2012 Lexus IS 250C Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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On the sliding scale of "fun" versus "practical," the Lexus IS 250 C sits squarely and unapologetically at the "fun" end of the spectrum. Enough so that it became one of the few cars in recent memory to go AWOL from my garage in my wife's hands. She's normally a bit unwilling to drive the press cars, as she finds it difficult to get used to cars of varying sizes with unfamiliar controls, and she doesn't want to be responsible for scratching up any lustrous new paint jobs.

But when the early spring sun peeked out from behind the clouds and she saw the hardtop convertible IS 250 C sitting in the garage, the temptation proved too much - she passed up our trusty family car and took our son to his guitar lesson in the Lexus instead. An hour-and-a-half after they were expected home, I was starting to become worried. Had something happened? Just then they rolled around the corner with the top down, the car's Special Edition red leather seating gleaming in the sun and contrasting with the Obsidian black exterior, my wife's hair streaming slightly in the breeze. It was a vision enough to make a man fall in love all over again.

My wife summoned me from the window to come shoehorn the car into the garage (the press cars end up in a rather tight corner), and as I arrived my son was cheering the Transformers-like effect as the folding hardtop roof completed its mechanical ballet to once again render the car into a hardtop coupe. It turns out they'd gone for a top-down joyride out to a local beach and back through a forested park. "So do you have any comments for the review?" I asked my wife. "Yes," she said with a smile, "it needs a heated steering wheel. My hands got cold." In fairness, it was only about 8 degrees Celsius outside, and at least both their bums were toasty thanks to the standard heated (and ventilated) front seats.

The Lexus IS convertible is based on the company's popular IS sedan, and was introduced to the world at the Paris Auto Show in 2008, for the 2009 model year. It features a sport-oriented rear-wheel drive configuration and is available with either a 2.5-litre, 204-horsepower V6 (as in my IS 250 C test car), or with a 3.5-litre, 306-horsepower V6 in IS 350 C guise. With the IS 250 C you can choose between a 6-speed manual transmission or an electronically-controlled 6-speed automatic, while IS 350 C models all get the automatic. City/highway fuel consumption clocks in at 11.6 / 7.6 L/100km for the manual IS 250 C, 9.8 / 6.7 for the automatic, and 11.5 / 7.9 for the IS 350 C.

Like its sedan sibling, the IS C is a likeable car that has the basics well-covered, with quality interior fittings, a refined ride, a dependable drivetrain and solid build quality. The steering is responsive and nicely balanced, though a tad shy on feedback, and I was favourably impressed with the car's structural rigidity when the top was down, though I did note some minor rattles when the top was up.

Where the IS C falls short of its sedan sibling is in terms of interior and trunk space (no surprise there) and also, to some extent, in terms of stylistic cohesiveness: In order to provide space for the folded roof to stack inside the trunk, the tail end is more ample than might be ideal, while at the front the convertible is subtly smoother and less aggressive looking than the sedan (there's a slightly different grille and fog light surrounds), which I think is a pity because I like the sedan's crisp, aggressive lines.

Although the convertible is about 55mm (2.5 inches) longer than the sedan, the trunk and rear seat are by necessity smaller, with very limited rear legroom. You can fit four up, but for me it meant moving the driver's seat well forward from my preferred driving position.

As for the trunk, it's reasonably spacious with the top up provided you move the integrated divider and cargo cover forward out of the way. The problem with this is that it prevents the roof from being opened, which rather defeats the purpose of owning a hardtop convertible. With the trunk divider set to allow opening of the roof, you end up with only a very narrow strip of real estate that can fit a few grocery bags, or a couple of tennis rackets and a small gym bag, but not much else.

To further complicate matters, if you decide to use the back seat in lieu of the trunk, the power seats make it a bit of a production to get in there when the top is up, because instead of simply pulling a lever and flipping the setback forward, you press a button and the seat proceeds to move slowly forward on its own, beeping the entire time to warn the unwary to keep clear. It takes about 12 seconds to flip forward, and as much time again to go back.

Inside, the IS 250 C has the same classy, slightly understated ambience as its sedan sibling, with plenty of standard equipment including dual-zone automatic climate control, power locks and windows, keyless entry, pushbutton start, soft-touch heater controls, leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, integrated garage door opener, multi-information display, Bluetooth capability and a premium 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with satellite radio, USB and auxiliary inputs. My test car added to all this with its new-for-2012 Special Edition package which included the red leather upholstery, clearance and backup sensors, hard-drive based navigation system with backup camera, and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.

Suggested pricing for the IS C series starts at $49,100 for the IS 250 C and $57,000 for the IS 350 C, not including destination charges. With its $1,600 automatic transmission and $3,400 Special Edition package my test car came to a total of $54,100, plus $1,950 in delivery charges. As for watching your significant other roll up in a sweet convertible, with the top down and a big smile on their face, that's priceless.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Lexus, 2013, IS 250 C, Compact,

Organizations: Lexus

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