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The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-p1010022.jpgIn the Lexus marque's 20-year history, the IS has been the only one of its models to be offered in more than one body style. Besides the ubiquitous 4-door sedan, the first generaton of the Lexus IS was offered in the distinctive and rare SportCross 5-door hatchback/wagon variant. The more homogenized and comformist to the rest of the model range second-generaton Lexus IS, however, debuted for the 2006 model year solely as a 4-door sedan. (Some may consider the short and long-wheelbase variants of the 4th-generation Lexus LS as two separate body styles, but this author disagrees, and distinguishes between two lengths of the same body style and two distinct body styles). As far back as the 2004 New York Auto Show (exactly a year before the 2nd-generation IS sedan's North American debut), Lexus debuted the LF-C concept as a preview for a possible IS 2-door retractable-hardtop convertible. Four and a half years later, its much watered-down production version, the Lexus IS C, made its world debut at the 2008 Paris Auto Show.

Meet Junichi Furuyama, Lexus IS C Chief Engineer
Over ten years ago, Lexus sent Wahei Hirai (now the soon-to-retire head of Toyota global design) and his group of designers to France's Côte d'Azur, with its blue skies, elegant white villas and Riva powerboats streaking across the Mediterranean to design the marque's first retractable hardtop convertible, the 2nd-generation Lexus SC. Now, half a world away, another affluent coastal location, The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California hosted the Lexus IS C Press Preview, which was kicked off by a brief presentation by the IS Convertible's Chief Engineer, Junichi Furuyama (pictured at the top of this story). He joined Toyota Motor Corporation in 1979, and his first assignment was as a Chassis Engineer for the Toyota Land Cruiser, followed by a stint as Assistant Chief Engineer of the Toyota Hilux pickup truck from 1999 to 2000. This was quickly followed by his first assignment as Chief Engineer, for the current, soon-to-be-replaced Toyota 4Runner (and his first Lexus-badged vehicle, its GX 470 counterpart). In 2003 came his second Chief Engineer assignment for the current Toyota Yaris. Lest you think all this truck and SUV background makes Furuyama-san ill-prepared to engineer a Lexus convertible, we'd argue quite the opposite. Compensating for the loss of structural rigidity a vehicle undergoes when its roof is not an integral, permanent part of its body structure is not that far removed from the challenges in designing a truck or SUV that maintains a tight, solid, rattle-free build as it conquers bumpy, unpaved roads while carrying heavy loads.

Designing an electric mechanism for a 3-part retractable hardtop (as opposed to the 2nd-generation Lexus SC's hydraulic mechanism for its simpler 2-part top) fully in-house (no running to Karmann or Webasto as a number of other carmakers have done) is, by Furuyama-san's own description, the biggest challenge in his 30-year engineering career.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-011_is_c-prv.jpgTrick roof may well be an understatement
The mere act of hacking off the Lexus IS's roof results in a 50% loss in structural rigidity. The major engineering trick is regaining as much of that rigidity as possible while allowing for a retractable top and not incurring armored car-like levels of weight gain in the process. Among Chief Engineer Junichi Furuyama's first edicts was the use of aluminum for the roof component panels to save weight. An eye-popping 15 electric motors and sensors in 37 locations ensure quick yet smooth operation of the top mechanism. The top opens in a class-leading 20 seconds. As the roof is raised, on the other hand, it slows down as it latches onto the windshield in a smooth, quiet and graceful motion.

The roof itself folds compactly enough into the admittedly tall and stubby-looking tail to allow for 10.8 cubic feet of storage space with the top up (a mere 2.2 cubic feet less than the sedan) and 2.36 cubic feet with the top down and a standard space-saver spare tire. This allows for the storage of two golf bags with the top up and one golf bag with the top down. That's more cargo room than the BMW 3-Series Convertible without a spare tire. Remember that BMW believes in the dictatorship of the run-flat tire. (To this author, their sundry cost, ride, handling, increased wear and need for a specialized tire shop for repairs penalties outweigh their advantages). Lexus, on the other hand, believes in freedom of choice and, if you're so inclined, offers a run-flat option that allows for a slightly deeper trunk. And, although the new Infiniti G37 Convertible is, to this author's eye, the most beautiful of the entry-luxury retractable-hardtop convertibles, "with the top down, you'd be hard-pressed to fit two Ziploc freezer baggies back there. That is, if you can get the trunk open in the first place - the heavy lid lacks any kind of handle and is difficult to open" according to Jason Cammisa of Automobile magazine.

