What is it?
The first time Lexus has offered a convertible version of its entry-level saloon. With two doors, four seats and a folding metal roof, the IS250C follows pretty much the same template as BMW’s 3-Series Convertible.
If that sounds like a tempting proposition, choosing which IS-C to buy should be easy, as trim level aside, there is no choice. Only the 2.5-litre V6 petrol mated to a six speed-automatic.
What’s it like?
Very relaxed. Lexus anticipate shifting just 2000 units each year in Europe (800 in the UK) compared to 15,000 in the United States, and there’s no prizes for guessing in which particular states most will end up finding homes. This is car designed for California cruising. If that’s what you are looking for from a convertible (even if you’re not in California) the IS250C fits the bill nicely.
General refinement levels, either roof up or down, are very good. The airflow is well managed and for the most part the engine is quiet. The ride is soft and generally composed, although in common with all droptops converted from fixed roof platforms, there is a degree of flex and vibration over poor surfaces. But not so much to detract from what is a comfortable car to waft around in.
Try anything more pressing than wafting though and the IS250C isn’t remotely interested. Despite a capacity of 2.5-litres the V6 produces just 205bhp and a feeble 186 lb ft of torque, and then only at 4800rpm. Couple that with a kerb weight of 1735kg (some 100kg more than the equivalent saloon) and the IS250C feels a lot slower than a 0-62mph time of 9.0seconds suggests. In its standard mode the automatic gearbox is programmed to avoid kicking down unless absolutely necessary, which does help to keep the engine noise down, but reveals woeful in-gear performance. Switching to Sport does improve the situation, but only slightly.
Find a series of bends with a sufficiently long preceding straight and the IS250C reveals a competent but remote feeling chassis. Despite the soft set-up it grips well and keeps body movements in check, but there is very little enthusiasm or satisfaction on offer.
The front cabin is near identical to that of the saloon, except for the switch to raise/lower the aluminium roof – a fully automatic process taking 20seconds, but which requires the car to be at a standstill. To make room for the roof mechanism, the rear accommodation has been squeezed. Legroom is tight but manageable for adults, the restricted width and headroom more of a problem.
Unlike some rivals whose folded roofs take up the full length of the boot, leaving a space underneath, the IS’s roof uses the full boot height but not the length. This leaves a short but tall space at end of the boot, which solves the letterbox problem of other arrangements, but gives a space more useful for golf clubs than suitcases.
Should I buy one?
As an alternative to the established premium set, the Lexus IS250C is an interesting addition. It impresses with its refinement and unashamedly relaxed approach. A £9000 premium over the saloon may look rich for a folding metal roof, but places the IS250C broadly inline with the equivalent BMW or Mercedes. Ignore our top spec test car and look instead at the still well equipped SE-I model at £34,550.
That it doesn’t offer the last word in driver involvement is disappointing but entirely acceptable. However, the leisurely performance is not. Likewise the fact that the engine has to work hard to get the car moving harms economy and emissions.
All of these deficiencies might not matter to those living in The OC, but this side of the Atlantic they could prove more of an issue.