Lexus is a showcase for pure determination. A company that has spent the last two decades fighting against all odds to take on the Germans in the luxury car market and in many respects convincingly winning. Its latest convertible is the Lexus IS 250C based on the popular IS 250.
Lexus' previous attempt at a convertible was the SC430 which still retails at $165,000. The SC430 never really gained momentum in Australia so the Lexus IS 250C, although a very different type of car, is here to make up lost ground.
So how does the IS 250c rate against the onslaught of European contenders? Rather well actually. From the outside it exudes a sense of class that Lexus has become popular for. The overall shape is unmistakably a Lexus but makes do with sweeping lines generally found in coupes with the added visual appeal of a convertible.
The IS 250c is distinguishable form the front thanks to new elliptical fog light and air intake surrounds whilst the rear has had some major cosmetic surgery thanks to a unique sculpted ducktail boot lid and rear quarter panels. An all-new combination tail-lamp cluster featuring LEDs and two distinct horizontal lines finish off the rear.
Although looks are completely subjective, for me the IS 250C is a great evolution of the IS range which has now been around for some time. The transition to a convertible shape works rather well without being too out-there.
Whilst we eagerly await the arrival of the Lexus IS 350 (which will slot in nicely between the IS 250 and IS-F), the IS 250 range both in sedan and convertible variants are powered by a 2.5 litre, V6 petrol engine that puts out 153kW of power at 6400rpm and 252Nm of torque at 4800rpm. That means a 0-100km/h time of 9 seconds flat.
The powertrain is arguably the weakest link of the Lexus convertible, while it makes do with every bit of power and torque available (and sends it to the right end of the car), it does feel somewhat sluggish at times. Nonetheless it would be unfair to criticise the IS 250c for performance as that's not what the convertible is all about.
If performance convertibles are your thing, you must check out the range from BMW (particularly at the 335i and M3), however if luxury, relaxed, open-air motoring at a very reasonable price is sounding more like your needs, the IS250c is the car for you.
What the IS250c lacks in power and driving dynamics, it certainly makes up for in features and interior luxury. There are three different variants of the Lexus convertible; Prestige ($79,900), Sports ($84,900) and Sports Luxury ($99,900). That leaves a relatively large $20,000 gap between the base model Prestige and the range-topping Sports Luxury.
The base model comes standard with a six-speed sequential transmission, six airbags, reversing camera with guide assist and Lexus' unique VDIM stability control system (more on this later). Lexus' touch screen satellite navigation and an seven-inch multi-information display, heated seats, electro chromatic rear vision mirrors, parking sensors and space saver spare are also all standard across the range.
The base model rides on 10-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels with Bridgestone 225/45 R17 tyres front and 245/45 R17 tyres rear.
Feature list aside, it's more about look and feel that distinguishes the Japanese convertible. The interior is made up of soft plastics that feel great to touch and little features around the cabin such as the metallic shift paddles give a well-deserved up-market ambience.
Handling wise it does the job, it's not floaty but it doesn't give that sportcar feeling either.
Safety is paramount with every active safety feature you can think of. The Sports and Sports Luxury models even get Lexus' radar Active Cruise Control (ACC) and the Lexus Pre-Collision System (PCS) which means you can set the cruise control to follow the car in front to a maximum speed and never worry about running into it. It will slow down and speed up all by itself.
Overall a great car for its market. Best to drive this head to head with the BMW 320d convertible before purchasing.
Karl Peskett :
Finished in Arctic Light Blue, our test car in Perth was also swathed in a light cream leather. An unusual colour combination, yes, but not a displeasing one. The light leather serves to give the impression of increased space inside, even if the rear seats are rather snug.
The main problem with the rear seats is access. To flip the front seat forward on every other convertible, the handle is on the outboard side of the front seats. However, Lexus, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to install the forward-flipper on the inboard side of the front seats.
This means getting in is a rather difficult affair (especially when the roof is up), as you have climb in, reach across the front seat to lift the lever, then climb out and then climb in to the back.
Once you’re in, it’s a lot easier to get out, as you can access the lever easily, but it’s no easier than if the lever was on the outer edge. Spending time in the back seats is not really a problem as they are very comfortable, but you’ll want to be of a light build – heavy set people won’t have enough shoulder room, as well as reduced foot room.
In the IS250 sedan, it’s often said that the engine is underpowered, and lacks personality. One of the benefits of being a chop-top, though, is aural access to engine noise. And let me tell you this engine actually sounds fantastic – a melodic assortment of timing gear whine, howling induction and rorty exhaust – and it’s only the 2.5-litre. Just wait until the 3.5-litre comes to Australia.
Sure, it lacks a little grunt and needs a fair prod of the loud pedal to get it moving anywhere, but if you’re after a highly involving, quick convertible, then I’d suggest you look to the German stables. The Lexus is a far more comfortable, relaxed, cruisy drive which is more suited to watching the scenery go by, rather than blurring the scenery at speed.
You see, if it’s quality you want, then the IS250C has got it in spades. Soft touch plastics, classy wood highlights and one of the best built cabins in the business – Lexus must be commended for putting out such an impeccable product.
Slipping into the ridiculously comfortable seats, you’ll find they’re heated and cooled, perfect for all temperatures. In fact, during our couple of weeks behind the wheel, there wasn’t a day (or night) that we didn’t feel comfortable. Despite temperatures that soared over 40 degrees, and then nights which slipped below 10 degrees, the IS250C kept us warm or cool, regardless of whether the roof was up or down.
And with its creamy-smooth six-speed automatic, coupled with a ride which defies the 18-inch wheels it sits on, it’s a pleasure to drive or be driven in. There’s even rear-wheel-drive and evenly weighted steering with a decent heft, for those who like to be connected to their car. Just don’t expect it to break traction at any point.
The Mark Levinson 12 speaker stereo is another evidence of Lexus’s quest to envelop its passengers in quality – it’s hard to find a clearer system in any convertible at this price point.
When you add it all up, and take a look at the standard features, the IS250C is one helluva good car. If you want something that won’t wobble like a Saab, is cheaper than a Merc or BMW and is better quality than a Volvo, then this will fit the bill perfectly.
Smooth, serene, calm, relaxed – I love it.
Damn, I must be getting old…
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:
- Engine: 2500cc V6
- Power: 153kW @ 6400rpm
- Torque: 252Nm @ 4800rpm
- Induction: Naturally aspirated
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Driven Wheels: Rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel discs
- Top Speed: 210km/h
- 0-100km/h: 9.0-seconds
- CO2 Emissions: 219g/km
- Fuel Consumption: 9.3-litres/100km (ADR combined)
- Fuel Consumption: 11.1-litres/100km (as tested)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 65-litres
- Fuel Type: 95RON petrol
- ANCAP Rating: N/A
- Airbags: Four
- Safety: ABS brakes with EBD and BA, plus ESP.
- Spare Wheel: Space-saver
- Suspension: Independent double wishbone (front)/Independent multi-link (rear)
- Cargo Capacity: 553-litres
- Tow Capacity: N/A
- Turning Circle: 10.2m
- Warranty: Four-years/100,000km
- Weight: 1730kg
- Wheels: 18-inch alloy with 225/40R18 tyres