A front acoustic windshield and a convertible class-leading top-up 0.29 coefficient of drag (just a notch below the sedan's 0.28) helps keep things quiet in the Lexus IS C, as does an available accessory windblocker. As to keeping things solid, a thick-plated rocker panel structure with a 50% larger profile than the IS sedan is used in the open IS. The underbody adds front and rear sub-frame V-braces; torque boxes below the A-pillar and behind the rear sub-frame; an M-brace just forward of the rear sub-frame and a full-width underfloor trapezoid brace. In addition, torsional/collision reinforcements have been applied to the rocker panels, A & B pillars, rear body, doors and instrument panel cross-member. Further contributing to increased torsional rigidity are a thicker-wall tube dash support and box-beams under the front of and behind the rear seat back.

Overall, these structural upgrades give the Lexus IS C a mere 15% loss in structural rigidity versus its sedan counterpart.

The dawn of the two-ton IS? Thankfully, no.
It is inevitable, of course, that, no matter how careful the engineers are, the sedan-to-convertible transition adding roof mechanisms and all sorts of beams and measures to maintain structural rigidity will result in a curb weight gain for the topless variant. Fortunately, Furuyama-san and his crew of engineers kept the weight gain for the IS C models versus their sedan counterparts to reasonably low figures. The IS 350C's 3,880 lb curb weight, with its 353 lb gain over the 3,527 lb IS 350 sedan, is within a pound of the 352 pounds the BMW 335i convertible gains versus its sedan counterpart. And even the greater weight differences between the IS 250C models versus the IS 250 sedans (IS 250C manual weighs 3,840 lbs, for a 385 lb gain over the sedan; and IS 250C automatic weighs 3,814 lbs, for a 379 lb gain over the sedan) still fall below the 452 lb weight gain for the BMW 328i convertible versus its sedan counterpart, not to mention the eye-popping 495 lb-to-514 lb weight gain (depending on transmission) reported by the Infiniti G37 convertible versus the G37 sedan. And, yes, the Infiniti breaks past the two-ton curb weight barrier, while the BMW 335i convertibles come within 50 or so pounds of the mark, since the BMW 335i models are a surprising 77-78 lbs heavier than their Lexus IS 350 rivals.

Quite mystifying to this author, however, is why the lower-powered Lexus IS 250C and BMW 328i convertibles report a greater curb weight gain versus their sedan progeny than their higher-powered IS 350C and 335i versions that could "afford" more of a gain in avoirdupois.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-img_0430_sized.jpgWhat else changes on the IS C versus the IS sedan?
Quite a bit, actually, and more than you'd imagine. The hood, headlamps, door handles and mirrors are the only four exterior body components shared by the 2nd-generation Lexus IS C with its sedan counterpart. Contrary to appearances, the upper grille is NOT interchangeable with the 2nd-generation IS sedan's, and the convertible introduces yet another clashing-with-the-upper-grille texture for the lower grille. This time, it's a pattern of vertical diamond or lozenge-shaped rhombuses that remind this author of an endless sea of Renault logos. Lay them on their side so that they're horizontal, and splash them across both grilles, however, and you'd be onto something.

