The Lexus IS250 C is a hard top convertible that is more of a luxury cruiser than performance breezer (What is this? The 30’s?). The one we happened upon was listed at $44,982. There won’t be a lot of wiggly room in that price since the Lexus car lot had more parking spaces than vehicles. Be that as it may, they still had a number of IS250 C’s there and we think we know why.
The interior of this Lexus was immaculate. Soft, white leather on every surface and if it wasn’t leather, then it was real (we were assured repeatedly by the salesperson) wood panel. The plastics were higher quality than those on most Toyota’s, but we’ve seen better. There are switches on the driver and front passenger seats that electronically move the front seats forward. One of the most frustrating features of two-door cars is accessing the back seat. These switches have made that aspect elegant and simple.
One of the first features that impressed us was the ventilated seats. Driver and front passenger have seats that, depending on the temperature of the climate control and outside temp, will blow either cool or warm air. Since we were already sticky (Imagine if we painted the true picture here… Yuck.), we set the climate control on 72° and the seat fans all the way up. It is not a microburst of wind, but a subtle cool feeling. Most of us didn’t even know the fans were on. We just didn’t have as much back sweat... The seats themselves were comfortable and felt like we could sit in them for a very long period of time. The IS250 C would be a great long distance road trip vehicle as long as your party numbered two. The rear leg room is only 25.9in. That just won’t do. The best part of this was the sales manager telling us that his reasonable tall teenager could fit in the back. We can also wad up people and stuff them in trashcans to be rolled down hills. We have a feeling that both groups will not enjoy the ride and those that do are nutso.
The visibility out the back was severely limited by the rear seat headrests. Basically you are looking out a tunnel and the headrests add to the blind spots when the roof is in the up position. Even with the roof open, we never quite trusted the mirrors and spent time whipping our heads from side to side making sure we were clear to change lanes, parallel park, or move at all.
The media center was straight forward and easy to use. The climate control was great and the stereo did a great job of letting us hear the music without causing our ears to bleed. One thing we didn’t understand is that the driver and front passenger windows are auto up/down, but the smaller rear windows are not. It was mind-numbingly frustrating to hit the front switches and then sit there and hold the rear switches. We are movers and shakers and the rear windows caused us to use effort and concentration that could have been devoted to more important questions like where to eat lunch or why does Coke insist on trying to convince us that polar bears and penguins live on the same continent. What a load of crap! Coke, that is, not Lexus… Awkward…
The exterior of the IS is acceptable. The back end is hip-hop music video worthy, but compared to the SC 430 (think Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters) this Lexus is beautiful. Kind of the same logic why in a group of four women there is one that always doesn’t quite measure up (SC 430). She’s there to make the rest of the ladies look that much better, same applies here. SC makes every other Lexus look amazing. The low-profile tires do not inhibit a smooth ride and look modern enough not to be mocked. There are seven exterior colors, but we drove our favorite; Silver. They probably have some pseudo-artsy name for this color like Star Streak Silver or Tungsten Pearl (might be the real name of it). We like to refer to it as “Cops are more likely to pull over the red, orange, and yellow ones” Silver. With the hard top up, the IS looks like a sporty coupe. With the top down, watch out world, we are here to be noticed and it will have to be the look of this car that gets the job done; the performance just won’t do.
|Back that up!|
One feature that we took notice of because of how uncommonly cool it seemed on the Prius was the key-free lock and unlock. There is a small black button on the outside of the door handle. With the key fob in your pocket pressing this button will lock the car. To unlock the car, all you have to do is have the key fob somewhere on your person and pull the handle and the door will automatically unlock, almost like your own nice private door-opening chauffeur. One thing though, is that the Prius didn’t have an actual button it was built into the handle, which seems cooler and more expensive like it belongs on a Lexus and not an abomination like a Prius.
The exhaust on this car can only be heard when the roof is down and the engine is being overworked or stressed. The rest of the time it’s almost as quiet as a Prius sneaking along on its electric motor. Almost… We really had to drive this car hard to make it sound like we were driving it kind of hard. Tight corners and very brisk acceleration is what got closest, but that’s only when we refused to shift.
The retractable hard top roof tucks away into the trunk, severely limiting cargo capacity. There is not quite enough room for two sets of golf clubs and no room to stuff any bodies (Sorry, Mafia hitmen.). The good news is that the roof itself only takes about 20 seconds to change positions (up or down). You do have to be in park and have your foot on the brake, but then you go from convertible to all-weather coupe is seconds.
This is not a performance convertible. This is a convertible designed to bring luxury to you and wherever you’re going. The leather of the steering wheel and seats, plus the 2.5L V6 will get you to your destination with as much class as humanly possible. The engine only turns out 204hp. If you are looking for a racing convertible from Lexus you would have to talk to the IS350 C that turns out 306hp with a turbo.
The car we drove came equipped with paddle shifters and we’re still not quite sure why. The lag time on the shifts was atrociously bad. Eventually it got to the point where we would anticipate the shift and hit the paddle a good two to three seconds early, so the transmission would get the message at the right time. It was like the paddles and transmission were in different time zones. We’re not quite sure why the paddle shifters are there at all. This is a luxury convertible that might also happen to appear to go fast, but in reality won’t.
The inner ring of the tachometer glows with a circle of caution orange (scared us the first time, but we think it’s kind of cool) any time you start to over-rev the engine. Not actually get it to red line, but just start to really wrap some rpm’s and the car complains visually. There is Electronic Controlled Transmission that we had to leave in the Power position for 99.999% of the test drive. There is a snow option and a regular option, but both of them made the IS drive like a prehistoric conversion van with the acceleration of a glacier.
|We wish the antenna fin was bigger.|
As a calm daily driver, the IS has all the power you need. As soon as you start to think about quick acceleration and hard driving, the IS will be found wanting. The mpgs in the city are 19 and highway is 27, combined for 22, for a V6. That’s pretty good compared to the 3.8L V6 from the Wrangler. The IS produces slightly more horsepower than the Jeep and weighs about 400lbs less. The amazing part here is Lexus (read Toyota) produces 204 horsepower out of a 2.5L V6 and Jeep (read Chrysler) produces 202 horsepower out of a 3.8L V6. Interesting... Or not, either way we got to drive them both.
Underpowered, stupid paddle shifters, and a “Back that thang up” rear end aside, we would definitely have this car. The vented seats were a feature we loved. We have a lot of back sweat… The interior with its rich resources wrapped around us to make us feel like we belonged at the country club. On a related note, we can’t hit a decent golf shot, so this car really helped our confidence. The fuel economy doesn’t quite make up for the underpowered feel, but it doesn’t make us cry at the pump. All in all, this car was built with a purpose, one we would rarely try to achieve on the road, but purpose all the same. Go straight in style, hopefully downhill and the IS will rise to the occasion.