Lexus RC 300h Luxury

- First Drive

Lexus RC 300h, front action
Lexus RC 300h, side static
Lexus RC 300h, rear static
Lexus RC 300h, dashboard
Lexus RC 300h, rear seats
Lexus RC 300h, instruments
Lexus RC 300h, interior detail

YOU'RE looking at one of the most impressive ways to arrive anywhere in town on four wheels; in a coupe with spaceship looks and in near silence.

The new Lexus RC 300h has lines to stop onlookers in their tracks and an electric motor to drive it short urban distances with only the hum of the tyres intruding gently.

Those glamour looks and stealth approach have consequences, though. Of which more later.

For the moment, let's look around this beautifully crafted coupe from the posh Toyota offshoot that regularly bounces against the top of the customer satisfaction ratings.

Just slipping into the softly leathered interior of the 300h makes the world feel a better place.

Spread out ahead of you are buttons and dials that might have come from a watchmaker's workroom and the sort of fit and finish you might imagine a junior Bentley trying to match - if there was one.

Add this five star interior to an outside that seems to have been hewn from a block of solid steel by a magical warrior wielding a micro-honed sword and the £34,995 asking price actually seems modest.

Especially when you consider that not only does the 300h have a 2.5 litre petrol engine but an electric motor too. Together, they produce a total of 220 horsepower and in town the car will drive short distances on electrical energy alone.

The usefully low combined 113g/km exhaust emissions - a product of that underbonnet cleverness - means the taxman won't trouble you in year one, and then for a mere £30 thereafter. The 17 per cent BIK rating makes this a formidably affordable car for business use too.

The battery does, however, add weight to a car that was not a lightweight to start with. So the performance figures (118mph and 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds) are very far from sporting.

A similarly priced and diesel powered BMW 4 Series coupe will feel far faster, be only a little dearer for business use but look much thirstier on paper - although much more likely to approach its theoretical economy than the Lexus.

It won't have the quietness of the Lexus, though, or feel as cossetting inside, or be nearly as well equipped as standard either. BMW options' list are famously long - and tempting.

Standard fare on the Lexus includes leather trim, heated seats, 18ins alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, auto gears and LED headlamps. Sat nav costs £1,995 and uses a fiddly touch pad.

Coupes are about self-indulgence and that means making the driver feel good at the expense of practical matters like rear seat legroom (tiny if the front seats are set back) and boot space (useful, but the battery intrudes a bit).

You can gain a bit of boot space by choosing a non-hybrid RC 200t which costs a little less and goes faster, thanks to a turbocharged 2.0 litre engine. The tax advantages of the hybrid mean this petrol-only model will stay a rare sight on UK roads.

So, glamour and quietness in spades, but at a cost. If you fancy the looks, don't need rear seat space and are ready for fuel readouts some way from the 57.6mpg in the brochure (the only numbers Lexus is allowed to quote), then your nearest dealer will welcome you with open arms.

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