Travel down the side of the car, and, naturally, you'll spot a single door per side, almost a foot longer than the front doors of the current IS sedan. The longer convertible doors, by the way, have 3 stage door stops, as opposed to the IS sedan's 2 stage stop. The taillights are quite different from the sedan's as well (and, arguably, more attractive than those on the 2009 IS sedan). There are LEDs galore (164 between the two taillights, with another 24 on the central high-mount stop lamp on the trunk lid). None for the headlights, though (those are reserved for a couple of the hybrid Lexus models). Wheel designs are also unique to the IS C, with a 10-spoke (actually, dual 5-spoke) 17" x 8" wheel standard and a 5-spoke 18" x 8" front / 18" x 8½" rear staggered option.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-img_0561_sized.jpgThe chassis, too, sees its fair share of changes beyond the extra reinforcements previously discussed. There is a new rear suspension tower, reinforced rear shock absorber upper support bracket, and retuned or revised coil springs, shock absorbers, suspension mounts and bushings. And, in a welcome change given the Lexus IS 250C's extra weight, the rear brakes are upgraded from the 11.45" solid discs of the IS 250 sedans to the 12.2" vented discs used on all IS 350s. That extra weight, of course, also affects the IS C's acceleration figures versus the IS sedans'. 0-60 mph acceleration for both IS 250C models is 8.4 seconds, a full half-second slower than the IS 250 rear-wheel-drive sedans (and, incidentally, 0.1 seconds slower than the IS 250 AWD sedan). Quarter-mile times, meanwhile, are 0.3 seconds slower for the droptop versions (16.5 seconds IS 250C manual vs 16.2 seconds IS 250 manual sedan / 16.4 seconds IS 250C automatic vs 16.1 seconds IS 250 automatic sedan). The lower weight gain for the IS 350C, naturally, lessens its dropoff in performance, with 0-60 times that are 0.2 seconds slower (5.8 seconds IS 350C vs 5.6 seconds IS 350 sedan) and quarter-mile times off by a mere tenth of a second (14.1 seconds IS 350C vs 14 seconds IS 350 sedan).

The interior, naturally, includes a litany of changes. The most visible, of course, is the new two-passenger rear seat. All the reinforcements and roof mechanisms have forced the rear seatbelts to be reconfigured, and they are mounted on the center of the seat, as opposed to the outboard mounting of most cars' rear belts. Drop-down rear headrests via remote lever, a common Mercedes-Benz feature, make their first appearance on a Lexus vehicle in the IS C. Merely pulling the lever on the front edge of the rear center console (easily accessible from the front seats) does the trick. Other IS C-specific interior goodies include standard easy entry rear seat access with power passenger seat slide (upgraded to one-touch easy entry driver & passenger power seat tilt & slide as part of the Luxury Package), increased seat ventilation airflow output and numerous upgrades and software changes to both the climate control and audio systems (standard as well as optional Mark Levinson) for functional optimization in both top up and top down modes.

For more on the Lexus IS C models, be sure to check out the official Lexus Newsroom Press Release and the Preliminary Product Information document.

Is the 2010 IS C previewing some of the changes to the 2010 IS sedans?
For a combination of product cadence reasons (the rhythm or intervals at which new generations of a vehicle are launched) and maintaining carmakers' fleets' overall Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers as high as possible, the "launch next year's cars the previous September or October" business model is long a thing of the past in the car biz. This year, in particular, Toyota has turned that business model on its head. As of this writing (mid-May 2009), 2010 models of the Corolla, Matrix, Camry, Tundra, Sequoia and Scion tC are available on dealers' lots. With the Lexus IS C scheduled to go on sale starting in late May as a 2010 model, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the 2010 IS sedans arrive earlier than the traditional late September/early October 2009 for the 2010 models. A close look at Lexus' press materials provide important clues as to what we can expect for the sedans. Some, in fact, were virtually confirmed by Lexus officials, while others weren't, but, nonetheless, merit some discussion.

Standard fitment of XM Satellite Radio; a new Bluetooth audio protocol for MP3 players that allows them to
be connected wirelessly to the audio system for playback and control, including a 1/8" mini-jack analog audio input and USB input for ‘thumb drives’; numerous enhancements to the Sixth-Generation Navigation System; and the addition of HAC (Hill-start Assist Control) for both manual and automatic transmissions to the suite of VDIM functions are a given for the 2010 IS sedans. Don't expect the 2010 IS sedans to get the convertibles' new wheel designs and mildly revised instrument panel dial color and subtle brushed chrome dial surrounds, since these were just revised for the '09 sedans. Also highly unlikely for the sedans are revised, thinner curved profile front seats akin to those on the convertibles. A shame, as they would help improve the IS sedans' tight rear legroom.

A detail worth watching is whether the 2010 IS F will receive the new-for-2009 IS 250 / IS 350 taillight design with the larger "L"-shaped backup lights, or soldier on for a third model year with the original 2006-2008 IS 250 / IS 350 taillights.

