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2010 Lexus IS 250 C Review

November 1, 2010 10:17 PM EST | Convertibles , Lexus , Luxury Brands | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThe 2010 Lexus IS 250C offers the refinement and sophistication expected of Toyota's luxury division, but its transformation from sedan to convertible isn't as graceful as other brands' entries.

All-weather hardtop, high-quality interior, refined ride with 17-inch wheels, good fuel economy, many safety features, golfer-friendly trunk.

Poor rear visibility, limited top-down trunk space, cramped backseat, weak acceleration, rear end looks bulbous and awkward.

What's New for 2010
The 2010 Lexus IS 250C is an all-new retractable-hardtop convertible version of the IS sedan that features the smaller of two available engines.

Lexus has never offered an entry-level convertible, but that finally changes this year with the all-new 2010 IS 250C. As you can likely guess, it's based on the IS sedan, and is therefore much cheaper and has a (marginally) more useful backseat than the brand's now-discontinued SC 430. But in the transformation from solid-roof four-door to retractable-roof two-door, Lexus gave the IS C some rather ungainly long hindquarters to swallow the roof's three pieces of steel.

Get beyond its ungraceful rump, and the 2010 Lexus IS 250C offers the expected levels of luxury, refinement and quality you expect from a Lexus. The interior boasts flawless materials and construction, while a long list of standard and optional features provides the goodies one expects from a vehicle in this price range. Like the regular IS 250 sedan, the 204-horsepower 250C has the smaller of two V6 engines available, with the IS 350C offering the larger mill. This 2.5-liter V6 is certainly the way to go if fuel economy and cost of entry is important, but the acceleration it provides is slower than virtually everything in its class (including the VW Eos 2.0T).

As with any hardtop convertible, the roof is the (figuratively) big story here. With a touch of a button located to the left of the steering wheel, the three-panel roof gracefully folds and tucks itself down into the trunk in an impressively quick 20 seconds. With the roof raised, the cabin is hushed like any other coupe while also providing more safety and security than a cloth roof. Of course, these attributes go for all retractable hardtops, as does the reduced trunk space when the roof is lowered. The backseat is also similarly cramped, with notable reductions in leg-, shoulder and hiproom.

Overall, we've found the 2010 Lexus IS 250C to be a civilized touring convertible for a reasonable price. Its interior refinement, comfortable ride and good fuel economy are certainly bonuses. If the latter is less important to you than quick acceleration, then the more powerful IS 350C is a must. However, hardtop competitors like the BMW 328i and Volvo C70 are generally more appealing because of their increased practicality, as are the soft-top BMW 1 Series and VW Eos.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Lexus IS 250C is a four-passenger convertible with a fully automatic retractable hardtop. It is technically available in a single trim level, but there is an IS 350C available with a bigger engine and a few additional features.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, a power tilt-telescoping steering column, eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash six-CD changer, USB and auxiliary audio jacks.

The Luxury Package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, upgraded leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats with memory settings, wood trim and automatic slide/fold/return for rear-seat access. The bi-xenons and the heated/cooled seats are also available as stand-alone options. A navigation system with real-time traffic and a back-up camera is also an option and can be bundled with a 12-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. Other extras include 18-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control (includes collision preparation features) and a variety of Lexus F-Sport performance upgrade items.

Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Lexus IS 250C is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque. A 3.5-liter V6 is available in the IS 350C. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual are standard, but a six-speed automatic transmission that includes manual-override paddle shifters is optional. Lexus estimates that the IS 250C will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates with the automatic are 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. They drop to 18/26/21 with the manual.

The IS 250C comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, front seat knee airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags (a rarity among convertibles), pop-up rollover bars and Lexus Safety Connect. Included with the optional adaptive cruise control is Lexus' Pre-Collision System, which can retract the front seatbelts and activate brake assist immediately when the driver presses the brake pedal if an impending collision is detected.

Interior Design and Special Features
The IS 250C boasts a finely crafted interior, with top-notch materials and an attractively sporty design. Fit and finish is generally excellent. Cars with the navigation system have an easy-to-understand electronics interface that utilizes both physical buttons and a touchscreen display. However, we'd prefer a redundant display for climate and audio readouts, as both disappear when viewing the navigation system.

Lexus thoughtfully programmed the ventilation system to automatically adjust itself based on whether the top is raised or lowered, altering the volume and distribution of air. The same goes for the audio system, which automatically changes the equalizer settings based on additional wind noise.

The Lexus IS 250 sedan offers one of the least spacious backseats in its class, and the convertible is only worse. Given that luxury convertibles are hardly passenger haulers, this isn't that big of a deal, but competitors offer a few valuable extra centimeters. Hip- and shoulder room are particularly pinched. With the roof raised, the trunk offers a decent 10.8 cubic feet of trunk space, but it shrinks to a puny 2.4 cubic feet with it lowered. That's too small for a standard roller suitcase, but the remaining space has been precisely shaped to accommodate a golf bag.

Driving Impressions

The 2010 Lexus IS 250C offers the sort of refined ride you'd expect from Toyota's luxury division. Wind noise is impressively hushed for a retractable-hardtop convertible, and the structure feels tight over body-bending road imperfections. The 250C is the fuel economy choice, as it provides simply adequate acceleration. The 306-hp 350C is the car you want if anything close to rapid acceleration is in order. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but we'd stick with the automatic, as the do-it-yourself gearbox is sloppy and not particularly fun to shift. Actually, we wouldn't call any IS C fun because of the slow, lifeless steering and a suspension setup tuned more for comfort than handling.

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