Lexus brings out the sun
Its new droptop is a winner, writes PAUL GOVER
ASLICE of sunshine has cut through the winter chill. It’s come from the Lexus IS 250C, a droptop with a difference or two. For a start, it has four roomy seats. And it’s relatively affordable with prices from $79,900.
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 Japanese-bland.
The hardtop convertible is surprisingly taut and enjoyable to drive, though it could do with a bit more punch. And it needs extra boot space when running with the top down.
The C is the second stretch from the Lexus IS, following the grunty, V8-powered IS-F.
Project boss Kiiechi Yoneda decided to go for an in-house roof job with three panels and electric operation— and an overkill on stiffening.
‘‘Our keyword was ‘open’ — we wanted to maximise the driving pleasure with the roof down,’’ Yoneda said in Australia this week.
‘‘As you’d expect, we started the design from the top down and all exterior parts, except the bonnet, headlamps, door mirrors and door handles, were designed exclusively for the ISC.’’
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 seven body strengthening panels below the floor, a tail end set to minimise cabin buffeting, and suspension that has been comprehensively tweaked from the basic IS.
There is a weight penalty of 130kg over the sedan, with 60kg in the roof, 60kg in reinforcement and 10kg in things such as the luggage cover and folding rear headrest.
The mechanical package is familiar and proven, from the 153kW 2.5-litre V6 engine to the six-speed sequential automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
It has anti-skid braking and electronic stability control.
The three models in the ISC lineup start with the Prestige and move through to the Sports and the Sports Luxury at $99,900.
The car has at least a $15,000 edge over its realistic rivals, led by the BMW 3 Series convertible, and Lexus is talking tough, despite aiming for only 25 sales a month.
Lexus boss John Roca says: ‘‘I like to think our competition is overpriced. Our pricing is not apologetic. It’s realistic.’’ CONSUMPTION CO2 EMISSIONS the SC, which makes the hairdresser’s Celica look like a muscle car.
Lexus could easily have taken short cuts and cashed in a price advantage over its 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.
Still, the roof will fold only when you are completely stopped and the top-down storage is not good.
It may be as good as its rivals, but it looks as if you’re being shortchanged when you lose so much from the luggage space and Lexus puts a package for luggage in the back seat.
The ISC gets along well enough, with a neutral handling balance and solid brakes, though the stability control program 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.
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’s a clear winner.