WHEN you are looking to choose a new car, what is it you're looking for? Is it power and speed? Style? Practicality? Or is it fuel efficiency and its environmentally-friendliness?
For most people it will no doubt be a combination of those factors and a combination that suits their particular circumstances. But, in these days of massively overcrowded roads, the dreaded digital ‘average speed cameras' and rising fuel costs, is there such a need for speed?
Why do I ask? I ask because of the Lexus RC 300h two-door coupe which, in my opinion - and that of many friends who gazed upon it - is one of the finest-looking cars on the road today. With a wide stance, low profile and muscular flared wheel arches, its lines are pure, simple and striking.
Fork out an extra £625 for the eye-catching Sonic Red paint job - produced with a multi-layered technique that uses a silver base coat to give brighter highlights and darker shading for a deeper, richer appearance - and it becomes a masterpiece.
But - isn't there always a but? - some will be disappointed that its sleek, streamlined looks are not matched by fast and furious performance.
Despite its stunning looks, it's not a thrilling drive. The 300h is powered by a petrol-electric full hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine. The two produce 220bhp. This powers the Lexus from 0-62mph in a stately 8.6 seconds while the top speed is below 120mph.
As the top legal limit in the UK is 70mph, does that really matter? The answer is no, of course not. Especially when it looks as good as this coupe. A little faster acceleration would be appreciated for overtaking but it's really not crucial. And, because this is a hybrid, you get official economy of 57.6mpg and tax-friendly CO2 emissions of 113g/km.
The best I got was a respectable 49.6mpg but my average was 39.5mpg. The Devon hills can ruin official hybrid stats.
Part of the problem is the electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT) favoured by Lexus and Toyota. Stomp on the accelerator and while the revs soar, the speed doesn't match - whether in sport mode (there's also normal, eco and snow) or not. It is much improved but it's still far too hesitant for a sports coupe.
That said, the RC is a Lexus so comes will all the typical Lexus attributes. It is incredibly quiet and refined, has plenty of useful kit and feels very luxurious. It's no street machine but it is an extremely loveable cruiser.
The UK range features Luxury, F Sport and Premier trims. Luxury is the entry-level but still does what it says on the tin. Standard are 18-inch alloys, cruise control, folding, heated door mirrors, auto windscreen wipers, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, parking sensors, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system with CD player, DAB, Bluetooth and two USB ports, seven-inch multimedia screen with rotary ‘Remote Touch' controller, extremely comfortable and supported power-adjustable heated front seats and leather upholstery.
The top of the range Premier adds 19-inch alloys, higher-spec navigation, a bespoke 17-speaker surround audio system, an automatic high beam function, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and a rear-view camera.
The cockpit is snug and driver-focused. Everything looks and feels solid, well-built and of high quality. The area around the driver is divided into two distinct zones - an upper display zone for communicating information, alerts and data, and a lower zone housing all the main controls and switchgear.
The display zone includes the instrument panel and a full-colour, seven-inch multimedia screen. The instrument binnacle includes a large speedometer and tachometer positioned either side of a central 4.2-inch multi-information display.
Designed to feel like using a smartphone, the Remote Touch controller has been improved but it's still extremely fiddly to use on the move. The temptation to take your eyes off the road is almost overwhelming so it's better not to use it at all unless you're confident.
The RC 300h's other interior downfall is its lack of rear headroom and legroom. Beautiful it may be to look at, but in no way is it a family car.