Canary Wharf in London is a modern business center, similar to La Defense in Paris. It was built up out of nothing and, as the buildings grew, the people flocked in. This was modern London and everybody wanted a taste. The area around the wharf has everything from expensive shops and restaurants to high-rise apartments. It has everything that anybody could possibly want except a history.
The normal Lexus convertible would fit well in this area. It’s not really a performance hardtop like its rival, the Infiniti G37 Convertible . The convertible Lexus is more at home cruising the avenues around the boutiques and making its way to party after high profile party, all while making the driver and passenger look good.
Thankfully, Toyota managed to inject a little life - which they don’t do often - into the convertible Lexus, as the SC430 was awful. It’s still no performance machine, but the IS250C is sure trying hard.
The Old Ways
The rules of sports car building are quite simple. The car needs to look good, ride well, and handle well. The oldSC430 did none of those things well. That is a bit odd from a massive company like Toyota, as most automakers get at least one of those things right.
The interior is terribly boring and the fake wood is just pathetic. Previously in the SC430’s life, it had run-flat tires, which are virtually solid. Similar tires can be found in the stone ages on carts pulled by mules. The new tires have helped, but nowhere near enough. We don’t mind a stiff car if it’s communicative and responsive, but it’s not. The Lexus is just hard and that’s not good for any sort of car.
At least the engine people did their job. The power was good and there was decent pickup. The roof is decent as well, but it also has a huge problem. Once the roof goes down, there is no place to put bags from shopping trips. That really defeats the purpose of this machine because the only place it will ever be found is on the shopping streets. Simply awful. It’s not that Lexus didn’t have boat loads of cash to spend.
Like Canary Wharf though, Lexus built something good out of nothing. The IS was never a convertible before, but in 2009 that all changed. A modern, sleek, and stylish machine was developed, as it should have been in the first place.
The New Machine
The IS250C might look like a normal IS that was given the guillotine treatment, but actually, the car is all new. The hood is actually a carry over, but that’s about it. With the top up, the Lexus looks simply average. The trunk area appears huge, as if the car had gone on a ice cream diet. With the top down, everything changes. The Lexus has become a gorgeous cruiser as the lines flow beautifully from the front to the back.
Our test car came with a 2.5-liter V6 with 205 horsepower. For most drivers - which will mostly be women - that motor will be more than enough. In fact, it was more than enough for most of the time it spent with the TopSpeed team, but we would have liked a bit more power every now and again. The car pulls well off the line and it accelerates to 60 miles per hour in around eight seconds. Highway passing is pretty simple as the car accelerates fairly well above 55 miles per hour.
We took the IS on a road trip from Cleveland, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois, during which we averaged 31.2 miles per gallon. That had to be the biggest shocker of the trip, as we didn’t exactly drive like a grandmother. The premium gas requirement was a killer though.
Connected to the V6 was a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. They were nicely shaped and they felt good on the fingers. That aspect helped to contribute to the car’s sporty feel, but sadly, the transmission was an overall disappointment. It was fine for highway cruising, but a bit of a let down under vigorous driving. It was slow on the up change, but not as bad when down changing.
Inside The Lexus
The interior was a fun place to sit in and a wonderfully luxurious place to go for a ride in. Gone is the cheap fake plastic wood, and in its place is soft plush leathers. The dashboard is modern and easy to use and the seats are very comfortable and extremely supportive. Everything feels solid and well constructed, something we have come to expect from Lexus.
The controls are very intuitive and the radio, climate, and navigation systems are simple and only take a few minutes to figure out. Our only issue with the navigation is the fact that it can only take you to Toyota dealers, not very helpful if you want to compare your car to something else. Honestly though, that’s not much of a complaint. The Mark Levinson sound system was stunning. Even with the top down and going around 65 mph, the music was clear and crisp.
In The Bends
Convertibles, especially hard-tops, are far heavier than their sedan counterparts. This is down to the removal of the roof. To compensate, the frame has to be strengthened. The IS250C gains around 300 pounds to get the car to around 3850 pounds in total. This weight is added in the several bolt-on trusses and V-braces underneath, as well as thicker rocker-panel box sections, two crossbeams under the rear seat, and a box-section beam under the windshield posts that are installed to stiffen the body both for driving and crashing.
On the road, the IS250C is grippy, but numb and you can feel the weight through the corners. Those fat tires help the car to be able to hug the corners with ease and the traction control should keep the car in line if things get hairy. All that aside, there is little feel through the wheel.
Luckily, where as the SC430 was numb and hard, the IS is a comfortable road car. It was smooth and relaxing and just wonderful on the highway. Even the biggest bumps were smoothed out. When we say smoothed out, we mean flattened. This car weighs as much as a planet.
As good as the IS250C was, its rivals might be a tad better. The auto industry isn’t as wonderful as it once was and you need to have a car that truly stands out to have it sell and, sadly, the Lexus isn’t. The car which it’s aimed at, the BMW 3-Series Convertible is far better on the road. That being said, the IS250C refuses to play the German game and that should make some Toyota lovers very happy. If your goal is to look good while driving at 25 miles per hour down the Sunset Strip, the Lexus is a great choice. But if you a performance roadster, the BMW or the G37 might be a better choice.
Check out the videos up top by clicking on the main picture. These videos are just some quick walk-arounds. They aren’t very good, but we aren’t experts at video.