As to the 2010 IS 250 and IS 350 sedan exterior color palette, we expect the IS C and RX's Cerulean Blue Metallic to replace the very similar but slightly darker Breakwater Blue Metallic. Adding Ultrasonic Blue Mica to the V6 IS sedan color palette would be a dream come true for this author, but this possibility was neither confirmed nor denied by the folks at Lexus.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-09-05-11-lexus-japan-c-interior-colors.jpgThe Japanese Domestic Market's expanded IS C color palette
Speaking of color choices, back in January, my.IS posted a Front Page story listing the seven exterior and three interior color options available in the United States for the Lexus IS C. The always well-informed Kevin RE Watts, who, under the krew screen name is the author of the excellent The Lexus Enthusiast fan blog, in a recent article notes that the Japanese Domestic Market's choices are significantly broader. In addition to the seven U.S. market exterior choices, Japanese buyers can select Black Sapphire Pearl (a dark blue/black that has been a mainstay of the Lexus IS sedan palette since the 2007 model year) and an enigmatic dark amethyst/gray-violet shade that bears the 9AL color code that is, to our knowledge, unavailable in North America in any Toyota or Lexus vehicle.

The interior seating color options in Japan are downright mind-boggling, and add Light Grey and Alabaster two-tone; Red and Alabaster two-tone; and Light Gray Leather; plus what appears to be Black or Alabaster cloth options to the U.S. market choices. Further, while in the States the Dark Grey Bird's Eye Maple wood or Metallic Finish are the only available interior trim options, Japanese buyers can also select what appears to be Golden Brown Bird’s-Eye Maple or Red Walnut.

In a notable aside, the Blue and Alabaster two-tone interior as sold in Japan uses blue carpeting that matches the seats' accent color, but this was nixed by Lexus USA, and we, instead, get black carpeting. Whether we will eventually get any of those other two-tone leathers in the U.S. is an open question that will surely depend on what sort of reception the admittedly polarizing Blue and Alabaster two-tone interior receives in this country. Another curious discovery is that, even though Japan offers a Lexus IS 350 sedan, the IS C is only available in its home market as an IS 250C automatic.

More IS C facts and figures
Lexus builds the IS 250 and IS 350 sedans at both the Tahara and Kyushu plants in Japan. With the IS F being built only at Tahara, it makes sense that Lexus has decided to concentrate IS C production at the Kyushu plant in Fukuoka, Japan. (On the other hand, this makes the prospect of a future IS FC - or IS CF - trickier, although that hasn't stopped at least one prominent American team from trying. Stay tuned for that my.IS Front Page story...)

Toyota spokesman Hideki Homma informs us that Lexus expects to sell 1600 IS Cs per month worldwide, with roughly 70% of the shipments going to North America, which translates to about 1120 cars monthly. Separately, Lexus' U.S. Vice President of Marketing Dave Nordstrom noted that "we expect to sell around 1000 a month". This implies sales of 100-120 IS Cs per month in Canada.

Those numbers, by the way, are about 15 times the sales figures for the other Lexus retractable-hardtop convertible, the 2nd-generation SC 430, as Drew Johnson of Left Lane News reminds us. When Kathy Jackson of Automotive News asked if the Lexus SC's days were numbered, however, she was met with all sorts of evasive hems and haws and no unequivocal clear-cut answers from Lexus officials.

Mr. Nordstrom also reminded us that, with its MSRP of $38,940, the Lexus IS 250C is the only hard-top luxury convertible with a base price under $39,000, which is over $6000 less than the base MSRP of the segment-leading BMW 328i Convertible. In fact, an IS 250C equipped with navigation and the Luxury Package is still priced below the BMW's less well-equipped base price.

Live a little, a lot
With that tagline and a reminder that "You have 2.5 billion seconds to live. Use them wisely", Lexus has embraced both traditional and new media for its IS C launch campaign. “The IS C gives Lexus the opportunity to reveal its more dynamic, adventurous and playful side,” states Dave Nordstrom. “For the launch of the long-awaited IS C, we created a new advertising campaign that allows us to showcase the vehicle’s unique personality and give consumers a glimpse of the adrenaline rush the IS C delivers.” The three dedicated IS C TV broadcast ads, titled "Hop In", "Look Out" and "Running" have been posted on YouTube, as has the new 2010 Lexus IS full-line commercial titled "Scream", which reminds us that "this is liberation through acceleration".

