40 mph, depending on the road gradient.
The car has three modes in which you can drive; Normal (default), Eco and Sport that can be accessed by a rotary control on the centre console. As the car defaults to normal, this tends to be the place it will spend most of its time and gives a decent balance of responsiveness and fuel economy. Eco mode dulls the throttle response down far too much for my liking, presumably to maximise the amount of time you spend in EV mode where possible. Sport mode is the most responsive and this does go some way to eliminate the delay in throttle response caused by the CVT transmission but it’s still not instantaneous. Sport mode does give you a rather cool digital rev counter in place of the power/eco/charge gauge that you get on normal and Eco though.
Braking performance is strong on this car although you may find they are a little bit snatchy until you get used to it thanks to the way the car regenerates energy to charge the batteries while braking.
Being the type of car that it is, the running costs are clearly a significant area of interest when it comes to this car. On the combined cycle, the CT200h claims a frugal 68.9 mpg, and with a CO2 output of 94 g/km, the car is currently VED band A so no road tax to pay. This will of course be different for new cars purchased after March 2017 when the new rules come into force. Interestingly, other versions of the CT200h do also boast slightly higher mpg figures and slightly lower CO2 outputs, though this can be attributed to the F Sport’s larger wheels.
As you would expect from lab tested economy figures, these do tend to be slightly optimistic, though the same can be said for many cars these days. It really does depend on how you drive it, which seems obvious but being a hybrid it really does count here. Economy is largely based on the amount of mileage you can extract from the EV mode. From experience, if you drive it like you drive any other car, you are likely to achieve mid 40’s to low 50’s mpg. If you learn how to drive the hybrid system properly though, high 50’s to low 60’s and beyond are definitely achievable. It’s all about practice and learning how to extract the best from the system. Of course, there are other factors to be taken into account such as temperature and air conditioning use, but it’s more down to driver input than anything else.
The other thing that’s worth taking into account is that the CT200h and indeed any hybrid system will not necessarily give you the best fuel economy from long motorway runs, unlike conventional engined cars. This is because the higher speeds you (normally) achieve on motorways do not give the hybrid system a chance to do its thing and you are permanently relying on the petrol engine rather than the electric motor. The best place to extract better economy from the CT200h is on longer journeys that involve slower to medium speed roads with moderate traffic. This lets everything warm up nicely whilst still allowing the electric motor to cut in and out where appropriate. Having said that, thanks to its reasonably frugal 1.8 litre petrol engine, the CT200h will still achieve decent fuel economy on motorways, if not up there with the best small diesels. Probably best not to get started on diesel emissions and certain German manufacturers though. Needless to say the current scandal will likely only help out Lexus and other manufacturers who are experts at utilising hybrid and other alternative technologies rather than just sticking with traditional diesels. The low CO2 ratings really help to make this car an attractive proposition for company car drivers too, with a lower BIK than many diesel rivals.
Whilst the Lexus CT200h F Sport is not without its faults in places, if you’re looking for a small premium car with great build quality, bags of kit and low running costs, then this car could certainly be the one for you. The interior is nice place to spend time, plus lets not forget that Lexus have a great name when it comes to reliability and customer service. Some even say that once you’ve bought into the whole Lexus ethos, it’s hard to drive anything else. The Lexus CT200h certainly provides a stylish and affordable way into Lexus ownership that’s sure to turn heads when you creep silently through a car park.
If you’ve not driven the latest model, it’s certainly worth taking advantage of our 24 hour test drive offer by clicking the button below.
Just after a little bit of info. I am after a rear tyre for the IS. She currently has Bridgestone on her which is what Lexus put on her when I purchased her. I only need one for the passenger side as the other still has 4mm of tred left. Just wondering what everyone's opinion was. I am after a quiet tyre and eventually will replace the set once she needs them.
What's your opinion?