2009 Lexus IS250C - First Steer
When I mention the words Lexus and convertible, most will no doubt think of the Lexus SC, a car that failed to gain momentum in the segment, but now the Japanese luxury manufacturer has come out with an all-new one, the IS250C.
By Alborz Fallah
I say an all-new car because although it's based on the IS250 sedan, as far as looks go it only shares the bonnet, headlamps, doorhandles and wing mirrors with its sedan sibling, everything else has been redesigned or re-engineered.
The man responsible for the engineering behind IS250C is Keiichi Yoneda, the same man who was in charge of the chassis of the last generation Toyota Supra and the carbon fibre body of Lexus' current to-be supercar, the LF-A.
His involvement in the car's development is obvious, not only does the IS250C feel like a sedan with the roof on or off, but it also handles like one. That's largely due to the significant body strengthening that has happened underneath.
There are seven under-floor bracing elements and without going into too much detail they ensure the car feels as solid as any convertible I've driven under $250,000.
One thing Lexus hasn't done, is simply take the IS250 and cut the roof off, everything has been redesigned to work with the convertible shape, for example the air-conditioning and audio systems have both been extensively adjusted to compensate for open-top motoring.
The Japanese giant even brought the car to Australia last year for more than 40,000km of gravel road testing in our climate.
One of the biggest concerns with convertibles is the roof and how reliable the operation will be a few years down the line. For many manufacturers the roof system is generally outsourced but for Lexus, it decided to build the entire system in-house. No doubt this is a good thing.
The roof uses 15 electric motors and 37 sensors in its operation and takes 20 seconds to open or close. Lexus has decided to use electric motors instead of the regular hydraulic ones for better reliability.
One reason I've always recommended Lexus over its German rivals is reliability and lower cost of servicing. Given the roof is also designed and engineered in Japan, it's very likely it will outlast a hurricane.
With the entire car designed in-house, Lexus has had more freedom to produce a more solid convertible. With the roof stowed away, wind noise inside the cabin is hardly noticeable even at 110km/h and you can carry out a conversation without having to yell.
The design is a matter of taste, unfortunately photos fail to capture the car's good looks, so it's best to go and have a look at one in natural light as it looks very modern and expensive from all angles.
Lexus believes it will sell about 25 ISC250Cs per month (15 per cent of IS250 sales), a target that is very realistic even in the current economic climate.
Interestingly the target market is mainly those with no children, young professionals and empty-nesters. The company believes the IS250C will be a "long-term goal" vehicle and can even attract conquest sales from other luxury brands.
So lets get to it then, the IS250C goes up against a lot of European contenders, from the SAAB 9-3 to the Volvo C70 and, of course, the Germans. The Japanese convertible should be viewed as an upgrade from its Swedish rivals, but what about the Germans?
Lexus has always been a brand that has provided more value for less money. With the IS250C, that formula hasn't changed. Lexus Australia wanted to bring in a luxury convertible with satellite navigation, leather trim, six airbags, a reversing camera, 17in alloys and eight-speaker sound for less than $80,000, and it has.
The model range starts at 79,990* for the Prestige, followed by the Sport at $84,990*, which adds 18-inch wheels, active (radar) cruise control and pre-collision system. Another $15,000 will get you the Sports Luxury, at $99,900*, which adds HID headlamps, Lexus smart-entry key-card, electro-chromatic side mirrors, unique interior trim options, 12-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and even cooling ducts are added to the seats!
If you're after a Luxury convertible for under $100,000, it's worth knowing that you simply can't find a list of standard features that extensive for the same price with any of the German manufacturers.
One thing that you will find with the Germans though, is a variety of engine choices. Lexus will only power the IS250C with the 2.5-litre from the sedan variant.
The 60-degree V6 produces 153kW at 6400rpm and 252Nm at 4800rpm and uses 9.3 litres of fuel for each 100km, and produces 219 grams/kilometre of CO2.
All three IS250C variants will make use of a six-speed automatic transmission.
Our drive program up through Mount Tamborine and the Gold Coast area showcased the need for a little more power in the IS250C.
The IS250C weighs at about 150kg more than its sedan rival and given there is no power increase, acceleration is not as punchy as the sedan but it will still get you from 0-100km/h in nine seconds.
With the roof folded away, the engine note is actually, surprisingly, very masculine, there is a growl from the engine at about 4500rpm and all the way to about 6000rpm when the dashboard shift light has turned yellow and the transmission is about to change into a higher gear.
There is currently talk and rumours of an IS-FC but there are no confirmed plans, the US market gets the IS350C, but it would be unlikely either variant would come to Australia for some time.
On the inside, the IS250C is traditional Lexus, simple but everything is exactly where you want it to be. I managed to pair my phone with the car's Bluetooth system and program the satellite navigation without having to resort to the manual.
The Lexus IS250C is a great addition to the IS range which includes the IS250 and IS-F. The new Lexus is the most feature packed luxury convertible on the market today so it's not surprising that there is currently a two month waiting list. So if you're keen on one, make sure you get in early.
CarAdvice will bring you an extensive review of the car in the coming weeks.
Visit the next page for the Lexus IS250C Photo Gallery.