Lexus IS250C 2009 Road Test

Thu, 25 Jun 2009

When I first read the price of the Lexus IS250C, I have to confess my jaw dropped a bit. I was expecting an entry level of £28,000 to £30,000. So £34,550 came as a bit of a shock. And that doesn’t even include satnav. For the Navigator version you are asked to hand over a cool £36,750.

Lexus justifies this with a list of standard equipment as long as your arm (see below). Enough to pull the price of its closest competitor, the BMW 325i coupe convertible, way south of £40,000. So it’s actually quite brave of Lexus to quote an all-in price rather then tempt buyers with a low list price, then keep adding to it to put you into the specification you really want.

Where the Lexus scores highest is in refinement. From the seamless 6-speed automatic transmission that cushions gearchanges beautifully, whether left to its own devices or summoned by the steering wheel paddles, to the astonishing lack of wind noise and buffeting with the top down, this is a seriously smooth convertible.

The Japanese design and engineering team, lead by Keiichi Yonada seems to have thought of everything. For example, with the top up the cavernous trunk can take up to 583 litre of luggage. And with the top down, instead of leaving a letterbox through which to post a slim briefcase, they have left a broad 235 litre expanse right at the rear of the compartment, still capable of taking two golf bags laid across.

Instead of rear seats suitable only for legless dwarfs, 5’ 9” of me could happily sit behind myself. Even on 18” wheels with 225/40 and 255/40 tyres front and rear, the ride quality was fine. Steering feedback was good, handling surefooted. The rigid body has extra strengthening underneath so none of the dreaded scuttle shake.

A huge difficulty in creating a four-seater convertible is preventing top down turbulence. Most manufacturers, including Audi, BMW and Peugeot, counter this with windbreak arrangements that fit over the back seats and prevent anyone from sitting there. But that wasn’t good enough for Keiichi Yonada’s team. Instead they have used a windtunnel to refine the shape of the screen and body, so the airflow passes smoothly over the top. As a consequence, very little external noise feeds into the car and there is no buffeting at all, even for rear seat passengers.

As well as that the engineers organised the aircon so you can be cooled while the sun is on your face. The SE-L version even has built in seat coolers. Conversely, if you choose to drop the top in mid winter, seat warmers that extend all the way up your back to keep you nice and snug even if it’s below zero outside.

And, the car has a pleasant, relaxed nature, making it the perfect open-topped cruiser. It’s smooth, sweet and undemanding, yet powerful enough when you need it to be. Driving normally on normal roads, you simply leave it in auto. Ascending or descending the Col de Vence, you use the paddles. But even if you don’t, that excellent transmission makes sensible decisions, rarely dropping a cog half way round a bend or getting flustered on an uphill hairpin.

It isn’t an economy car. Combined economy is a mere 30mpg. But neither is it a car that encourages you to rag it, so I suspect that many owners will at least equal and probably better that combined figure.

And economy is still not bad for a car that makes you feel so good.

The Lexus IS250C is a true all year round car. It’s exceptionally refined. It’s a genuine four-seater. And it has an enormous boot.

It’s a summer car that doesn’t need a winter car as back-up.

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