Lexus IS Convertible Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Classic in elegant simplicity could be a description for England's most recent royal, no longer a commoner. We're speaking of course, of Kate, wife of William, Duchess of Cambridge, and also for her widely photographed sister Pippa Middleton, still a commoner but also notable for more visual reasons. It also could describe the 2012 Lexus IS 350C, a delightfully high-toned combination of elegance that's superbly intriguing, but with enough of the expected Lexus tradition to keep its purposeful place among luxury autos. Add the fun of a convertible and it's royally befitting its lofty stature.
We've probably all seen the numerous paparazzi photos of Kate's sister, Pippa, from just about any angle, revealing her classy good looks, her svelte shape, her rear view while commonly clad (jeans) lending a little naughtiness to her nearly regal bearing. We think the IS 350C has enough sass and flash to disturb any straitlaced tendencies one might expect from a droptop hottie. Its supple and high pitched rear deck hides a purposeful secret, the stowaway chamber for the foldable aluminum droptop panels that can disappear in a mere 20 seconds when the top down button is activated. Do that, and enjoy the spectacle of conversion from hard-top coupe look to wide open spaces as windows lower automatically during transition and the outside world opens up for four in style.
Stylewise, we think the overall profile has enough presence and allure to merit the long second glances one would sneak towards an item of desire just discovered. While this might blossom more temptingly and seductively beyond the styling traits of your family's Lexus autos of the past, don't expect Lexus ever to forgo its hard-earned credentials for royal pampering, from the deliciously smooth and expected accommodating Lexus ride and top-up quiet to the special perks that separate this marque from the ranks of commoner. Standard Smart Access keyless entry and push button start (and stop) keeps the key fob out of sight. Dual zone climate control, standard power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, standard 10-way adjustable power front seats with power lumbar support and three open-stop positions for doors make it easy to enter and get comfortable once there -- just what one would expect from a premium auto. Air conditioning adjusts automatically to outside temperatures when the top is lowered. Even at speed there's no sudden blast of sultry outside heat to spoil the driving experience.
Pair those amenities with the technological underpinnings that this rear drive convertible shares with the IS sedan and this baby can rock at playtime. Powering the 350C is a 3.5-liter V-6 that pumps out 306-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of launch-ready torque with standard advanced six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters (19/27 EPA rating). One opting for the more fuel efficient IS 250C gets a 2.5-liter, 204-horsepower V-6 with standard six-speed manual transmission (19/28 EPA rating) or the automatic as an option. Both require premium fuel. With either driving authority, however, forget any stuffy pretensions from this beauty, especially since the IS has improved rigidity and strength to accommodate the performance and structural demands of a convertible.
One can opt for a well-loaded IS 350C for about $46,640, the same price as last year's 2011 model. The IS 250C base is $42,360, also unchanged from year to year. If standard amenities aren't enough, the IS has a wealth of available extras to make it irresistible, including F Sport Performance Accessories. Among options are some safety additions including Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that detects obstacles in front of the car and Enform with Safety Connect telematics. Also optional is Intuitive Park Assist and Mark Levenson Premium Surround Sound. The available hard disk drive navigation system has a seven-inch screen and backup camera and what Lexus calls a "casual language" voice recognition system. We won't try to guess at its vocabulary, but we doubt the proper British royals would be offended by its interpretation of spoken commands.
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