Lexus IS Convertible / IS250C / IS350C Review

By Jonathan Spira on 14 September 2010
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Hardtop convertibles offer drivers the best of both worlds: top down in sunshine and top up in less favorable conditions.  A number of automakers have embraced the concept since the first model from Mercedes-Benz rolled off the assembly line back in 1998.

One of the newest entries into the hardtop-convertible market is the Lexus IS Convertible.  Available in two models, the IS 250 C with a 2.5-liter V-6 and the IS 350 C with a 3.5-liter V-6, the good-looking convertible shares the elegant design language of the Lexus IS four-door sedan with the addition of a rather large rear end.

The Lexus IS Convertible offers drivers the allure of open-roof motoring with practical luxury of a hardtop coupe.  Touch a button and it takes a mere 20 seconds for the roof to disappear, leaving an open and elegantly-appointed cabin in its wake.

The IS 250 C isn’t going to win any races (you’ll need the IS 350 C to do that) but who needs to be in a hurry when you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the fresh air and warm sun?

The IS C comes equipped with everything one would expect from a Lexus, including dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, eight-way power front seats with easy rear-seat access (more on the rear seat in a moment), pop-up rear roll bars, and front and rear side curtain airbags.  Options include a superb Mark Levinson sound system, an easy-to-use hard disk-based navigation system, and super comfortable heated and cooled front seats.  The quality of the interior materials is excellent.  Buttons and switches are well designed and have an elegant finish.  With the top up, the headliner has a plush, felt-like material that adds to the ambiance.

The navigation system itself is fairly basic but very usable.  Live traffic shows traffic flow and major incidents. Traffic warnings are available but automatic rerouting is not.

The Bluetooth system now supports streaming audio, which allowed easy access to my favorite radio stations from around the world via the Net, and iPod integration is also included.

With the top up, you’ll hardly know you’re in a convertible but what’s the point unless it’s raining?  In fact, you may want to use the car’s optional XM NavWeather system to find out when you can put the top down again (the system will also provide weather alerts that should give you ample time to put the top up, if necessary).

Don’t plan on having more than one passenger with you, however.  The cramped rear seat is suitable for groceries, packages, or small children.  Trunk space with the top up is nearly 11 cubic feet but that shrinks down to 2.5 cf with the top down (although I suspect a solitary golf bag will still fit). Rearward visibility is limited and the rearview camera was an absolute necessity when the top was up.

Laden down by several hundred extra pounds thanks to the roof mechanism, the IS Convertible is a touring car, not a sports car, but it has impeccable road manners and is never boring.  In my two weeks with the IS 250 C and IS 350 C, I found both to be engaging and far sportier to drive than the typical Lexus sedan, although pushing the car hard leads to understeer and body roll.  The 2.5-liter engine is silky smooth and, in manual mode, it could even be considered somewhat entertaining.  The 3.5-liter, on the other hand, using the same power train as the IS 350 sedan, can move the droptop from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and it more than makes up for the extra weight of the roof.

The 2010 Lexus IS Convertible is a posh, comfortable cruiser that can transport two sun worshipers and their bags in the lap of luxury.

2010 Lexus IS 250 C 2010 Lexus IS 350 C
Base price/price-as-tested $40,610/$48,535 $43,940/$51,030
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 2.5-liter/204 hp/V-6 3.5-liter/306 hp/V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (lbs) 3814 3880
Wheelbase (inches) 107.5 107.5
Length x width x height (inches) 182.5 x 70.9 x 55.7 182.5 x 70.9 x 55.7
0-60 mph (seconds) 8.4 5.8
City/highway fuel economy (mpg) 21/29 18/25

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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