More marketing information and details on joint projects with UrbanDaddy.com and Brash Media appear in an official Lexus USA Newsroom Press Release. And don't forget to visit Lexus USA's official LiveALittle IS C microsite.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-033_is_c-prv.jpgEnough talk. Let's drive!
In our my.IS Front Page story on the Lexus IS C's 2008 Paris Auto Show launch, this author expressed disappointment at its styling, especially in top-up mode. And a first viewing "in the metal" at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show did nothing to assuage the tepid response. The old "Pictures don't do it justice. It looks so much better in person" canard simply wasn't true then. Viewing a number of them, in various colors, out in the real world in natural light, however, partly brings that truism to life. The IS C, top down, looks interesting as the undulating convex-to-concave-and-back (or is it the other way around?) sculpturing on the outer edges of the trunk lid that lead to vestigial humps behind the rear seats has an interesting flair. Top up, however, the obvious roof cut lines and somewhat awkward angles remain. Granted, this is something endemic to the four-seater, 3-piece retractable hardtop convertible genre, but a top-up Lexus IS C is still not a super-attractive vehicle.

Even though a top-down IS C in Ultrasonic Blue Mica is an attention-getter, the specs of the various IS Cs available for journalists to drive trumped their looks or exterior colors, and the first available one that intrigued this author and his "partner-in-crime" (and Club Lexus Editor) Ryan (Flipside909) was a lavishly-equipped Tungsten Pearl (silver) IS 350C with black interior, Luxury Package, Mark Levinson stereo with Navigation and, most intriguingly, the 19" F-Sport accessory forged alloy wheels mounted on the same Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires used on the IS F, as well as the upgraded F-Sport brakes. Alas, the suspension was stock, and the IS C lacks the Sport or X-Package options of its sedan parent.

We left the top down, intrigued to see if Lexus' efforts to ensure that top-down motoring was a quiet, relaxing and unruffled experience were successful. And, indeed, they were. Ryan and I were able to talk in a normal tone of voice without needing to shout or raise our voices to be heard over the din of wind roar. Bear in mind, though, that all the Lexus IS C test drives were held on public streets in traffic, with a smattering of freeways and mildly undulating roads, as opposed to the more enthusiast-friendly Laguna Seca Racetrack and neighboring mountain road twisties we drove for the IS F Press Preview.

Anyone who's owned a convertible or roadster for a while (such as yours truly) will tell you that open-top motoring is not only about choosing to drop the top, but about the workout your power window motors will get as you flick back and forth between lowering the windows for truly open, elbows-on-the-windowsill driving at slow, cruising speeds and raising them to maintain a modicum of comfort at faster freeway speeds. And here, Lexus has committed a major faux pas. The much-loved and highly convenient one-touch-up and down feature for all windows that is a given on all newer Lexus models is only half-present on the IS C, as in it only applies to the front windows. Should you want to raise or lower the rear side windows, you'll have to do each one individually, and keep your finger in each switch until it's fully up or down. Worse, if your back seat passengers want to raise or lower them, you, the driver, will have to do it for them, as there are no rear window switches in the back seat area!

Otherwise, the IS 350C will feel, for the most part, utterly familiar to 2nd-generation IS 350 sedan owners. The 3.5-liter 2GR-FSE V6 handles the convertible's extra weight with nary a quibble and only the slightest dropoff in response. On our return, Ryan had the presence of mind to switch on the transmission's Sport mode and, at a traffic stop, switch off the VDIM, and the IS 350C hustled along quite nicely.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-img_0268_sized.jpgUpon our return to The Resort at Pelican Hill, we had the opportunity to open the trunk for a closer first-hand look. We were struck and surprised to see a beige-trimmed trunk and trunk floor mat in a black-interior car, and asked Lexus representatives if this was, perhaps, a minor quirk or foible in these pre-production prototypes. Hardly, we learned, and all production IS C's, regardless of interior color, will have this beige trunk, with the reasoning being the oldest trick in the decorating book: if you have a small space, you use light colors to make it seem bigger.

