Your editor just returned from a first drive of the new 2010 Lexus IS C and brought back some good, simple advice to those who've decided to go take a look: Unless you live in flat terrain, skip the base IS 250C—it just feels a little too winded. If you enjoy driving, go with the IS 350C. The 306-horsepower engine gives the IS C a much livelier personality (Lexus says 0-60 takes 5.8 seconds rather than 8.4), even if it’s only offered with a smooth automatic transmission.
The 2010 IS C steers and handles with way more verve than well-dressed front-drivers like the Volvo C70 and Volkswagen Eos, and it might prove a top rival for the upcoming Infiniti G37 Convertible and Audi A5 Convertible. Thank the perfect 50/50 weight distribution, plus nicely weighted steering. Altogether, the IS 350C is in hot pursuit of the BMW 335i Convertible, even if it doesn’t have quite the same upscale ambiance.
Although Lexus’ new convertible entry might not be seen as quite as fashionable as those rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, it redeems itself on several levels. The piece de resistance of the Lexus IS C is its retractable hardtop arrangement, which Lexus/Toyota designed in-house, in Japan. It’s made of lightweight aluminum, folds into three neat sections, and forms a tight, weatherproof barrier from weather and noise. It’s fast (opening or closing in around 20 seconds) yet one of the smoothest-actuating of any we’ve experienced. With the top stowed, wind buffeting is quite good, and it’s even better with the available windscreen.
Seating is another strong point for the IS C models. The front seats use a slimmer-seatback design that aids rear legroom, and the two seats in back are real ones—not just a bench for kids, as in some convertibles. That means two normal-size adults will be just fine back there for a few hours. Getting in and out isn’t a big deal either; a simple rocker switch powers the seat forward for and then back to the original position. This 6-6” editor even fit in the back seat with knees splayed apart; it should be noted that rear headroom is tight in back with the top up, though. Everyone gets a cupholder, and there are plenty of smaller cubbies. Interior trims aren’t anything special in appearance of feel, but the perforated, ventilated leather seats (optional) are a boon to comfort. Trunk space is vast with the top up, and there’s still enough space for weekend bags with the top stowed away.
The Lexus IS C can be loaded with some of the same luxury and tech features available in Lexus sedans, such as Adaptive Front Lighting, rain-sensing wipers, a navigation system, Mark Levinson premium audio, a Pre-Collision System and Radar Cruise Control. Plus, the convertible gets some nifty features of its own. For instance, the sound system and climate control automatically adapt to the folding hardtop’s position, and sonar detectors can keep the roof from starting to open if an obstacle is in the way. Also of note is a new line of F Sport dealer-installed accessories. There, for a somewhat high price, buyers can spice up the IS C’s appearance with wheel upgrades and special trims, add a more vocal exhaust, or upgrade the suspension and brakes.
The 2010 Lexus IS 350C’s price of $44,815 lands squarely against the 230-horsepower BMW 328i Convertible’s MSRP of $44,550 but undercuts the 335i Convertible, which prices at $50,700.
The IS C models reach U.S. dealerships later this month.