Downsizing not so tantalising, but DAB’s an evolutionary revelationDownsizing not so tantalising, but DAB’s an evolutionary revelation
HUMAN beings depend on five senses that prevent us falling out of the evolution tree, but the rockstar senses are sight and sound. They’re the lead singer and guitarist, and so score the hot groupies. Smell, taste and touch can make their own arrangements.
It’s the same with cars. What I really focus on are their looks and the noise they make. I’m not excited about a big-nosed SUV with a piddly exhaust, and I bet you’re not either. I want curves and presence, and a noise that makes me tingle and drives me. I want to hear a wailing V12, a snarling V10, a burbling V8.
But modern cars are increasingly powered by turbo four-cylinder engines, as in the Lexus RC200t. Powertrain engineers may prefer a big atmo engine, but the demands of economy and emissions requires downsizing. So, to appease us sporty types with the old-fashioned expectation of aural satisfaction from burning fuel, we get artificial ‘sound enhancers’.
Put the RC’s equally digital drive selector into Sport mode, or the even more promising Sport+, and the sound is amplified, but not from the mechanical bits under the bonnet. No, it’s coming from speakers inside the car.
Without going to the extreme of those aftermarket gadgets that can make a Fiesta sound like a Ferrari inside, Lexus can’t allow the turbo four to sound as satisfying as a V8 or even a V6.
It’s like scoring the groupie’s mother.
At least the Lexus rewards the sonic sense in another way, courtesy of digital radio and a mighty 825w Mark Levinson surround-sound system with 17 speakers.
I’d always thought DAB was a con, but now I’m hooked. Digital radio is literally music to my ears, at least until they stuff it up by packing the dedicated channels with more ads. Not only do I get more music and less of those loathsome ‘zany’ morning crews, I get to drive home with Alice Cooper.
Just as I now wouldn’t want to live without cruise control, auto climate control and heated seats, I’m won over by DAB’s fabulously crisp sound and largely ad-free programming.
Beyond the mundane five senses, there’s an important sixth, and it has nothing to do with seeing dead people. I’m talking about common sense, which to me suggests that what I feel and hear should be authentic, not replicated. Otherwise I’m not really feeling it or hearing it at all.
Then again, what would common sense know? It’s not that common anyway.
Playing with our sense of touch
One of the downsides of digital radio (and the sat-nav) in the RC is the need to navigate all those stations via Lexus’s dreaded touchpad. I’m talking about the sense of feel, of which the pad pretty much has none. So I fumble about clicking all sorts of things by mistake. It’s worse for us right-hand-drive markets, because we sit on the ‘wrong’ side, for right handed people at least. Imagine using your left hand on a computer mouse with its sensitivity set on the fastest speed. That’s how the Lexus touchpad feels.
Read part three of our 2016 Lexus RC200t long-term car review.
Lexus RC200t F-Sport
Price as tested: $76,500
Part 1: 1452km @ 11.3L/100km
Overall: 5288km @ 11.1L/100km
Date acquired: April 2016