Lexus' RC Turbo offers credible performance with a downsized engine
Coupe with charm The Lexus RC Turbo boasts superb cabin insulation, well-oiled switchgears and an unflappable chassis. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Powering a hot-looking coupe with a smallish engine may seem like an ill-conceived idea, but if it is executed well, the result can be fairly decent.

The new Lexus RC Turbo is a case in point.

The RC was first introduced two years ago in two forms - an RC350 with a 3.5-litre 317bhp V6 and an RC F with a 5-litre 477bhp V8.

They clocked the century sprint in 6.3 and 4.5 seconds respectively, with corresponding top velocities of 230kmh and 270kmh.

In other words, they had the goods to go with the looks.

So it is somewhat audacious that Lexus decided to replace its RC350 with a 2-litre turbocharged variant simply called RC Turbo.

Turbocharging has afforded the coupe some semblance of performance. It does zero to 100 in 7.5 seconds and tops out at a respectable 230kmh.

Downsizing has benefits, such as better fuel efficiency. The RC Turbo's stated consumption figure is 7.3 litres/100km, versus 9.7 for the RC350.

In real life, the new RC variant delivers the performance, even if its peak torque does not seem to be available from 1,650rpm as claimed. In most situations, it feels like access to its 350Nm is possible only at above 2,500rpm.

But when it comes, it comes with fervour and conviction. The car is zesty enough for all but the most urgent situtations.

However, it cannot be described as effortless to drive.

The RC's biggest surprise - or shock - is its fuel economy figure, which is close to double its stated number. This sort of negates the whole point of downsizing.

It is thirstier than Mercedes-Benz models of a similar size and capacity. Usually, it would be the other way around.

Size-wise, the Lexus is between the Mercedes-Benz C-class and E-class coupes. It is also 150kg heavier than the C200 Coupe and 40kg heftier than the E200 Coupe. That may explain things a little.

The RC does a pretty good job of convincing you that it is worth the extra litres of petrol. Despite its downsized engine, it exudes a solid and confident presence.

It is arguably more handsome than any of its two-door rivals, with a sleek and well-proportioned body endowed with impossible curves.

At the wheel, it is hard to find an equivalent car that is as refined. From superb cabin insulation and well-oiled switchgears to a smooth drivetrain and an unflappable chassis, the RC has the hallmarks of a Lexus.

It handles extremely well, without much sacrifice to ride quality. Its steering offers as much feel as the best crafted German cars. And, like other RCs, its well-padded centre console allows you to brace your knee in complete comfort in hard cornering manoeuvres.

It is, at the same time, an adequately equipped car. You get plush leather upholstery, a crisp 7-inch infotainment monitor with reverse camera, dual-zone climate control, eight airbags, courtesy lights and a keyless system.

It also offers adequate accommodation, which is a big plus for two- doors. An odd exclusion is memory seats, a fairly common feature for cars in its price bracket.

Strangely, neither this nor its unusual thirst diminishes its overall desirability.