A JEWEL MORE DEAR
by Casey Williams
My partner equated the Lexus SC430 to a Faberge Egg, beautiful in its turtle dove shape, divine with its Mark Levinson audio system, and open to heaven with the hard top retracted. The car’s interior was equally stunning with high-grade leather, wood, and chrome finishes. I couldn’t have felt more special driving it. Although, when retracted, the top put a scary proportion of its weight over the rear low-profile tires, the suspension was not up to the task of handling less than glass roads, and legs were not an acceptable form of mobility if you wished to store yourself in the rear seats.
Although positioned a couple of rungs below the departed SC in the Lexus family, the IS250C is a jewel more dear. Its beauty is at least as radiant, the interior is divine, and its handling is a couple of strata higher. Summer is still a few months off, but the IS is a delight even in winter.
IS models most dramatically exhibit Lexus’ “L-Finesse” styling language that combines a rounded chrome grille with dynamic side sculpting, arching roofline, high deck, and wrap-around taillamps. The car looks athletic with its wide rear flanks, 18″ alloy wheels, low-profile tires, and unabashedly Asian shape with its wind-sculpted profile. It’s feng shui meets muscle boy. Top up or down, the IS250C looks like a movie star – less special than the SC430, but a more exciting design overall.
Lexus installed one of the most beautiful interiors of any compact luxury car. The woodgrain center console with precise gated shifter, touch screen, and automatic climate controls could have been lifted from the top-flight LS600h, albeit on a reduced scale. I loved moving the perfectly sized three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel through my hands as I made the needles move. Heated (and ventilated) leather seats and insta-warm vents encouraged my winter-weary heart to smile.
Making use of the technology showcase brings further joy. As with the big LS, IS comes with a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel for the perfect driving position. In-dash navigation handles all of the routing chores while auto up/down front windows make zipping through the coffee hut drive-through simple. Mark Levinson audio systems are beyond compare, bringing studio sound to Lexus cabins. XM Satellite radio, CD changer, 12 speakers, and 5.1 Channel Architecture made great tunes grand. Best of all, real humans can sit in the rear seat, allowing three friends to visit your leather-lined happy place.
Under the aero brow is a little hummingbird 2.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 that produces 204 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. It routes power through a paddle-shifted manumatic transmission to the rear wheels. Scampering the car down the highway is never a problem, and it cruises easily at near triple-digit speeds, but the IS250 is no muscle car. For that, you have to sign for an IS350C. Still, there is something gratifying about wringing power out of a smaller engine attached to a light and fun sport coupe. Best of all, it comes with fuel economy ratings of 21/29-MPG city/highway.
The IS platform, whether under a sedan or convertible, is by far Lexus’ most sporty vehicle architecture. Double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension set-ups give the car a crisp, tossable feel that is a joy the first, fifth, and three-thousandth time you slip behind the wheel. Ventilated front and rear anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control keep the little weezer heading in the right direction. The IS250 will constantly remind you that it is a sport coupe over rough roads, but nasty harshness was eradicated. Even with the top stowed, the car is well balanced and moves itself like the pedigreed car it is.
From the moment the IS automatically unlocks its door and starts with the press of a button, it is a jewel of near-perfect clarity. The design is spot on, interior features rival flagship luxury sedans, and the convertible hardtop looks great up in winter or stowed in summer. I wish the bitter weather would go away so I could put sunglasses on this celeb and take it for a long evening drive. It may not be a Faberge Egg, but it will make eggs benedict out of other convertibles.
As tested price: $48,200.