Lexus RC convertible next?

words - Bruce Newton
Coupe debuts but engineering completed for a drop-top as well

Lexus has unveiled the RC coupe overnight in Tokyo and a convertible version may not be far away.

On the sidelines of the media preview at the Ryoguku Sumo Hall, RC chief engineer Junichi Furyama confirmed the BMW 4 Series rival - which should start rolling into showrooms in the second half of 2014 - had been engineered to be shorn of its roof.

However, while willing to reveal the rear-wheel drive two-door coupe boasted underbody bracing that would aid development of a replacement for the outdated IS 250C, Furyama was not prepared to confirm that a green light had been given to RC convertible production.

“We are preparing so if we decide to provide the convertible model from this it is possible from the engineering perspective,” he told motoring.com.au. “But there is no actual plan for a convertible.

“The main purpose of this car is to create an aggressive image for the Lexus brand. A hard top coupe is suitable for that purpose compared with a convertible, because a convertible is for older people.”

Furyama was also unwilling to confirm the much touted M4-rivalling V8 RC F version of the coupe would be launched at the Detroit auto show in January, although he will be in attendance at the US show in January.

Officially, Lexus was unwilling to reveal any more information about the RC coupe than was issued on November 4, preferring instead to save its fire for the official unveiling at the Tokyo auto show on Wednesday.

Nor is the RC officially confirmed for Australia, although that is expected to also be confirmed on Wednesday.

“For me, should RC become a reality for our market, it is a brand changer,” Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley told motoring.com.au. “It is an exciting car.”

So far two RC models have been confirmed, the 350 petrol V6 and the 300h petrol-electric hybrid, both drivetrains lifted straight from the IS sedan.

Along with the V8 RC F, a 200t featuring the new turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine is expected in the future. That engine was hidden under the bonnet of the otherwise slightly revised LF-NX small SUV concept that was also previewed last night.

Furyama, who is also chief engineer of the IS sedan upon which the RC draws much of its technical underpinnings along with the GS sedan, extolled the emotional appeal of the RC and acclaimed its chassis dynamics.

“In terms of performance this car is based on the new IS but it is more exciting and has more agile handling,” Furyama told motoring.com.au. “The feeling is more agile and more exciting and more thrilling in the corner.

“We want to change the perception of the customer for the Lexus brand; boring style and boring handling. We want to change the brand image. The new IS has a good handling performance so this car is more than that. Thrilling the driver is our intention.

“The styling is exciting, but the performance itself is also very, very exciting.”

The RC rides on a wheelbase 70mm shorter than the third generation IS and on a track identical to the larger GS. Its suspension design is also drawn from the GS, albeit with unique spring and damper tuning.

Its kerb weight is slightly heavier than the IS because of the additional bracing, which Furyama says plays a significant role in improving torsional rigidity.

The RC also employs the Lexus Dynamic Handling system, including Dynamic Rear Steer, which Lexus Australia is campaigning to add to the IS 350 F Sports model.

Furyama revealed the car shown in Tokyo was still not completely production indicative, as the pressing required for the rear three quarter panel was complicated and not finalised.

“We need a little adjustment for mass production,” he conceded.

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Published : Tuesday, 19 November 2013
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