First Drive Review: 2010 Lexus IS C
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By Andrew Bornhop of Road & Track
To racing fans, ISC is the International Speedway Corporation, owner of Daytona and 12 other NASCAR tracks. To open-air driving fans, IS C now means something altogether different — it's the new Lexus hardtop convertible based on the company's rear-drive IS sports sedan available in both IS 250C and IS 350C forms. My quick take?
Get the 306-bhp 350. Although the 204-bhp 2.5-liter V-6 in the 250 is available with a 6-speed manual transmission, that engine struggles with the car's extra 360-380 lb. of added structure, which does do a pretty good job of creating a chassis that's free from the wiggles, even with the top down. Conversely, the 3.5-liter V-6 of the 350 — mated exclusively to a 6-speed automatic whose paddle shifters can now be used in Drive (not just when the lever is in its manual mode) — makes the IS C come alive, able to hit 60 mph in a claimed 5.8 seconds.
The 3-piece steel top, designed in-house by Lexus, is an all-electric design that raises or lowers in a quick 20 sec. Fifteen motors and 37 sensors (!) all come into play, and the motors are even "braked" to prevent the roof from thumping down onto the windshield header when the top is being raised. It's all very dignified, and I'm pleased to report that the stored top does not take up the entire trunk volume, as it does in the Infiniti G37 Convertible, the IS C's natural competitor. While the trunk is by no means spacious when the roof's down, it can hold a 9-in.-diameter golf bag, and there's even a space-saver spare tire below the load floor.
Top down, wind noise in the IS C is not a concern, especially when the optional windblocker is deployed. With climate control that automatically adjusts airflow volume when the top is stowed, the 4-seat IS C is a comfortable all-season ride, lacking the sporty edge of the G37 convertible but still a far cry from a boulevardier. You'll still have fun on that twisting canyon road, but the Lexus doesn't quite have the immediacy or feedback of the G37.
On the other hand, the IS C has the expected Lexus quality, and it looks great, especially topless. Every single body panel is new, apart from the hood, and the slightly taller rear deck contributes to an aggressive canted-forward look that makes the IS C appear particularly sporty, especially when fitted with the optional charcoal-finish 10-spoke F-Sport wheels. Thanks to new sculpting, the car has added muscle in back, plus some new LED taillights. Overall length is up by 2.3 in., and the weight distribution of the car has improved to 50/50.
On the road, the IS C is quiet and compliant, and the well-lined top doesn't creak when it's up, even in diagonal trips up driveways. The doors shut with a reassuring thud, and the driving position is excellent, although there's virtually no rear leg room when the front seats are all the way back. Overall, the car exudes the quality you'd expect of a Lexus, with rear headrests that conveniently fold down and out of the rearview mirror's field of vision. In daily use, most folks probably will let the transmission shift on its own (which it does quite smoothly), but enthusiastic drivers will prefer the paddles, which have a cool, high-quality metallic feel. Our one complaint: Downshifts are not accompanied by an aggressive throttle blip, which would heighten this car's sporting quotient considerably.
Prices start at $38,490 for the IS 250C, and at $43,949 for the IS 350C. I particularly like the 350 in Ultrasonic Blue Mica, the same great color on our long-term IS F, replete with optional F-Sport suspension, brakes and wheels, which give the IS C a welcome dose of attitude.