Think “Lexus” and words such as class, luxury, gorgeous looks and elite social status come to mind. For those who don’t know, Lexus is Toyota’s luxury division, and with a parent company who, the recent recall problems aside, has a reputation for ultimate reliability and quality, the brand enjoys top-class ratings and customer satisfaction.
Lexus’ slogan is “The Pursuit of Perfection”, and seeing that the new IS250C was my first ever Lexus, I was eager to find out if they’ve found it or, at the very least, are almost there.
Let’s start with the simple things. The IS250C is of course based on the IS250 sedan – a luxurious compact executive, with smart good looks and a good many accolades under its belt. Change a few things here and there design-wise and convert the roof into a metal and glass origami structure, and you get what in my opinion is one of the better-looking 4-seat hard-top convertibles on the road today.
Thankfully, the Lexus doesn’t really suffer from “big butt” syndrome, as so many hard-top convertibles like the Peugeot 308 CC, BMW 3 Series Convertible and Volkswagen Eos, do. The rear is nicely proportioned and the redesign to separate the C from normal IS models has been very well executed, giving the convertible its own unique character and cheekiness. LED tail lights make the backside particularly attractive at night.
Side-on, the IS250C is a beautiful car to stare at. A short bonnet and steep windscreen aid in making it look sleek, and whether the roof is up or down makes no difference to the visual appeal. One problem, however, is the wheels – the 17” alloys are not ugly by any means, but seem too small for the car. An increase to 18” or even 19” would cure the problem easily, so I hope Lexus has plans for this in the future. From the front, the IS250 looks almost identical to its family-orientated brother, with the only changes being to the fog lights which have been very subtly redesigned.
Inside, the IS250C is largely the same as the sedan, but of course when the mood takes you, having the sun bathe the solid and well laid-out interior is an absolute joy. Available in black or “Mellow White” full leather, comfort is the name of the Lexus’ game. Oodles and oodles of comfort! The seats are fabulously loungey, with 8-way adjustment for both front seats, including electric sliding when you need to get passengers in the back. They’re heated too, so if you’re like me who will drive a convertible with the roof down even in freezing conditions, at least your buns will be in the proverbial oven.
Speaking of seats, the Lexus had no problem chauffeuring four adults around, though being the tall driver I am, moving the seat slightly forwards was a must. With the roof up, rear headroom is no irritation, and of course roof-down just brings on the mandatory hands-in-the-sky reaction from first-timers. The steering setup, with electric up-down-in-out adjustment on the leather-bound wheel is exactly what you would expect from a car of this nature – effortless but not off-putting.
Multi-functionality is, of course, included, with audio, cruise control, information display and hands-free telephone operation controls neatly placed and easy to use. Bluetooth is standard and very simple to use – so much so that the lady in the dashboard almost starts a conversation with you as you command her to do what you want.
Almost everything from audio, dual-zone climate control, hard-drive satellite navigation and even the standard reverse camera (best invention ever!), is controlled via the 7” touch-screen LCD display which takes pride-of-place on the centre console. Simple to use and visible even in direct overhead sunlight, the system compliments the IS250C’s premium character, and makes you feel a cut above the rest, especially when you can feel fellow motorists’ eyes peering into the cabin with the roof down. One annoyance however is the fact that the satnav cannot be programmed while driving, so a quick route-change means pulling over. Similarly, the roof cannot be operated unless the car is completely stationery, and one has to hold the switch for the entire duration of the performance.
On that note, tough, what a performance! Taking just over 20 seconds to fold from fully up to fully down and vice versa, the Lexus engineers truly made a work of art with the myriad manoeuvres the roof goes through, and of course all in superior smoothness. Boot space is undeniably a bone of contention with any metal-roofed drop-top, and the Lexus is no exception. With the roof down, a meagre 205 litres, compacted into a space which had to have been specifically designed for exactly one set of golf clubs, means you’re using this car for light shopping and that’s it. Or golf, of course. With the roof up, luggage capacity expands to a generous but shallow 553 litres, but then having the wind blow through your hair is no-longer an option.
As you would expect, the list of standard equipment is considerable. Besides what I’ve already mentioned, a great audio system comprising of eight speakers, auxiliary and USB ports, a 6-CD in-dash changer and a clever audio equaliser adjuster means whether the roof is up or down your listening experience is always fantastic. A subwoofer would have been nice, though.
Keyless entry and starting means the (rather unattractive) key never has to leave your pocket, and this feature was perhaps my favourite (it also confuses people who don’t know about it, which is so Ã¼ber-show off, you can’t help but grin). Furthermore, park distance control front and rear, auto-on lights and wipers, folding side mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror leave you wanting for nothing more at the end of the day. Ok, perhaps a better clock, because the green LCD display Lexus chose for the IS250C looks like the one your grandmother had in her 1980s Toyota Conquest.
On the engine side of the table, the 153 kW, 252 Nm 2.5-litre V6 power plant, coupled to rear-wheel drive, is super-smooth and has a great soundtrack. Transmitting its power through a 6-speed automatic gearbox, with a paddle shift manual mode, the IS250C is an out-and-out cruiser. The power is there when you need it, but with 6400 rpm being the peaking point, quick overtaking moves require a down-shift or three and the pedal to the metal. And perhaps this is the Lexus’ biggest downfall.
The gearbox is by far the smoothest auto I have ever experienced, but it’s too eager to shift into the higher gears. Third gear is seen at around 25 km/h during economic pull-offs, and gathering any more speed means putting your foot down further, and that does terrible things to the fuel consumption. Getting an average of almost 480km off a full 65 litre tank of unleaded is nothing to brag about, especially since most of the driving done was the economic highway run to work and back, with only the occasional full-bore acceleration blast here and there (the engine’s soundtrack becomes addictive).
On that note, performance figures are claimed as nine seconds flat from standstill to 100 km/h and a top speed of 210 km/h. ABS brakes are there to slow you down again, with additional BAS (Brake Assist System), EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), TRC (Traction Control) and VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System) all coming together to keep you on the black stuff. The brakes are particularly strong, and I battled to reach the point where ABS kicks in during testing. Airbags abound of course