A macho convertible is not an oxymoron
Convertibles are often derisively referred to as "chick cars" or "hairdresser's cars", a knock that, frankly, they don't always deserve. As Lexus USA's Vice President of Marketing Dave Nordstrom notes, "Demographics for luxury convertible buyers are pretty similar across all brands, with the male/female gender split close to 50/50". An upcoming Brash’s Road Trip “Guys Getaway” unique editorial feature on the Brash.com website will highlight the Lexus IS C as the ultimate vehicle for, yes, guys looking to get away. And, by adding its full suite of F-Sport suspension, wheel, brake, intake and exhaust upgrades to a black-on-black (or, more properly, Obsidian-on-black) IS 350C, Lexus has created one mean-looking, take-no-prisoners ride that looks anything but feminine.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-img_0352_sized.jpgThis was the second IS C Flipside909 and I were able to drive, and, as the sonorous, melodic rumble of the F-Sport Exhaust sprang to life, we were immediately reminded that this was no run-of-the-mill Lexus IS. The F-Sport Suspension certainly provided for a lively, entertaining and sporting drive on what passed for twisties on our driving route, and, as we made our way through Newport Beach traffic in our black IS C, Fast Cars by Hellbent, with its original Knight Rider theme sample made for a half-appropriate and half-ironic soundtrack. And, speaking of 50/50, one unexpected benefit of the extra weight of the IS C's convertible top mechanism and reinforcements is that it actually balances out the front-to-rear weight distribution of the car to 50% front/50% rear, as opposed to the 54% front/46% rear of the IS F and IS 250 AWD or the 52% front/48% rear of the other Lexus IS sedans.

In a second stint in this bad-boy IS C, we decided to raise the robotop and see what a Lexus IS F-Sport coupe feels like to drive. It is, of course, notably quieter than in top-down mode, yet, in freeway driving, the F-Sport Exhaust note becomes something of a droning noise that may not be to everyone's taste. Also, some road boom that is not readily apparent in the sedan makes itself felt in the convertible.

Does the windscreen work as a windblocker?
During its presentation, Lexus made much of the fact that the available accessory windscreen that fits over the rear seats cuts down on top-down wind noise, and urged us to try it for ourselves. And that, precisely, is what we did for our third test drive. The windscreen nomenclature may be a tad confusing to the Anglophiles among us, who use the term for what we Yanks call the windshield, but it is, in fact, a fine mesh screen that may also be referred to as a windblocker.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-p1010023.jpgLexus has cleverly added a small circular plate behind each rear speaker mounted just behind the front doors. On cars with the windblocker, this plate is replaced with a similar one with a central hole or "grommet". It is here that the windscreen attaches, and it is easy to attach or remove, as the case may be, and folds easily for stowing in the trunk.

This particular IS 350C was a twin of the Matador Red exterior/Alabaster interior car that made its way from the IS C's world debut at the Paris Auto Show to appearances in Los Angeles and Detroit, outfitted with the optional 5-spoke 18" wheels. As we returned to top-down driving for this one, we were able to ascertain that, indeed, the windscreen works as advertised and makes the open cabin an even more relaxing place to be. Alas, a semi-close call in city traffic served as a swift reminder that, good as the standard factory brakes are, they are no match for the blue-calipered F-Sport binders of our previous two IS Cs. And, curiously, this particular IS C had a trace of cowl shake that was not really apparent in the other IS convertibles we drove. It's hard to pinpoint, however, whether the firmer (and absent in this red car) F-Sport underpinnings help mitigate this, or if we're simply dealing with typical, normal car-to-car (or, more accurately, pre-production prototype-to-pre-production prototype) variations.

Row your own. Is it worth it?
The other Lexus IS C that Ryan and I were anxious to drive was an IS 250C Manual. A single available test car in that configuration, though, ensured that it would be a high-demand commodity among the journalists assembled by Lexus. Finally, though, we had our opportunity. Like the first IS C we drove, this one had a Tungsten Pearl exterior. Unlike that first IS C, though, this one had the love-it-or-hate-it Blue & Alabaster Two-Tone interior.

