While the IS-series have been been a part of the Lexus family for several years, in 2010 a retractable hardtop convertible was added. I was able to briefly sample an IS250C a couple years ago-I was generally happy with the package, as it seemed to embody all that one would expect from a Lexus, but the 2.5L 204hp V-6 left me wanting for more power. Thankfully, Lexus offers a more robust IS convertible in the IS350C that delivers the power the price promises. And instead of a thirty minute stint at the wheel, the IS350C would be my daily driver for a full week. Read on to see how it was to live with the IS, and is it worth the premium over the IS250C?
Visually, the two cars are indistinguishable, and I found it ironic that the IS350C I received was the same color, and had the same wheels its lesser brother I had driven previously. Which is a good thing. Our test car, finished in Matador Red Mica had a rich appearance, and the optional 18″ graphite alloys gave the IS a serious, sophisticated touch. Adding to the premium look were the LED daytime running lights, included in the optional Luxury Package. From the front, the car is instantly recognizable as a Lexus IS-a handsome car, but understated. With a car like this, car designers face a major challenge to make a car look great, while being capable of swallowing a hardtop roof into its trunk. Not easy. From the rear, the IS350C looks better in person than in pictures. It is not ungainly, but there is no denying it is big. I did wonder what a difference it would have made if Lexus made the car a rag top.
But you’re not looking at the hump of the IS350C when you’re driving it, and it is in the interior where the Lexus really comes into its own. Everything looks, feels, and smells just right. Seats that coddle you, wrapped in buttery smooth leather, faced with crystal clear gauges, rich looking wood trim and basically every creature comfort you could hope for, the IS350C is the sort of car that melts all the stresses of the day moments after you step inside. And that is precisely what one expects from a proper Lexus. Top up, the car is an isolation chamber, top down, you’re feeling the sun and wind through your hair (not too much, just right), resplendent in the comfort, the quality sound from the stereo, and the pleasure in every surface you touch is high quality.
So, how does she go? Well, as one would hope in a premium luxury convertible, the IS350C is rear wheel drive. And while the IS250C gets you around, the IS350C moves with authority, thanks to its 3.5L V-6, rated at 306hp, paired to a six-speed automatic. 0-60mph comes in just under six seconds, so there is no question the car is quick. But this is not a car for stop light drag races. The satisfaction with the IS350C is knowing that silky smooth engine has just the right amount of passing power when you want it. Top down, the IS felt rock solid with no cowl shake. Ride and handling is comfortable, and perfectly competent-in other words, just right for a grand tourer.
Which makes me scratch my head when other reviews start comparing the IS350C to cars like the BMW 3-series convertible and Infiniti G37 convertible-two cars that are far edgier and more intense than the Lexus. Can you drive the Lexus hard and fast? Sure, but that’s not what the IS350C is about, and Lexus understands its buyer well enough to know they’re not being cross-shopped with the guy seeking a BMW 335i with a six-speed manual and M Sport Package.
So how was it living with the IS350C? A breeze, really. Granted, as a married guy with a five year old, I’m probably not the demographic for this car. But yes, the IS350C did day care drop off duty just fine, car seat and all. In particular, I loved the one-touch button to slide the passenger seat forward for easy ingress/egress for my son. It being early July, I had the top down at every moment, so much as the weather allowed. The top lowers in about twenty seconds, but with the top down, forget about trunk space. For a weekend getaway, you have to choose to put the luggage in trunk and drive with the top up, or go top down, with your bags in the back seat.
So, what does all this cost? A Lexus IS350C starts at $45,840USD. Our test car included options such as 18″ alloys, headlight washers, Luxury Package (includes bi-xenon headlights, LED DTRLs, heated/ventilated seats, one-touch fold and slide seats, leather and wood trim), Navigation Package and Intuitive Parking Assist for an as delivered total of $53,692. Hardly inexpensive, but about what you would expect for a car in this league.
In sum, the IS350C acquits itself flawlessly as a premium convertible. It is the perfect car for summer night cruising in total comfort and style, which I can personally attest to, as the IS proved to be a great companion for cruising on a lovely Fourth of July weekend here on the coast in Connecticut, as we chased firework shows. And for that, the IS250C would have done just as well, but for the couple desiring a getaway car for their weekend retreat out of town, I say go for the gusto of the IS350C.