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Published on Wed, Nov 25, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

ICY HOT By Harvey Schwartz

The all-new 2010 Lexus IS 350C and IS 250C hardtop convertibles give Lexus a coupe and convertible model in the entry luxury segment for the first time. The IS C models combine the expressiveness of a convertible with the athletic styling of a coupe. The IS C models represent Lexus' second convertible and its first since the debut of the SC430 in 2001. Featuring a convenient single-switch operation, the new three-piece hard top provides open-air freedom with the top down without sacrificing the quiet and comfort of a coupe. Constructed primarily of lightweight aluminum, the hard top when closed keeps out cold and wet weather conditions. The four-link roof assembly, also made of aluminum for a lightweight design, provides even movement. Engineered to operate in an efficient manner, each component is motor driven with detection switches, allowing the control unit to know their exact position at all times. In addition to the two main roof panels being constructed of light-weight aluminum, the back window's reinforced glass construction also lends itself to reduced weight. Weather-strip changes in areas around the doors and windows ensure tight seals. A roof-speed brake-control system decreases the roof speed especially as it approaches the end of the closing cycle in either direction, ensuring an elegant and quiet operation. On models equipped with available Intuitive Park Assist (IPA), sonar sensors in the rear bumper will stop the movement of the luggage door at the start of operation if it detects an obstacle that will interfere with a tight close. Also, a visual warning will appear on the instrument panel if a detected obstacle may soon interfere with top operation. When the IS convertible's top is opened or closed, the power windows will automatically lower if in the closed position, and raise back up when the operating toggle switch is held. Also, when the top is up, the door windows automatically lower 15mm when the door opens, and then raise back into a fully closed position when the door closes. This ensures the doors' clean open/close function while also maintaining a tight seal around the glass. The aluminum hard top features an automatic front lock assembly that provides the interior security not found in soft-top convertibles.

When the top is stowed in the down position in the rear, the lock assembly is engaged to keep the panel in a fixed, stable position. The top opens and closes in just 20-seconds. Lexus engineers have been doing their due diligence and have come up with a hard top convertible mechanism that is one of the best. I was impressed with the quickness of the operation, and the quiet ride when the top was closed. The IS convertible silently cuts through the air with a best-in-class 0.29 drag coefficient (Cd). This was accomplished with the help of underbody covers below the engine (with aerodynamic steps), the full floor, and fuel-tank covers, as well as a rear-floor diffuser with vertical fin and airfoil. Other areas that contributed to the low Cd include the design shape of the outer mirrors, high-mount stop lamp, and the rear taillamps. Fender fairings before the front and rear tires reduce airflow into the wheel house, improving aero characteristics and reducing air turbulence. The IS convertible's electronic climate control system automatically adjusts for the outside temperature when the top is lowered, improving interior temperature consistency and comfort. The system adjusts the air outlets, temperature and air flow exiting the outlets. The airflow volume adjusts to outside temperature and vehicle speed, while the temperature control adjusts to outside temperature, amount of sunlight and vehicle speed. The system also includes a pollen filter and variable-control compressor. The IS convertible's body structure has excellent rigidity and strength, achieved by effective structural changes and additions to the existing IS sedan platform. Additional bracing was implemented to help provide excellent handling control, ride comfort and body durability while also minimizing weight gain. Areas that received modifications or additions include the rocker area, A and B pillar under structure, side collision crossmember, and upper and rear-floor crossmembers. Additionally, underfloor braces were added to both the front and the rear. The transformation to a convertible also required reevaluation of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics in order to meet Lexus's high standards. All body and chassis revisions have gone through extensive testing to ensure that the IS250C and IS350C have nearly identical NVH characteristics as the IS sedan. High-rigidity damping materials and asphalt sheets have been added to minimize vibration effects. Redesigned rear-suspension-mount bushings helped to reduce noise and vibration associated with the change in body characteristics from a sedan to a convertible. Additional sound absorption and insulation materials have been optimally positioned to create a quiet, comfortable cabin and a smooth ride over poorly paved roads. The IS C's new exterior design has its lineage in the IS sedan, but possesses its own dynamic styling, including unique characteristics when interchanging between convertible and coupe. With the exception of the hood, all other body panels have been redesigned to blend seamlessly with the new three-panel folding roof.