The return of the alternate Lexus IS bodystyle-img_0499_sized.jpgThough shod with the factory 18" wheel option and the standard brakes, this IS 250C had a couple of F-Sport touches, namely the Performance Clutch Set, which increases clamping force approximately 16 percent to handle higher torque capacity and provide improved feel; the weighted leather and genuine carbon fiber Shift Knob; and the Quick Shifter, which decreases shift throws by approximately 35 percent for quicker and more positive shifting. Take the latter claim with a grain of salt, however. During this author's first exposure to a Lexus IS 250 Manual, at a Tarrytown, New York event, "the clutch and manual shifter action (felt) smooth, fluid and reassuringly familiar to anyone who has driven an IS300 Manual. If anything, the shifter throws seem a tad shorter than the longish throws on the IS300". Either time or the F-Sport Quick Shifter haven't been kind, however, for the overriding impression of the IS 250C Manual shifter is of a vague rubbery feel that is more akin to a front-wheel-drive transaxle than to a crisp rear-wheel-drive transmission. It seems that the RA62 6-speed manual transmission's Toyota Tacoma pickup roots are showing after all...

Also, at one particular uphill point on our driving route, I was flooring the gas pedal so hard in an attempt to maintain momentum that my right foot would've surely done a Fred Flintstone had it not been for the Lexus' solid build quality. That's what you get, I suppose, when you ask 204 hp and 185 lb/ft of torque to propel just over 3800 lbs of car.

And, in a final quibble, the "improved Navigation System voice command function" is spotty under top-down, city traffic conditions. Then again, that might be expecting a bit much of any voice control system.

Still, the Lexus IS C marks an important milestone as the carmaker's first-ever entry luxury convertible. An IS 350C, especially with the F-Sport suspension and brakes, is a fast and fun drive that lets you drop the top and bring the sunshine in when the mood strikes, all without the unpredictable reliability of the rival German marques. And don't let the modest, on-paper 25.9 inches of rear seat legroom fool you. Several stints riding in that back seat for a Lexus IS C consumer drive event in Newport Beach, California a couple of days after the Press Event were reasonably comfortable. The curved profile front seats certainly help make the rear seats more habitable.

And now, the Thank Yous
We at my.IS would be remiss if we didn't thank all those responsible for making this memorable opportunity possible, starting with Mark Templin, Lexus USA group Vice President and General Manager. The Press Preview itself was hosted by the aforementioned Lexus IS C Chief Engineer, Junichi Furuyama and Dave Nordstrom, Lexus' U.S. Vice President of Marketing, joined by Lexus College's Paul Williamsen. Equally important and pivotal roles were played by Brian Bolain, Lexus' National Marketing/Lifecycle Strategy Manager and Julie Alfonso, Manager of Lexus Division Communications. As for their hospitality, we'd like to thank the staff of The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California as well as Jenece Waid.

Photo Credits
Photos 1 & 9: jruhi4
Photos 2 & 6: Lexus USA Newsroom
Photos 3, 4, 7, 8 & 10 : Flipside909
Photo 5: Lexus Japan website via The Lexus Enthusiast blog
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Last edited by jruhi4; 05-24-2009 at 02:53 PM. Reason: New concluding sentence on weight distribution added to 2nd paragraph of "Macho convertible...oxymoron" section
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-10-2009, 01:42 AM
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A brilliantly written article Joaquin!
This car has grown on me, largely for your composition of illustrations and detail!

Now if only I'd never went into debt on an IS-F, I'd never have realized the speed I was missing to gain the drop top and nix the 2 extra doors!
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 02:28 PM
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Joaquin, you must invite me to a road test. Would love to critique and shoot with you. Excellent article.

Tony | Photographer | 2007 GFM IS350
Serving Lexus IS Enthusiasts Since 1999
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 08-10-2009, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tony View Post
Joaquin, you must invite me to a road test. Would love to critique and shoot with you. Excellent article.
It'd definitely be cool having you as well. I'm guessing the next big one will be for the U.S. launch of the CT 200h some time next year: Lexus' "C-Premium" upmarket small car gets a name: CT 200h...

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