2010 Lexus IS250C Review

In all ways, the Lexus IS250C is easy to live with

2010 Lexus IS250C Review
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I’ve never driven a convertible I didn’t like. That’s not to say that all convertibles are excellent cars, but somehow, the enjoyment of driving in an open air car seems to minimize any shortcomings they may have.

FAST FACTS

1. The IS250C is powered by a 2.5L V6 with 204-hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque. A 6-speed automatic is optional with a 5-speed manual standard.

2. Both IS250 and 350 convertibles feature a retractable hard-top.

3. Based on the same platform as the sedan, the only body panel shared is the hood.

4. Unique features include auto flip-down rear-seat headrests, a slide/fold button for access to the rear seats and a climate control system that adjusts to the temperature and speed when the top is down.

One of the newest entries into the drop top community is the Lexus IS250 Convertible. It is based on the popular rear wheel drive IS sedans, using the same base engine, but except for the hood, they share no body panels. It has a few shortcomings, but in the overall pleasure to drive category, the IS Convertible delivers.

UNIQUE HARD-TOP DESIGN RETAINS IS250’S CLASSIC GOOD LOOKS

The exterior is attractive if not groundbreaking. The high belt line does, however, make it more uncomfortable for those who like to drive with their left arm resting on top of the door.

Most hard top roadsters, like the BMW Z4 and Mazda Miata, mar the shape of their cars with a bulbous looking roofline to accommodate the hard roof panels and just ruin the styling of the car when the top is in place. But the three-piece aluminum hardtop on the IS is able to maintain a sleek line from the steeply raked windshield, on back to the trunk lid.

One of the typical up-sides to a metal folding roof is a larger rear window for better vision out the back. Unfortunately, with this Lexus, the rear window is unusually small and provides a poor view rearward when the top is closed. Lexus boasts that the top can be lowered or raised in a mere 20 seconds, so I guess it must be the fasted top in the west next time Speed Channel holds it’s annual convertible top races.

Even though the styling of the IS Convertible isn’t adversely affected by the hard top, the trunk space surely is. There’s room enough when the top is up, but when it’s down, the trunk is transformed into a second glove box. If you’re planning a weekend getaway for two, and intend to drop the top, be prepared to use the rear seat area for your luggage. The use of a soft-top would not only have left plenty more room, but would also limit the weight gain and they generally cost less.

REASONABLE POWER, BUT CERTAINLY NOT GUTSY

The IS is powered by a direct fuel injected 2.5 liter V6, and the motor puts out 204-hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque. A 306-hp, 3.5-liter engine is available for those requiring hotter performance. My test car was the base engine, and I found it to have more than enough pep to make driving the little Lexus enjoyable. The power is smooth, comes on strong up to the 6500-rpm redline, and is rather quiet, as befitting a luxury car. Zero to 60 times are in the mid-8 seconds range. For a car weighing just over 3,800lbs, that’s not bad. And the gas mileage is a very respectable 21-mpg city, 29-mpg highway. The IS is not meant to be a sportscar, but rather a luxury sporty car, and it fills that bill quite nicely.

The 6-Speed manumatic transmission with paddle shifters operates smoothly and the manual shifts are about average for reaction time. The 4-wheel disc brakes are ABS and EBD equipped, and they work well, with decent pedal feel. The all season 225/45/17 tires provide a good compromise of grip, quiet ride, and durability.

TYPICAL LEXUS RIDE FOCUSES MORE ON COMFORT THAN SPORT

The sophisticated independent suspension is Japanese tuned for a comfortable ride on the highway and on pock marked city streets, and will still provide fairly sharp cornering when pushed. The bias is more towards comfort than you’ll find on a BMW 3-series, but the Lexus never wallows or feels sloppy. The steering has a heavier effort than I expected, but offers quick response to inputs and is quite satisfying overall. Again, not a sports car, but a very enjoyably sporting ride.

One thing that troubles every convertible that was ever made, except the new Bentley Continental GTC, is cowl shake. No matter how much extra bracing they build in, the chassis exhibits some amount of flex when the top is in the trunk. The IS cowl shake falls in the middle of the pack – better then most, not as good as others. It’s a bit better than the 3-series, not as good as the Audi A5. But again, the benefit of the open air driving experience far outweighs the drawback. With the top up, however, the Lexus feels solid as a bank vault.