The convex shoulder lines distinguish the convertible's profile, while the top-up configuration provides a sweeping cabin silhouette. With the top down, the belt line draws up around the rear deck lid, providing a more muscular look. In the front, hood lines flow into a unique chrome grille shape, then continue down into an air inlet before flowing outward past the more distinctive elliptical fog lamp design. The rear view features a clean, continuous design, with flowing bumper corners, a strong bumper shape that flows inward towards the dual exhaust tips. All-new combination taillamp clusters feature LED lights and two distinct horizontal lines that emphasize breadth, while the LED brake light is integrated within the standard rear spoiler imparting a sporty impression. The IS C features two new wheels unique from the IS sedan lineup. Standard 17X7 inch wheels utilize two multi-layered five-spoke patterns for a contemporary 10-spoke design with a clean liquid-graphite finish. Optional 18X8 front and 18X8.5 inch rear wheels have an athletic five-spoke design with asymmetrical changes in shape and a liquid-graphite finish. Both feature the tire-pressure warning system found on the IS sedan. In addition all-season radial tires, an optional run-flat tire is available either with or without a spare, adding to the available luggage space which is not very large because of how the top folds into the trunk. The IS C's interior maintains the luxury touch points associated with the IS sedans, while new comfort and entertainment features provide a consistent atmosphere regardless of top configuration. Special attention was given to providing an attractive interior design when viewing the convertible externally. The door and side trim is fashioned to create continuity and continuous flow from the front to the back. The four-seat configuration provides each passenger with their own comfort space, and the rear-seat console enhances the rear-passenger amenities with cup holders and storage. Two air-vents behind the center console provide extra cooling or heated air to the rear while soft padding on the sides of the console and the outer trim areas improve comfort. The rear headrests are retractable for improved visibility and the lever can easily be accessed from the rear console or from the driver's seat. Rear seat comfort is further enhanced by shifting seat position inboard, providing sizeable headroom. Sport designed eight-way power front seats, including power lumbar support are standard, and the available heated/cooled function has increased heating range to include the shoulder areas and increases airflow in ventilation function. Front seat backs are scaled inward, and slim, leather seat-back pockets help to maximize rear seat legroom.

The gauge cluster is similar to that of the IS sedan, with some additions that add style and function. a higher-contrast multi-information LCD, dial-color change for more contrast and decreased surface-glass transmittance all enhance visibility when the top is down. The multi-information display also includes status of the hardtop while in transformation, providing a bar graph showing its progress. It also displays a warning to inform you if the roof is not completely open/closed, a rear obstacle may impede proper open/close operation, or if the open/close function is not available while the vehicle is in motion. The interior comfort and amenities are excellent but I would suggest that the center screen be moved back several inches and a cover or brow added to keep glare down when the top is open. The interior also adopts recycled materials in 13 various locations including door and side trim. Now for the real fun part as these two convertibles provide a consistent blend of driving performance and comfort in either convertible or coupe configuration. All come with a front double-wishbone suspension and a multilink rear suspension found on the IS sedans. The double-wishbone suspension received a number of changes to provide the handling stability and ride comfort required for a convertible. The torsional rigidity of the suspension bushings were optimized, as was the coil spring constant and the shock absorber damping force. The stabilizer shape and the electronic power steering gear ratio were also revised to help provide improved control and quick reaction to your inputs. The multilink rear setup also received similar changes to suspension bushings, coil springs and shock-damping force. In addition, the rear-suspension tower was lowered with enhanced rigidity to help provide rear control and linear yaw response; it also provides improved trunk space. While the suspension has been softened a bit, the high rigidity and suspension geometry still gives you the opportunity to cut through steep corners with ease and when you turn the stability control system off you can still slide the rear out to maximize the fun of the vehicle, top up or down. The IS convertible models feature the same powertrains as the IS sedans. The IS 350C's 3.5-liter V6 generates a healthy 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. The smaller 2.5-liter V6 engine generates 204 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 185 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Both engines utilize aluminum cylinder blocks and heads, while employing dual VVT-i. A direct-type fuel injection system provides a cooling effect in the cylinders, enabling the high compression needed to extract maximum energy from the fuel. Aside from its larger displacement, the 3.5-liter V6 differs chiefly in that it augments the direct fuel injection with port fuel injectors. In light-and medium-load conditions, these additional injectors help produce a precise burn, increasing power and efficiency, while reducing emissions. A dual exhaust system reduces backpressure at higher rpm's. The advanced six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is standard on the IS350C. The IS250C comes with either a six-speed manual or the paddle-shift, six-speed automatic. I tested the more powerful IS350C and it was all the fun and enjoyment I could handle when the time was right as it zooms out to 60mph from a standstill in just 5.8sec. Plenty fast for a compact hardtop convertible. My back can attest to that!

The new IS convertible emphasizes easy access and rear-seat comfort. In addition to front doors that are 11.8 inches longer than the IS sedans, two convenient fold-forward lock-release levers are standard on both sides of the front passenger seat, making it easier to operate from any location inside the vehicle. In addition, the passenger seat features a power slide button on the top of the seatback to ease rear seat egress and ingress through quick-acting, front-seat fold-and-slide activation. The two passenger doors also have three open-stopping positions, rather than the normal two, to add convenience in various parking situations with different spacing between vehicles. The IS C also is equipped with a standard tilt and telescoping steering column to help you quickly get into the proper position with the beefy, leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels perfect in your hands. The optional Intuitive Park Assist system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car's front and rear bumpers, alerting you and showing distance to objects in the multi-information display with the speedometer. When any IS model is also equipped with the optional navigation system, information on objects detected in the rear are shown in greater detail on that system's seven-inch display via the backup camera. The optional Pre-Collision System (PCS) is package with the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and help maintain a set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. PCS relies on the radar sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car, and a PCS computer with sensor inputs from vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw rate is designed to determine whether a collision is unavoidable. In such a situation, PCS alerts the driver via sound and visual warnings while preemptively retracting front seat belts and pre-initializing Brake Assist so that increase braking will be applied the instant the driver depresses the pedal. Standard Hill-start Assist Control helps prevent the vehicle from moving backward when the driver moves their foot from brake pedal to the throttle. The system is available for the first time with the six-speed manual transmission. The standard Lexus Premium Audio System features a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, and eight speakers. An equalizer system maintains the same acoustic field when the top is either open or closed, compensating for the natural loss of bas sounds when open. In addition to the one-eighth inch audio mini jack on the IS sedan, the IS convertible will also have a standard USB connector in the center console for interface with an iPod that will not only play the music on the device, it will display information on the navigation screen such as artist, album and song track. Bluetooth, Audio wireless connectivity is another new feature available for those customers with compatible devices. Standard XM satellite radio offers a wide variety of programming, while hands-free voice recognition and Bluetooth technology for models without optional navigation allow phone calls to be made and received while driving.

