Lexus IS250 convertible review | carsguide.com.au

2 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Lexus IS250 convertible review | carsguide.com.au
Lexus IS250

Lexus IS250

convertible review

The fresh-air IS is the second convertible in the Lexus range but is tauter, has enough space for four adults, a reasonable boot and competitively priced. Photo Gallery

Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Lexus IS-250 convertible at its Australian launch.

A small slice of spring sunshine cuts through the winter chill this week.

It comes from the Lexus IS 250C, a droptop with a difference. Or two.

For a start, it has four roomy seats. And it is relatively affordable with pricing from $79,900. And it proves again that Lexus really can do good cars, even if they don’t have a BMW or Benz badge, when it moves away from Japo-bland.

The hardtop convertible is surprisingly taut and enjoyable to drive, even if it could do with a bit more punch. And some extra boot space when you’re running top-down.

The C is the second stretch from the Lexus IS, following the grunty, V8-powered IS-F. It should have been the second and third, because the original plan was to build both a coupe and a cloth-roof convertible from the basis of the four-door sedan.

But smart thinking, a bit of customer research _ and a second look at the budget _ showed Lexus that convertible customers really want a coupe which can do an origami transformation to open for the sun.

So the 250C got the go-ahead and project boss Kiiechi Yoneda, a body expert who is also responsible for the carbon fibre work on the upcoming Lexus LF-A supercar, decided immediately to go for an inhouse roof job with three panels and electric operation. And an overkill on stiffening.

Our development concept key word was ‘open’. And we wanted to maximise the driving pleasure with the roof down, he says in Australia this week.

As you would expect, we started the design from the top down. And all exterior parts, except only four parts – bonnet, headlamps, door mirrors and door handles – were designed exclusively for the ISC.

So the second Lexus after the SC, a lamentable soft cruiser, is intended for people who enjoy driving and not just parking or posing.

That’s why it has – count them – seven body strengthening panels below the floor, a tail end set to minimise cabin buffeting, and a suspension system which has been comprehensively tweaked from the basic IS.

There is a weight penalty of around 130 kilograms over the sedan, with 60 down to the roof, another 60 in reinforcement, and 10 kilos in things like the luggage cover and folding rear headrest.

The mechanical package is familiar and proven, from the 153 kiloWatt 2.5-litre V6 engine to the six-speed sequential automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive. Suspension is fully independent and there is anti- skid braking, ESP stability control and more.

There are three models in the ISC lineup, starting with the Prestige and moving through Sports to Sports Luxury at $99,900. The numbers give the car at least a $15,000 edge over its realistic rivals, led by the BMW 3-Series convertible, and Lexus is talking tough despite only aiming for around 25 sales a month.

I like to think our competition is just over-priced. Our pricing is not apologetic, it’s realistic, says Lexus boss, John Roca.

Unlike our rivals, we’ve long believed that consumers need simplicity in their ownership and purchase experience.

The ISC is a good car. It drives well with the top up and with the top down there is almost no shaking or wind rush.

This comes as a major shock after the SC _ which makes the hairdresser’s Celica look like a muscle car _ and because Lexus could easily have shortcut and cashed-in a price advantage over its European rivals from Audi, BMW, Benz, Saab and Volvo.

Instead, the car looks different enough from a regular IS to turn a few heads, the quality is right on the button, there is good space inside and the droptop conversion is seamless and effective.

The attention to detail even runs to an electric passenger seat which operates twice as quickly as a four-door IS, to make rear-seat access quicker and easier. And the back seat really has space for two adults.

The car was even tested in Australia to check its dust sealing and rigidity, on a trip last year when Yoneda learned that blowflies do not taste good.

Lexus IS250

Still, the roof will only fold when you are completely stopped and the top-down storage is not good. It might be as good as its rivals but it looks like you’re short-changed when you lose so much from the top-up luggage space, and when Lexus admits there is a package for luggage in the back seat.

The ISC gets along well enough, with a neutral handling balance and solid brakes, although the ESP steps in far too early in corners and the automatic gearbox still wants to take control with automatic upshifts when you want to hold a gear for corners.

Sporty drivers would appreciate the 3.5-litre engine, which could be coming, but the 2.5 makes it a well-balanced package.

The ISC feels like a coupe with the roof up and loses very little in strength when it is down, with just a minor tremor through the body over corrugations and zero loss of suspension control through bumps and undulations. There were a couple of minor creaks in the press preview car, but nothing which could not be cured with a visit to a Lexus-style technician.

Best of all, when you put the top down there is only very minor wind ruffling up to 110km/h and you don’t have to shout at your passenger.

The new Lexus is a match for the best in its class on all the important convertible points and, for the price, it is a clear winner.

Lexus IS 250C

Price: from $79,900 to $99,900

Engine: 2.5-litre V6

Power: 153kW/6400revs

Torque: 252Nm/4800revs

Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Performance: top speed 210km/h, 0-100km/h 9.0s

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