First Irish Drive: A little goes a long, long way with this RC hybrid coupe from Lexus RC 300h
I've discovered over the years that a few touches can either undermine, or go a long way to flatter, a revised car.
Let me give you the revised Lexus RC 300h 2dr hybrid coupé as an example of the latter.
On the evidence of my recent drives in it here not that much has been done, yet the few visual improvements stretch disproportionately and surprisingly far.
Very much a niche model, this mid-size motor isn't that well known as such. By chance last year I had one for a day or two and was pleasantly surprised.
Even at that, however, Lexus felt it needed something to freshen it up. So they gave it the equivalent of a spring clean, a lick of paint and fresh curtains. I thought I'd try it again for a longer stint - just to see how things panned out (I also happen to like the car).
Yes it worked. Despite most of the 'fixing up' being peripheral it is so much a better looking car now.
Overall performance and all connected with that end of things remain much the same.
Understand, please, that the car, even with its 2.5-litre hybrid system, isn't designed or targeted to be hot and steamy, though there was plenty of mid-range poke.
Engineered with a slightly gentler nature in mind, it still whipped up a smoothly brisk turn of foot thanks to the 223hp the 2.5-litre (4cyl 2,494cc - same as before) hybrid system manages to generate. It matters too that the boot runs to 340 litres - for the golf bag(s).
Little has really been done to change so much; yet the effect is more global.
Luckily or by design so, in trying to visually align it with the lovely and larger LC coupé they have managed to make the RC a lot smarter.
Exterior changes are not madly plentiful while inside, with one exception, has mutated to far more agreeable levels.
Outside gets a new front bumper, grille, headlamps, rear bumper, lamps etc.
Inside has good quality materials and the dash looks great.
A pity, however, that we seem to be stuck with the world's most annoying selector-control set-up.
It was finger-touch super-sensitive, located under my left wrist on the central console and I found it infuriating to get it to work simple commands without being driven to distraction.
How anyone can live with it is a mystery to me. But as is invariably the case with such items, one suffers in near-silence and does one's best to adapt. I suppose over time you'd manage. But it's a pity because it would be the one thing to put me off buying it (assuming overnight Lotto status of course).
On the road the RC had a good balance, was nicely taut on the turn and deceptively pacey on the straight.
Key rivals include the Mercedes C-Class and E-Class Coupés, the Audi A5, BMW's 2 and 4 Series Coupés.
If you look at, or drive any of those, and I've been privileged to have driven all at some stage, there is a striking level of difference.
Many segments, such as the majority of saloons and hatches, follow predictable enough patterns. There are exceptions of course. But the level of differentiation between these coupés is quite something.
The A5 and E-Class models are worlds apart. And certainly the RC looks like nothing in the ranks of its competitors. While it is not a mould breaker, it has a look and feel distinctive enough to make the likes of myself consider it a real option for the imaginary shopping list.
I'm probably still swayed towards the BMW 4-series Coupé, but the RC is a lovely dilemma on the menu.
They may not have done that much to give it such an injection of freshness but the mere fact it would now be on my shopping list says a lot for the car.