Toyota finds its hybrid leadership under threat and is introducing a decontented Prius to beat back the challenge from Honda's cheaper Insight. No word yet on what will happen to the Matrix now that GM is discontinuing the Pontiac Vibe and ending its partnership at California's NUMMI plant. there's little news at SCION, which has seen a nasty sales slump. Lexus is suffering like all luxury marques but hasn't slowed plans for growing its portfolio with two new models: the IS C convertible and the HS250h hybrid. And the economy be damned, Lexus intends to bring its LF-A supercar to production, thanks to support from new president Akio Toyoda - a devout performance enthusiast.
2010 Lexus IS C
New: The first two-door IS skips right past coupe and heads straight for convertible. And why not? Its folding hard top gives the feeling of a closed car but retracts quickly and quietly at the touch of a button. The IS loses little of its good looks in the transformation from four-door sedan to four-seat convertible, although, like its competitors, most of the trunk disappears when the top is down.
Noteworthy: The IS C is available in three different powertrain combinations - the IS250C is fitted with a smaller V-6 and either a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic, and the IS350C gets a hot-rod V-6 attached only to the automatic. Equipped with either engine, the Lexus goes about its business smoothly, with a stiff structure and commendable body control. Interior materials are first-rate, too.
On sale: Now
Base price: $39,365
Specs: 2.5L V-6, 204 hp, 185 lb-ft; 3.5L V-6, 306 hp, 277 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive