Lexus unveils muscular RC Coupe, set to take on BMW’s finest


Lexus is clearly laying down a marker that it wants to compete with BMW in emotive terms with this, the new RC Coupe.

Based on the IS saloon, the RC will make its debut on the 20th of this month at the Tokyo motor show and is aimed at the recently launched BMW 4 Series. We have seen an IS coupe before, but it was a rarely-seen coupe-cabrio with a folding steel roof and performance in actual and sales terms that did little to trouble Munich.

The RC’s story could be somewhat different. That huge grille, with its inset fangs (referred to as spindles by Lexus) is the starting point for a long, low, lean body that starts with full LED headlamps (that form the shape of a Lexus L when on dipped beam, a shape echoed in the rear lights) and which sits on some properly dramatic 18in or 19in wheels. The grille is the lowest and widest version yet seen and yes, that striking red paintwork will be available to buy. It’s called Hero Red.

A long 2.7m wheelbase (in an overall 4.6m length) means that the RC should match the BMW 4 Series for four-seat cabin space. And while everything is a bit more low and focused, the cabin is recognisably that of the IS saloon, with the same 7in screen infotainment system and chunky three-spoke steering wheel. There’s a new Lexus Touch controller for the screen and the seats are moulded with an integrated foam construction, which Lexus says is inspired by race car practice. The cabin also gets the Shimamoku wood trim, which is created through 67 processes over a 38 day period, alternating dark and light wood veneers.

The RC will be initially offered with the same 2.5-litre, four-cylinder plus electric hybrid setup that we’ve seen in the IS300h and a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine in the RC350 which is essentially the same engine we’ve seen in the GS450h but without the hybrid module. There has been no mention of diesel as yet. And Lexus has thus far eschewed diesel power for the new IS range, a decision that may limit the appeal of the RC Coupe to European buyers. Lexus will doubtless be hoping that the forthcoming EU7 emissions regulations will push up the price of buying a diesel car to the point where hybrid power starts to look more attractive.

Lexus has also already registered the name RC-F, which could mean that it’s planning a high-performance version of the coupe to compete with BMW’s M3 and M4, possibly using either hybrid power to boost the grunt of the 3.5 V6 or even going back to V8 petrol power as it did with the previous hot IS-F saloon. On the other hand, it could just mean that it’s planning a mildly sportier RC variant, similar to what it offers with the F-Sport version of the GS450h saloon which has a more aggressive body kit, suspension and steering settings than the “cooking” version, but no extra power from the engine.