The cabin is nicely appointed and up to its mission of being a luxury car. With the top up, it’s very quiet on all types of roads, and with the top down, there is a nice quiet, fairly turbulence-free zone for the driver and front seat passenger. And if one rolls up the windows, long hours on the highway are not taxing to your hearing or your partner’s hairdo.

The leather seats are soft and comfortable and feel both wider and friendlier than those in the 3-Series Bimmer. The lines of the dash and door panels are simple and elegant with center stack controls that are easy to see and operate. Everything is nicely laid out in front of the driver, and well lit at night.

The rear seat accommodations are a mixed bag. Despite the slim design of the front seat backs, knee room is at a premium. It’s OK for a few hours for kids, but after an hour, adults will protest. The same can be said for most of the cars in this class.

WELL EQUIPPED WITH SOME GREAT TOP-DOWN TECHNOLOGY

There are some unexpected and maybe even unnecessary features on the ISC, but that’s what luxury is all about isn’t it? For starters, the climate control system is designed for top-down motoring. The IS convertible’s air conditioning system automatically adjusts for the outside temperature when the top is lowered, improving interior temperature consistency and comfort. Airflow volume adjusts to outside temperature and vehicle speed, while the temperature control adjusts to outside temperature, amount of sunlight and vehicle speed. For easy in and out of the rear seats, a one-touch walk-in button control that quickly and neatly folds and slides the front seats forward is another nice feature. The radio also automatically compensates for volume when the top is lowered.

Some other standard features include push button start, power tilt and telescope steering wheel and auto-dimming rear view mirror. The soft center console houses USB and minijack input, along with an accessory power outlet. There is also a Homelink system, electric lumbar support on both 10-way power seats, and remote foldable rear headrests. That’s a great feature if you have no passengers, as it really increases your rear vision.

The standard sound system is excellent, and this IS is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity and voice-activated operations. Redundant steering wheel controls for audio, phone and cruise controls put everything at your fingertips. Heated outside mirrors and puddle lamps plus an alarm system with engine immobilizer are standard issue, also. In addition, the Lexus comes with all the electronic safety systems you’d expect from a car in this price range.

The base IS 250C, with automatic transmission (a 5-speed manual is available) stickers for $40,610. The option packages quickly shoot up the price from there. You can choose the $2,465 Navigation System, or go for the Premium Audio/Navigation System that adds a 12-speaker 270-watt sound system with 6-disc in-dash CD/DVD player for $4,015. For $3,055 you can get the Luxury Package with two-tone or single color interior trim, perforated heated and ventilated front seats, a memory function, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming outside mirrors, maple interior trim, Xenon Adaptive Front Lighting System, Adaptive Fog Lights, Illuminated door-sill scuff plates and a one-touch slide/fold/return button for rear seat access. You can also order 19-inch forged alloy wheels for $2,196, and a host of other performance bits. So you can really bump up the price of this vehicle to nearly 50-large. And if you feel the need for speed, and move up to the 3.5-liter, 306-hp V6, you’ll need to add another $4,280 for that.

By comparison, the Audi A5 convertible starts at $42,000 but has a few more ponies under the hood, and a lot more torque. The BMW 328i convertible starts at $45,000, and it has a more powerful 3.0-liter 230-hp motor. And on both German cars, the options packages will spin up the price tag even quicker.

THE VERDICT

The Lexus IS 250 Convertible is an excellent all-around luxury open top car. It does everything well, from pampering two people comfortably in the cockpit, to providing more than adequate driving pleasure on twisting roads. It’s easy on the eyes, and if you watch what option packages you check, it can be fairly easy on the checkbook.

LOVE IT
  • Sporty performance and handling
  • No “bubble top” styling from the folding hard top
  • Comfortable ride, top up or down
LEAVE IT
  • Cramped quarters for rear seat passengers
  • Hard top takes up too much trunk space
  • Poor outward visibility when the top is up

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