Lexus's latest Hard-Disk Drive (HDD) navigation system, with a new set-up display and increased audio-display tabs, is available on the new IS convertible and is complete with a seven-inch VGA touch-screen, back-up camera, and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather. The navigation system also includes a standard on all navigation-equipped IS convertibles Lexus' latest-voice recognition system, Voice Command, which builds upon the previous generation system's functionality, adding more spoken-command flexibility. With Voice Command users avoid having to speak commands in a specific order. Now this same task can be completed simply by saying, "Call Bob at home." The Voice Command system also works to control many functions of the audio system, heat and A/C, and the navigation system. A Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio system, exclusive to Lexus is optional in conjunction with the navigation system. This 12-speaker audio system features discrete 5.1 multi-channel playback with 5.1-channel speaker architecture. Its 10 amplifier channels provide 270 watts of total output at 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion. The system plays CDs, DVDs, and DVD video discs, plus MP3/WMA-formated CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW, DVD movies can be viewed on the optional navigation system's seven-inch color touch screen when the parking brake is engaged. Lexus safety systems are world-class and include standard Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System (VDIM) which governs all of the car's dynamic handling system-the ABS, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control-employing them collectively and seamlessly to make corrections while helping provide higher dynamic capability. VDIM also interfaces with the electronic throttle control system. The IS convertible features large, ventilated four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, BA and electronic brake force distribution to bring the car to a short and controlled stop from speed. The IS305C is equipped with 13.15-inch front and 12.20-inch rear rotors with aluminum four-piston calipers up front to aid in heat dissipation and stopping power and reduce unsprung weight. The IS250C has 11.65-inch front and 12.20-inch rear rotors. Passive-safety technology begins with a number of body-structure changes integrated in the IS models to help augment strength and torsional rigidity. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters are used for the front seats, while the rear seat adopt emergency locking retractor seatbelts with an automatic locking retractor. In addition to the dual-front airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint System includes new enlarged front-seat-mounted head and torso side airbags, and knee airbags for both the driver and the front passenger. The front-passenger airbag features two chambers, creating an indentation in the center impact area that helps to provide overall occupant protection. The optional HID headlamps paired with the Adaptive Front-Lighting System helps to illuminate a curve as you steer into it. The standard SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button start/stop allows you to keep the access key FOB in a pocket or purse. The standard Homelink programmable garage door opener also operates home security devices and other systems. It looks like all of the major manufactures have or are bringing hardtop convertibles to market with the all-new 2010 Lexus IS C models as one of the best choices with excellent styling, performance, comfort, convenience, creature comforts and safety on par with any other premium hardtop convertible.

© 2009 Words supra and pictures by Harvey Schwartz SIDEBAR COMMENT There's nothing quite like the open air experience of driving a luxury sport convertible with the top down, and the two-door Lexus IS C is one of the best executed iterations of this genre around. With the top up, the IS C feels like a completely different car - leaving very few clues that it's a convertible you're driving. It's as if you own two different cars, except that you only paid for one car and it only takes up one parking space. I'd call that a bargain. - Roy Nakano SUMMARY JUDGMENT It's two luxury sport cars for the price of one. For more information about Lexus products, go to More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at

SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2010 Lexus IS350C Price: $58,250.00 as tested EPA mileage: 18mpg/city, 25mpg/highway (V6) Engine type: 3.5 liter all-aluminum, DOHC V6 with VVT-i Horsepower: 306 at 6,400 rpm Torque: 277 pound-feet at 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear wheel drive Transmission: 6-speed electronically Controlled Automatic with Intelligence (ECT-i) with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Front suspension: Double wishbones with high-mounted upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Multi-link with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 225/45VR17 front and 245/45VR17 rear standard 225/46YR18 front and 255/40YR18 rear optional Brakes: Front: 13.15 in. spiral-vented discs Rear: 12.20 vented discs, full ABS, EBD, BA, VDIM, VSC, Hill Start Assist Control Total length: 182.5 in. Total width: 70.9 in. Total height: 55.9 in. with 18 in. wheels Curb weight: 3,880 pounds (V6)

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