I expected a Lexus convertible, whose mission is making its driver look good and feel fine, to have one-finger steering and a pillowy ride. But that’s not the case here. The steering has some real substance, and the ride actually errs on the side of too stiff, thanks likely to the 40-series (!) rubber that comes with the optional eighteen-inch wheels.
Personally, I prefer a soft top for a convertible over a retractable hard top, mostly for the sake of appearance and to preserve maximum top-down trunk space. But one of the arguments for a hard top is that they usually afford a greater glass area; so I was disappointed here by the porthole-like view out the back. The rearview camera is a virtual necessity.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I’m not a big believer in these hardtop convertibles. You lose the romance and the better looks of a ragtop, not to mention you lose a lot of cargo space that is eaten up by the metal roof once it’s folded away.
But if you’re into the concept, the Lexus IS convertible is an appealing piece. It seems to be very well built, and the body structure is, of course, commendably stiff. It was 36 degrees this morning here in Michigan, so I didn’t put the top down, but it’s clear that the rear seats are really only suited for groceries or very small people, but that’s the case with most 2+2 convertibles.
Our test car had only the 2.5-liter V-6, but for most sun seekers it will be more than sufficient. I agree with Joe Lorio that the car had surprisingly sporty reflexes, although I found the steering to have heavy effort more than feel. Contributing to the sport effect are the paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel column; they are nicely shaped, feel good to your fingertips, and easy to grasp. Not much wood in here, which is fine; adds to the modern aesthetic. Superb radio and navigation interface; very obvious how to switch back and forth between nav, audio, and climate controls.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Unlike my colleagues named Joe, I actually prefer the look of some hardtop convertibles to cars with soft folding convertible tops. Consider, for instance, the smooth lines of the Volvo C70 or the Infiniti G37 droptop. To my eye, those cars’ hard roofs help improve their top-up appearance. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about this Lexus, although there are more poorly executed examples in my opinion, such as the Pontiac G6 or the BMW 3-Series. The “matador red mica” is quite sharp, though.
Still, as Joe and Joe mentioned, luggage space in the Lexus IS250C (like all hardtop convertibles) is extremely compromised. With the top down, you’d be lucky to fit a few short brooms [brooms?-ed] in the long, slender cargo area. But with the top raised, its aluminum parts no longer reside beneath the trunk lid, and there’s more available cargo space than there is in most coupes. Lorio isn’t kidding about rearward visibility, though. It’s terrible, thanks to those large headrests/rollbars and the edge of the roof. With the top down (yes, I drove with the top down in 40-degree weather), visibility improves, but not as much as I’d like.
For a convertible with a back seat, the IS250C feels impressively rigid most of the time. When you go over some of Michigan’s worst bumps, you can feel the chassis flex somewhat, of course, but it’s perfectly tolerable (much unlike the wet-noodle Toyota Camry Solara convertible). The 2.5-liter V-6 obviously isn’t overpowered, but it’s not terribly slow. Most Lexus buyers should be perfectly satisfied with its performance.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Considering how successful the SC has been for Lexus (there’s seemingly one at every stoplight in South Florida), the cheaper IS convertible is a no brainer. Like its more expensive lineup-mate, the IS wears very attractive, if decidedly feminine sheet metal, which is especially impressive since the aging IS sedan hardly stands out visually. The cabin design is dark and dull, but at least everything fits well, emitting not a squeak nor rattle at any point during my ride. As others have noted, the 2.5-liter V-6 is perfectly sufficient for a comfortable, good-looking cruiser. My only real disappointment dynamically was with the automatic transmission, which behaves rather strangely in manual mode. Unlike just about every other car with shifter paddles, the IS does not automatically return you to first at a stop. If you’re in second, it seems to stay in second. If you’re in fourth or fifth, it will downshift, but then fails to indicate as such on the instrument panel, meaning you don’t know what gear you’re in until it reaches the one you’ve last selected. Odd.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Base price (with destination): $40,535
Price as tested: $48,200
2.5L DOHC 24V V-6 VVt-I engine
6-speed electronically controlled automatic
17-in ten-spoke aluminum alloy wheels
Vehicle dynamics integrated management
ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist
Power retractable aluminum-alloy convertible top
Automatic duel zone climate control
Auto-dimming mirror with compass
Lexus premium audio system with 8-speakers
In-dash 6-disc CD changer, Bluetooth, XM radio, USB audio plug
Options on this vehicle:
Luxury package — $3055
Bi-Xenon HID headlamps
Heated and ventilated leather front seats
Illuminated scuff plates
Navigation system — $3890
Navigation with 270-watt Mark Levinson premium audio with DVD/CD changer and 12 speakers
DVD audio and video
18-in liquid graphite aluminum wheels — $720
Key options not on vehicle:
21 / 29 / 25 mpg
Size: 2.5L V-6
Horsepower: 204 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Weight: 3814 lb
18-in liquid graphite alloy wheels
225/40R18 Bridgestone Turanza EL400 all-season tires