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The hard-top convertible variant of the compact Lexus IS line, the IS 250C combines luxurious trim and features with the sporting feel of open-air motoring. Despite appearances, this isn't a sports car and doesn't pretend to be one. The drop-top IS is a posh cruiser with a relaxing ride and high-quality materials throughout, a formula that has converted legions of affluent buyers to the Lexus brand.
Although more powerful IS models exist, the 250C rides with a 2.5-liter V6 with 204 horsepower and your choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The overwhelming majority of buyers will opt for the automatic, but it's nice that Lexus accommodates the outliers, too. Notably, the IS is rear-drive like its sportier German competition and larger luxury cars.
Acceleration with the smallish V6 is certainly adequate, but not a selling point. The driving experience is smooth but not thrilling, and hushed with the metal top in place. Convertible buyer aren't usually looking for a big back seat, which is a good thing since the rear of the IS is best suited to short trips and children. Trunk is sufficient for weekend trips and grocery shopping so long as the top is up; folding the top away limits trunk space to a golf bag. The cabin feels indulgent thanks to relaxing front bucket seats and leather upholstery on almost every surface.
To cover a wider swath of the market, Lexus offers two upgrade packages: Luxury and F Sport. In luxury trim, the IS 250C sports upgraded climate-controlled seats, bird's-eye maple wood, and rain-sensing wipers. What's more, both front seats fold down at the touch of a button to allow access to the rear.
Opting instead for the F Sport gets you a firmer suspension setup, metallic interior trim, and five-spoke 18-inch wheels. The F-Sport gives up that supple Lexus ride in return for more aggressive handling. Some buyers will find it too harsh, and others won't be able to live without it. What will draw both camps to the IS 250C is its sexy convertible body and strong Lexus identity.
The IS 250C comes standard with all the convenience features expected in this class of luxury car. It also boasts a few touches that cost extra on some competitors: a six-disc CD player, leather trim throughout the cabin, chrome exhaust tips, and home-entry control system. Since it's a convertible, audiophiles might want to spring for the 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with integrated navigation ($3,410). The available Luxury Package adds heated and ventilated seats with upgraded leather and a power-folding feature; bird's-eye maple trim; and rain-sensing wipers. For a more aggressive feel, there's the F Sport Package with 18-inch wheels, firmer suspension tuning, and sportier trim inside and out.