- Spacious backseat (for a convertible)
- Cargo space
- Acceleration with 350C
- Conservative styling
- No throttle blipping or rev-matching
- 250C’s engine feels overwhelmed
Can’t make up your mind between practicality and performance in a convertible? The 2010 Lexus IS 350C is a nice, sporty middle ground for top-down thrills.
The 2010 Lexus IS C is the second convertible model to come from Lexus and the first time the brand has offered a more compact, affordable luxury drop-top. The model isn’t as overtly sporty and compromised as a roadster—thanks to a real backseat and an excellent folding hardtop—but it’s more exciting than "cruiser" convertibles.
While it shares many features with the IS sedans, the IS C’s silhouette is very different from the sedans, and nearly all of its panels are unique. The IS-C isn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as the upcoming Audi A5 ragtop or as purposeful as the BMW 3-Series Convertible. It has the same rakish hoodline and assertive stance as the IS sedan from the front, but from the side and back it appears a little plain and conservative. The look could even be called out as a bit too slab-sided from the doors back through the rear fenders. Inside, it’s a similar tale; the IS C’s cabin isn’t stunningly beautiful, but it’s attractive. Its instrument panel is almost identical to that in the IS sedans. Fortunately, you won’t find a complicated interface like BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI; that leaves a few more buttons and a little more clutter, but most will be happy with the trade-off. A few flamboyant two-tone color choices for the interior break from the straitlaced look, but not all are so well coordinated.
The sporty but conservative appearance carries through to the way the 2010 IS C drives, but it’s by no means boring. Handling is a strong point; the IS C steers and handles with way more verve than lesser cruisers like the Toyota Solara, Pontiac G6, or Chrysler Sebring, and it surely trumps better-dressed front-drivers like Volvo C70 and Volkswagen Eos for poise in the corners. TheCarConnection.com unequivocally recommends the IS 350C over the IS 250C. The smooth 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 in the Lexus IS 250 sedan has little more than adequate power in the IS sedan, but the extra 300 pounds or so of the IS C leaves it feeling sluggish, whether with the notchy six-speed manual (offered only in the 250) or excellent six-speed automatic. The Lexus IS 350C gets the 306-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and a complete change of character, with brisk acceleration, though the experience is still rather sedate; the six-speed automatic responds well but doesn’t bring out the performance character. The left paddle shifter just behind the steering wheel commands a temporary downshift in Drive or a lasting one if you pull the shift knob over to the left, but in either case, there’s no throttle-blipping or rev-matching as on many newer performance models. Braking ability is strong, but the pedal feel isn’t as firm as some might expect from a sporty coupe. Overall, the Lexus IS C models are almost high-performance cars in many respects, though they don’t quite stand up to the top rivals like the BMW 3-Series.
The piece de resistance of the Lexus IS C is its retractable hardtop arrangement. The hardtop is a home run, as 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 and cargo are the IS C’s strengths. Top up or down, the IS C has more of a spacious feel inside than most might expect—especially in back. While the seats in front are well proportioned and comfortable for daily driving, with a slimmer-seatback design that aids rear legroom, they won’t hold you in place in corners like the aggressively bolstered sport seats in the high-performance IS-F. The two seats in back are real ones—not just a bench for kids, as in some convertibles—and two normal-size adults will be just fine for a few hours. Getting in and out isn’t a big deal either; a simple rocker switch powers the seat forward and then back to the original position. This 6'6” editor even fit in the backseat with knees splayed apart; it should be noted that rear headroom is tight in back with the top up, though. The tall, wide side sills, rather tall doors, and tall roll hoops in back help impart a feeling of security; however, the high beltline around to the decklid could give smaller rear occupants a bathtub feel. Everyone gets a cup holder, 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 Convertible is a new model and hasn’t yet been crash-tested, but we’ll keep you posted as results are available. The IS sedan receives a mix of four- and five-star ratings from the federal government and a noteworthy five-star rollover rating. From that, the IS C’s body has been braced and strengthened throughout, so we expect it to do at least as well; in addition to the stouter side sills, the doors receive additional reinforcements, and the underbody has additional welds and bracing that aid handling and safety. Seat-mounted side airbags are standard, as is Lexus’ advanced VDIM stability system. A Pre-Collision System is on the options list.
Feature content is similar between the 2010 Lexus IS 250C and IS 350C. Lexus makes plenty of high-tech options available, such as Intuitive Park Assist, Adaptive Front Lighting with bi-xenon headlamps, and a voice-activated navigation system. Both the sound system and the climate control system automatically change their operation depending on whether the top is up or down. Aside from factory options, also of note is what’s offered for the IS C in 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.