Lexus RC F and RC 350 2015 Review
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the new Lexus RC F at its international launch.
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Australia is often described as a proud sporting nation, and this carries through with our taste in cars.
For example, we buy more BMW M and Mercedes AMG products than any other market per capita, which also aligns with the sporting and somewhat aggressive styling of the current crop of mid-size luxury coupes like the BMW 4 Series, Audi A5 and Lexus RC.
Their new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe rival has been specced to meet this taste with the AMG styling pack standard across the board, but its aggressive bumpers and wheels don’t quite disguise a design that’s clearly more demure than sporting.
Even when sopping wet and filthy after the dreary Melbourne weather during its Australian launch, the new C-Coupe has an understated elegance that harks back to classic Benz hardtops like the W123 and W124, without using any cheap retro stylistic references.
Frameless doors are a hint of the upcoming C-Class Cabriolet, but unlike the E-Class Coupe the B-pillars remain and the rear windows are fixed.
Those long doors place the B-pillars well behind most drivers, but clever self-feeding seatbelts automatically extend so front occupants don’t have to reach behind to find their belt.
The C-Coupe’s tapered roofline also squeezes the rear seat space back to two positions, leaving a two-cupholder centre console with storage bins either side.
There’s still good legroom back there, but headroom has been cut to accommodate average height adults at best. Those needing to justify the C-Class for family duties will also be glad to find that two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points remain.
The front doors still get bottle holders to go with the twin front cupholders, and while the boot does drop 80 litres VDA compared with the sedan, a useful 400 litres VDA remain plus a 40:20:40 rear seat split-fold. This cargo area is helped by the absence of a spare wheel in favour of run-flat tyres.
Sitting beneath the upcoming C63 and C43 AMG performance models, the regular C-Class Coupe line-up has been split into three tiers based on engines shared with the existing sedan and wagon ranges.
The $65,900 C200 petrol adds $5000 to the list price of the equivalent sedan, but aside from its streamlined looks the two-door adds the AMG styling pack with 18-inch alloys, Artico synthetic leather dash trim, woodgrain interior details, memory front seat settings and a 360 degree camera system.
Other equipment highlights include the diamond grille, LED headlights, 7-inch multimedia screen with satnav and DAB+ digital radio, reversing camera, a self-parking system, front and rear parking sensors and variable ambient lighting.
The C250d generates a downright excellent official combined fuel figure of 4.4L/100km.
Like other C-Class bodystyles, the base model’s seat trim is actually Artico synthetic material rather than genuine cow leather.
The $74,900 C250d diesel steps up to 19-inch alloys, but also adds real leather trim, tinted windows, active cruise control with lane guidance, front and rear AEB, cross-traffic alerts and proximity unlocking.
The $83,400 top-spec C300 adds 13-speaker Burmester audio, Comand 8.4-inch multimedia system with 10Gb hard drive and internet capability and a sports exhaust system.
The C200’s 135kW/300Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol is the same unit used for other C-Class bodystyles, and is paired with the familiar seven-speed torque converter auto. In C-Class Coupe guise, it manages the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 7.3 seconds, and a stop/start system helps to generate an impressive 6.0L/100km official combined figure.
The diesel C250d’s 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre turbodiesel is also familiar from the other Cs, but comes with the new Mercedes nine-speed torque converter auto. This clever unit also combines with stop/start to generate a downright excellent official combined fuel figure of 4.4L/100km. The C250d also somehow manages to pip the C200’s 0-100km/h figure with a 6.7 second claim.
Quickest and most powerful of the lot – for now – is the C300, with a tweaked version of the C200’s 2.0-litre petrol turbo that makes 180kW/370Nm. The C300 drops back to the seven-speed auto, but drops the 0-100km/h figure down to a claimed 6.0 seconds and still manages an official combined fuel figure of 6.6L/100km.
The current C-Class sedan and wagon are remarkable engineering achievements, and none of this is lost by applying the Coupe body to the same underpinnings.
Even though the C-Class interior is now two-and-a-half-years old it still looks fresh, with excellent perceived quality for all materials.
The C300 is a clear cut above the others in terms of performance.
Anyone new to Mercedes will take some time to familiarise themselves with the Mercedes way of shifting gears and activating the windscreen wipers, cruise control and electronic handbrake. But once adapted, you can feel the Mercedes-ness of the C-Class in its balanced control weighting and considered ergonomics.
The C200’s thick-sidewalled 18-inch tyres handle minor bumps better than the more powerful models, but they still do an excellent job considering their lower-profile 19-inch rubber. The optional Airmatic airbag suspension is great for ironing out bigger bumps and coarse road vibration, but minor bumps like cats eyes will still remind you there’s only about an inch and a half between the rim and road.
Our first drive was limited to very wet roads, so we can’t give you the definitive handling verdict. However, regardless of coil springs or airbags the C-Coupe felt as composed at the speeds we were able to reach with a good balance between front and rear grip.
The C200 offers ample performance, but the C250d goes one step better without needing as many revs and downshifts as the petrol, and the diesel clatter at idle is somewhat mitigated by the start/stop system. It’s the gaps between refuelling that is probably the C250d’s biggest drawcard though, with a theoretical range of about 1300km if you treat it gently.
The C300 is a clear cut above the others though in terms of performance, which is matched by a satisfying bark from its sports exhaust, but only when you’re really pushing it.
Overall, it’s safe to say that each would be a lovely way to cover long distances at Australian speed limits, if you don’t need full rear-seat practicality.
Are demure looks enough overcome Australia’s preference for sporty and muscular? The Mercedes badge alone will no doubt get many buyers over the line, but the new Coupe is also fundamentally another excellent C-Class.
|C200||2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO||$35,880 – 53,880||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C200 Pricing and Specs|
|C200||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$36,888 – 59,868||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C200 Pricing and Specs|
|C63 AMG Edition 507||6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$114,510 – 131,670||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C63 AMG Edition 507 Pricing and Specs|
|C180 Avantgarde||1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$33,220 – 39,490||2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2016 C180 Avantgarde Pricing and Specs|