Lexus RC 300h review: A sporty coupe with a conscience

26 Aug 2016

Lexus RC 300h image via Connor McKenna

There are few sporty coupes on the market that can claim to be environmentally friendly, but the new Lexus RC 300h hybrid car is certainly making a good stab at it.

When we think of the typical electric car, we tend to think of functional family vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, futuristic-like luxury cars like the BMW i3 or the unique stylings of something like a Renault Twizzy.

However, sporty two-door coupes don’t tend to come to mind when we think of cars that aim to be environmentally friendly, rather ones that want to be loud and fast.

While Tesla is certainly making an effort to break the mould, other manufacturers are beginning to add hybrid capabilities to their cars and, in this instance, I was able to try out the Lexus RC 300h.

In my case, and for future reference through the rest of the article, I was driving the F Sport model of the RC 300h that is the second most-expensive of three models.

Design: catcher of the eye

I have to admit then when I first walked up to the car, I wasn’t bowled over by its particular design, but the more I looked at it, the distinctive grill and curves of the car make it quite the eye-catcher.

Just driving it around the streets of Dublin would result in a number of admirers turn their heads for a second look, more so than some other cars I’ve tested that would be more of an oddity on Irish roads.

Lexus design

This eye-catching quality was probably helped by the ‘radiant red’ paintwork that my model came with that I liked quite a lot, considering I’m one of those people who repeat the mantra that a silver car is easier to clean.

The rear of the car is quite impressive too with its dual exhausts and its small aerodynamic grills adding to the sense that you’re in a coupe.

Also, 19inch alloy wheels come part of the sports package if fancy wheels are important to you.

Lexus design 2

Interior: The little things will surprise you

Getting into the car is pretty easy considering you just need to have the key on your person to unlock it – like many high-end cars these days – and once you’re inside you certainly feel like you’re setting foot in a sports car.

The leather trim that covers much of the inside of the cars – referred to as ‘clove’ – is certainly comfortable and adds to the sense of a luxury coupe, but it’s in all the dials and buttons where the real meat of the car’s interior is.

Lexus interior

It might sound strange to hear, but one of the things that struck me the most was the inclusion of an analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard harking back to a simpler time.

Elsewhere, the technology on the car is familiar territory for those who own higher-end cars with a full air-conditioning system – with touch-sensitive temperature controls – and heated seats.

The car’s computer systems are controlled using a spinning joystick in the centre console of the car that can be a little finicky at first, but then familiarity with similar systems kicks in.

Lexus clock


It’s certainly not the fanciest system and on its main screen looks more like something from a few years ago, but with Bluetooth connectivity and an ability to link navigation from your phone to the car makes it a handy system.

More eye-catching however is the driver’s heads-up display behind the steering wheel where, with the press of a button, a physical dial moves to reveal a wealth of the car’s driving data.

A bit of simple engineering for sure, but it’s certainly a way to win over a tech journalist with a dial that has something in common with a fighter jet.

Lexus dial gif

The engine: Not just a sports car

So compared with many of the other cars reviewed on, the Lexus RC 300h has a hybrid engine, but not a plug-in hybrid engine like, the Volvo V60 reviewed last year.

Within this car is a 2.5l petrol engine that combines with a 164kW electric motor designed to give it a balance between being a punchy sports car and a fuel-efficient traveller.

Based on my own testing, Lexus wasn’t far off the mark with claims it can go from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds.

This ties in with a fuel consumption of 4.9l/100km, however claims have been made by some of Lexus’ rivals in the coupe space of consumption rates of around 4.2l/100km which would be remarkable.

Lexus engine

There are three drive modes selectable including Eco, Normal and Sport that are pretty self-explanatory.

However, Eco mode is ideal for when stuck in traffic as with every push of the brake pedal and rolling down a hill, the small battery gets extra juice and also means that you’re not wasting fuel for such slow speeds.

This marks a complete opposite to when Sport mode is activated and the petrol engine becomes the source of all the car’s power, which was something of a guilty pleasure when taking it out on to the motorways.

The sportiness of the F Sport model I was driving was also helped with the car’s additional hand-controlled, flappy-paddle gear changer that can be activated via the car’s automatic gearbox.

Although I have to admit that based on my previous experiences with using them in other cars, I didn’t try it out on the open road.

Engine dial

The verdict: coupe worthy of consideration

Despite Europe being the home of some of the most popular coupes on the market, the Lexus RC 300h certainly offers a flashy, environmentally-conscious alternative from Japan.

Given this car is a coupe and not a family transporter, practicality is not a word you would associate with the RC 300h with its limited, almost non-existent leg room in the rear for two additional passengers.

Yet practicality shines through in some elements such as a big boot that should handle large items like a golf bag, but also the fact that it is a hybrid that’s more than comfortable sitting in traffic while producing no CO2 emissions.

Perhaps most importantly however is the fact it just drives well with good handling on the road and a smooth turning circle making it feel quite easy to drive.

Throw on top of that the fact the F Sport comes in at under €60,000 – €56,850 to be exact – it makes it one of the most affordable luxury coupes on the market.

Lexus graphic

All images in this article via Connor McKenna

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic