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  • 2010 Lexus IS 350C

    Posted on May 22nd, 2009 ninarussin

    Lexus rounds out its performance offerings with a retractable hardtop

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Lexus IS C

    2010 Lexus IS C

    When Lexus introduced the first IS sedan for the 2000 model year, the automaker broke away from its comfort luxury tradition, in the hope of attracting performance enthusiasts. The tuner-inspired IS was a rousing success, inspiring product planners to expand its high-performance line-up. In 2005 Lexus introduced the IS 250 and IS 350, giving buyers several engine and transmission options, along with available all-wheel drive.

    More recently, the V-8 powered IS F pushed the performance envelope to the extreme. While sales have been soft, the IS F is an appropriate halo for the series: proof that Lexus engineers are capable of going head to head against the best Europe has to offer.

    The first IS convertible is the next step in Lexus’ strategy to attract upwardly mobile car buffs. Strategists anticipate convertible sales could boost IS sales 25 percent, based on statistics from BMW and other key competitors. While Lexus has no plans to produce an IS F convertible, F-Sport accessories give IS C buyers the opportunity to hot rod their drop tops.

    World’s fastest retractable top

    The IS C’s three-piece aluminum top deploys in twenty seconds, using a lever on the instrument panel. While the operation looks simple on the surface it’s not: fifteen electric motors and 37 sensors control the operation.

    Buyers who purchase rear park assist can add a clearance sonar feature that monitors the area to the back of the car and the luggage compartment. If the sensor detects an obstacle three feet or less in back of the car,  it stops the top from opening.

    Thinking about typical rush hour traffic in Southern California, I wonder about the wisdom of this technology. I suppose it adds a measure of safety in the event of a rear-end collision.

    Two available engines and transmissions

    Buyers can choose between a 204 horsepower V6 engine, standard on the IS 250C or upgrade to the 306 horsepower V6 on the IS 350C. The smaller engine is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The IS 350C comes only with the six-speed automatic.

    Both high-compression engines require premium fuel: something to think about when deciding between the two. While the larger engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty three seconds faster than the smaller one, average fuel economy for the IS 250C is four miles-per-gallon better.

    The convertible is slightly longer than the IS sedan, with better front-to-rear weight balance (50/50).

    Engineers added significant reinforcement to make the body rigid. While these reinforcements result in weight gains of 350-400 pounds, depending on the model, the car’s ride and handling is exceptional. There is no noticeable cowl shake with the top up or down. Torsional stiffness is excellent, making for positive steering response at all speeds.

    A fully independent front and rear suspension is compliant without being mushy. There isn’t as much road feel as with the IS F, but certainly more than for Lexus’ comfort luxury models.

    Seventeen-inch wheels are standard: buyers can upgrade to five-spoke 18-inch rims, or forged F-Sport 19-inch rims. Run-flat tires are optional, replacing the standard R-rated radials.

    Why buy a convertible?

    Convertibles are emotional purchases. They aren’t practical, and they aren’t cheap. Base price on the IS 250C is $38,490, not including the destination charge.

    Despite that, I think that everybody should own at least one convertible in his or her lifetime, for the same reason I believe everyone should run at least one marathon.

    Owning a convertible won’t make a person rich or famous, any more than running a marathon will for the majority of those who toe the line. But both make the journey memorable.

    Open-air motoring is a richer, more visceral experience than driving an enclosed car. Sights, sounds and smells that would normally go unnoticed come to the front of the senses. It’s similar to the difference between watching baseball on television, versus having seats behind home plate.

    From a practical viewpoint, the IS C is a terrible active lifestyle vehicle. With the top down, the trunk is barely large enough to hold a dachshund. Semi-aniline leather seats don’t like to get dirty, and aluminum body panels don’t hold up well when they’re hit with rocks.

    On the other hand, I can’t think of anybody who would enjoy driving the new IS C more than an athlete. It’s quick, it’s nimble, and it stops on a dime. Every angle is muscular and beautiful.

    Engineers went to great lengths to maximize passenger safety, including six standard airbags, vehicle stability and traction control, and antilock braking. Standard hill start assist keeps the car from rolling backwards when starting on a steep grade. Buyers wanting an extra measure of protection can add rear park assist, adaptive headlamps, and adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning.

    The audio and climate control systems automatically self-adjust when the top is lowered. An acoustic front windshield minimizes wind noise: its .29 coefficient of drag makes the IS C exceptionally aerodynamic for a convertible.

    To summarize, the IS C offers almost as much power and performance as a motorcycle, in a much safer and more comfortable environment. What athlete wouldn’t love that?

    Test drive in Southern California

    I thought about this as I sat stuck in gridlock on the Pacific Coast Highway, just south of Laguna Beach. Lexus had chosen Newport Beach as home base for its IS C media program, because it has some of the nicest scenery and weather in the country. Unfortunately, it also has some of the worst traffic.

    Gridlock normally makes me manic. After living in Chicago for fifteen years, I can say with assurance that I’ve experienced three or four lifetimes worth of bad traffic. But if I have to sit in gridlock, being in a luxury convertible twenty yards from the ocean isn’t a bad way to go.

    The ocean breezes blew away most of the noxious fumes from surrounding vehicles. The weather was typical for Southern California: 75 degrees and sunny.

    Most of the drivers around me realized that weaving  and cursing wasn’t going to get them to their destinations any faster. Better to live in the moment, and enjoy what the moment had to offer.

    F-Sport edge

    The only disappointment was that traffic prevented me from driving the car hard: something I very much wanted to do. Our IS 350C test car had been fitted with F-Sport suspension and brake components. It rode on the optional forged 19-inch wheels.

    My maximum speed was only about sixty: even at that, I could feel the difference the F-Sport stabilizer bars made during cornering. The optional wheels give the car larger contact patches: a boon for buyers who want to push the envelope on winding two-lane roads.

    Seating for four

    Lexus IS C Interior

    Lexus IS C Interior

    The IS C can comfortably seat four adults. An arched frame design on the front seatbacks enhances legroom in back. All four passengers have access to cupholders and map pockets in the doors. A standard 12-volt power point and USB port recharge electronic devices on the go and serve as a plug-in for USB sticks and iPods.

    A locking glovebox  is spacious enough for a small purse. A vent in back of the center console circulates air through the back with the top in place.

    The optional Mark Levinson sound system is exceptional: a true 5.1 surround-sound system. The optional navigation screen is easy to read and operate without obstructing the driver’s forward view. Seat heaters and ventilators add an extra measure of comfort for front passengers in temperature extremes.

    The touch screen can also operate audio, Bluetooth and temperature functions. Gauges are easy to read in bright sunlight. Standard audio and Bluetooth steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction.

    The touchscreen serves as the display for the optional rearview camera assist. Since the headrests severely limit rear visibility, I’d recommend the option. Compounding the problem is a small rear window- typical for a convertible.

    Base price for the IS 350C is $43,940, not including the destination charge. The IS 250C and IS 350C are rolling into Lexus dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: A stylish, luxurious convertible with exceptional ride and handling. All models have a high level of standard safety features and an extremely quiet interior with the top in place.

    Dislikes: Poor rear visibility; lack of cargo space.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: IS 350C
    Year: 2010
    Base price: $43,940
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower: 306 Hp @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 277 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.8 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway

     

    45 responses to “2010 Lexus IS 350C”

    1. The IS C’s 3 piece aluminum top deploys in twenty seconds really. 44K is not a bad price for the IS C.
      My wife and I are looking at this car this week I hope. We have been hitting Lexus Dealerships for a month looking for just the right car.
      Thanks for the great review

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