You’ve got to hand it to Lexus and its RC 300h, as shown off at this year's Tokyo Motor Show.
In German premium brand-obsessed Europe, the Japanese company might be all too easy to overlook. But to have established the brand from scratch less than 30 years ago, and now be offering genuinely credible alternatives to BMW, Audi and Mercedes is pretty impressive.
And before you think we’ve been at the sake a bit too much at the Show in Japan, the new RC Coupe is the latest proof that, if you’re looking for a quality item with a bit of a left-field feel, Lexus is now one of the companies to look at.
The RC is the coupe version of the IS. It is to the IS what the Audi A5 is to A4. Except there’s arguably much more design differentiation going on here, and some really striking looks. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s got plenty of the look of Lexus’s recent - and highly impressive - CC and LC concepts.
It’s bold where the German alternatives are bland. Check out the huge, road-swallowing "spindle" grille. And the massive Nike swoosh - sorry, Lexus L - running lights. Then feast your eyes on the double surface, layered-like corners of the car with all kinds of interesting detailing hiding in their midst.
You might not necessarily be into the minutiae of car design, but that surfacing of this Lexus is genuinely impressive - technically, what the company has done with parts of the car is very hard to achieve with a metal stamping machine, such as those used to press car panels. So the body is genuine testimony to Lexus’s desire to push what is technically possibly.
And it’s not some ridiculously compromised car either. There’s space for two people in the back, a big boot, and up front you get a cockpit that’s similar to the IS. Which means it’s visually busy with some interesting details but lacking the true quality of an Audi cabin, for instance.
What you do get though, is an up-tick in material quality compared to the saloon - with some lovely floating panels on the doors that are back-lit with LEDs. And - rejoice - Lexus has finally binned its infuriating, impossible-to-use-on-the-move mouse-like "RTI" controller. It's replaced with an intuitive touchpad, with which you gesture around in order to control the centre screen unit.
Power comes from a familiar hybrid unit which couples a four cylinder, 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric battery pack to provide startling fuel economy and CO2 and tax levels that make the company car friendly. Or, alternativey, a 3.5-litre V6 petrol, which will be creamy smooth and fast - but we’d put money on its lacking the zing of BMW’s 3.0 turbo six, as found in the 435i.
READ: BMW 435i M Sport review
All told, we’re impressed by the Lexus RC 300h. It's an appealing package and a genuinely interesting-looking alternative to the default German choices. We love how close the company has managed to stay true to some of its recent concept cars and maintain the "different" approach at work in aspects of their designs. If the RC drives well, the company could have a real winner on its hands and we’re now genuinely excited about the prospect of driving a Lexus for the first time since the LFA.