2011 Lexus IS 250 C Road Test Review

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The IS convertibles from Lexus crept into the market without much fanfare, dropping into a natural hole in the Lexus lineup and settling in like they'd always been there. Does it mean something that I forgot about the existence of this car until I saw one in a parking lot and wasn't sure what it was?  

As an avowed car spotter, it was somewhat embarrassing to see the Lexus IS 250 C and not immediately recognize it. A natural addition to the line of IS compact sport-luxury sedans, the retractable hardtop fills both the two-door coupe and convertible roles and gives the IS models a broader base from which to compete with the likes of the Audi A4 and A5 and the BMW 3-Series. Those two vehicles are the gold standard of the compact sport-luxury market, though challengers like the Infiniti G37 and Cadillac CTS were certainly on Lexus' mind when the IS 250 C and IS 350 C were penned.

The IS 250 C takes a different stylistic tack from the shoebox-shaped four-place convertibles that dominate the class. The dramatically tapered nose with a distinct shoulder line is shared with the IS sedans, but looks smoother, and more taut. Only the hood is shared with the IS sedans. Projector-beam headlamps and bright LED tail lamps are subtle touches that make it clear this is a Lexus product. Top-up, the silhouette is similar to that of the bigger SC 430, and the car has a tall-and-narrow look from the front.  The three-piece top uses aluminum-intensive construction to keep weight down, and has a braking control system that slows its descent in the last few inches to keep it from thumping ungracefully into place.

This is a four-place convertible, but the IS 250 C is small on the inside, and better suited to two passengers than four. A center console is decorated with marbled gray wood, and stretches from front to rear. The dash is conservatively styled in Lexus' tradition, with electroluminescent gauges and a full-color, seven-inch display for the optional hard-drive-based navigation system.  The available parking assist can make allowances for the roof cover's lid and will intervene if obstacles are too close to open or close the roof.  Options include Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Intuitive Parking Assist and a Mark Levinson sound system.

Driving dynamics are similar to the sedan's, but contrary to the tendency for two-door models to add sporty features, the IS 250 C is actually slightly mellower than its four-door counterpart. Maybe it's all the sunlight shining in, but this is one of the more relaxed convertibles I've driven. The IS 250 C is powered by a 2.5-litre aluminum V6 producing 204 horsepower. Variable valve timing and direct fuel injection are used. The IS convertible is also available with a 3.5-litre V6 that adds about 100 horsepower as well as additional port fuel injectors for improved response and efficiency at lower rpm. Six-speed automatic transmissions are standard in both cars; the IS 250 C is also available with a six-speed manual.

Body rigidity is not an issue. The IS 250 C's chassis has been strengthened so it's just as solid as the four-door version. Lexus has even beefed up the sound deadening so that when the top is up, this droptop is just as quiet as the hardtops. The basic suspension construction of double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear remains the same, as does the electronic power steering.  In addition to the stiffening that helps reduce body flex, Lexus has also lowered the rear suspension towers to improve rear end handling and increase cargo space. The handling is predictable, but Lexus takes no chances and its Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System (VDIM) safety-aid suite is standard equipment. VDIM ties the anti-lock brakes, stability control and other functions together into a cooperative unit, allowing the IS 250 C to respond to control loss almost before the driver is aware of it.  

All said, the IS 250 C is very much what you'd expect a Lexus convertible to be: well-executed, quiet, and comfortable and somewhat forgettable. It's capable enough, regardless of the impression it makes, and for buyers who don't want to have to deal with the quirks of a BMW or a Volvo, this is the way to go. IS convertible pricing starts at $52,100 for the IS 250 C and $60,400 for the higher-performance IS 350 C.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Lexus, 2011, IS 250 C, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Lexus

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