Lexus raises the roof with the IS 250C
- 2009 Lexus IS 250C; 2.5-litre, V6, petrol; six-speed automatic; coupe-cabriolet - $99,900*
- None fitted
We all saw it coming, each one of Lexus’s competitors has a convertible, and it was only a matter of time before the Japanese marque produced one of its own.
Lexus has taken the roof off the Lexus IS250 to produce what it terms as the Lexus IS 250C – surprisingly enough.
At first glance, you could mistake the IS 250C for a regular IS 250, it’s only when you see the side and rear profile of this hard-top convertible Lexus that you realise it’s unique.
While it’s difficult to overcome oversized doors in a convertible, the IS 250C’s driver and passenger doors are the first part of a driver’s impression and left a sour taste in my mouth from the get go.
Even on level ground, the doors weigh two to three times more than a regular IS 250 door. When you get to an incline they become countless kilo’s heavier as you attempt to open them against gravity.
The reason the doors are so heavy is because of the extra structural components required to maintain the vehicle’s safety regime, considering they must stay intact when the car is both upright and upside down.
Heavy doors aside, the interior is a pleasant place to be, all the switchgear is easy to find and the updated satellite navigation system is quicker, while the updated graphics and resolution make it better to look at.
If you enjoy long distance driving, brace yourself for regular rest breaks as the seats are extremely firm and very flat.
It feels like you’re sitting on an old couch that has wooden planks fitted underneath the covering. Presumably this is due to the seats needing to be lower to accommodate driver and passenger heads during roof operation.
While you will drive uncomfortably to each destination, you can rest assured that you will do so quietly with the fantastic noise suppression. Even on windy highways, it’s hard to tell you’re sitting inside a convertible, which is a commendable effort on Lexus’ part.
Even if noise was an issue, the incredibly powerful 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system would quell such a problem, because despite having the roof off, everyone will be able to hear you coming.
The sound system reproduces bass extremely well and features high clarity tweeters, in addition to a six-disc in-dash CD player which doubles as a DVD player for those lonely nights in.
The rear seats are more a novelty than an operational feature. Even squeezing kids into the rear seats is an ask, making you wonder why Lexus even bothered with them.
The roof operates via a switch located next to the driver’s knee. The silent roof operation takes around 20-seconds and uses some 13 motors and 33 sensors to open and close.
Our Sports Luxury test vehicle was loaded to the hilt with features, including: DVD satellite navigation system; electric windows; electric mirrors; retracting roof; dual zone climate control; heated and cooled driver and front passenger seats; auto dimming rear and side vision mirrors; reverse parking camera; Xenon headlights with adaptive function; electric seats with memory; trip computer; auto windscreen wipers; auto headlights and Keyless start.
Safety features include: Electronic Stability Control (ESC); ABS brakes with EBD and BA; rollover protection and engine immobiliser.
Boot space on offer for the IS 250C comes to a total of 553-litres, yes, you did read that right. The amount of space on offer is absolutely staggering, but it’s all pointless once the roof has to come off.
The luggage divider thath must be deployed for the roof to retract reduces the available space to 205-litres. It’s a deceiving 205-litres though as Lexus counts the inaccessible space between the roof and the floor of the boot, which is virtually useless.
The IS 250C comes into its own with the roof off though as the design is dramatically improved sans the roof, the vehicle’s lines are far prettier as is the overall driving experience.
So we’ve determined the IS 250C is a great car to look at, unfortunately it’s not as impressive to drive.
The now aging 2.5-litre V6 produces a somewhat measly 153kW and 252Nm of torque. The six-speed automatic constantly has to rev if you want the car to move with any sort of pace.
The uninspiring engine note beyond 4500rpm is also far from pleasing, and while the steering feels great, it is let down by the car’s great hulk of weight.
The end result is a car which is not only slow, thanks to its 1.7-tonne kerb weight, but one which feels heavy and boring to drive. Although the luxury element of the ‘Sports Luxury’ moniker may live up to its name, the sport portion falls well short.
Handling with the roof off is hairy at times with the body flexing through bends, and the heavy steering also doesn’t help the case, making the job harder for the driver.
Fuel economy is claimed to be 9.3-litres per 100km, far from the 11.1L/100km achieved on test, and a minimum 95RON PULP is required by the engine.
Lexus offers three models in the IS 250C range. The Prestige, Sports and Sports Luxury are priced from $79,990, $84,900 and $99,900 respectively.
It seems like an odd time to launch a convertible variant of the IS 250, seeing as the current design has been around more or less since late 2005. Introducing a convertible to a design that is already becoming long in the tooth seems like a bizarre move.
While the IS 250C offers competitive value for money, it drives nothing like its competitors and is let down by an engine which is longing for more power. Lexus doesn’t sell its more powerful IS 350 in Australia, so it seems buyers are stuck with the IS 250 whether they like it or not.
The new Lexus IS 250C may interest some but didn’t tickle my fancy. BMW’s 325i Convertible, Audi’s new A5 TFSI Cabriolet and Mercedes Benz’s CLK Cabriolet are too close in terms of pricing to look past.
I’d be keen to see an IS F version of the IS 250C, but until then though, there are far better options on the market in this already crowded price bracket.
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