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Lexus IS Convertible Anne-Marie Jackson/The Globe and Mail (Anne-Marie Jackson/Anne-Marie Jackson/THE GLOBE AND)
Lexus IS Convertible Anne-Marie Jackson/The Globe and Mail (Anne-Marie Jackson/Anne-Marie Jackson/THE GLOBE AND)

2010 Lexus IS C

Why wait to go topless? Add to ...

The weather is finally nice enough to drive topless everyday, but you really didn't have to wait: there are hard-top convertibles you can drive year-round.

One of the newest is the two-door, four-seat 2010 Lexus IS C (the C stands for convertible), which comes in two trims - the 250C for $52,100 and the 350C for $60,400.

The IS C is a two-door four-seat convertible; in the winter, keep the roof closed and it looks like a sleek coupe. When springtime hits, drop the top for some serious fun.

The swift-folding three-piece hardtop roof drops in about 20 seconds with the touch of one button. It operates smoothly and easily - there are no frustrating latches or clasps to fiddle with.

With the roof closed, visibility is poor - thick rear pillars and big rear headrests obstruct your view. But the solution is simple - drop the top for great all-around visibility. The rear headrests also fold down with the touch of another button for better visibility.

Trunk space is impressive when the roof is up - there's 553 litres of room. But with it down, space is skimpy. There's only 205 litres - barely enough room for a grocery bag or two.

Compared to other hardtop convertibles, like the sexy Infiniti G37 and the BMW 3-Series, the IS C is bland and conservative in its design. But the 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lamps and HID headlamps are nice touches.

If you're listening to music on the six-disc CD changer or MP3/WMA player, the audio system will adjust automatically when driving topless - the volume increases on its own to compensate for excess wind. The air conditioning adjusts, too - a convenient feature so the driver can concentrate on the road rather than the radio or temperature in the cabin.

The wind blocker is also fantastic - it's one of the best I've ever tested. Your locks will stay put at all speeds - there's no need to brush out frizzy tangles after a ride.

My tester, the IS 250C, has a 2.5-litre V-6 engine that delivers 204 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. The IS 350C gets 306 hp and 277 lb-ft from its 3.5-litre V-6.

The 250C comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but my tester has an optional six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters ($1,600). The 350C only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission - no manual transmission is offered.

The I 250C doesn't ride and handle like a zippy little sports car. In fact, the ride is lacklustre. It's soft and not as tight as a BMW 3-Series cabriolet, for instance. The steering feels light, too.

But the convertible offers extra protection in winter and a nice leisurely ride in summer. When the roof is closed, it's whisper quiet - there's no wind or engine noise in the cabin, which isn't often the case if you're driving a ragtop. It also soaks up potholes and other degradations in the road well.

As for fuel economy, my tester is rated 8.4 L/100 km combined highway and city driving; the IS 350C is rated at 9.9 L/100 km combined. Premium fuel is required.

You can use the hands-free wallet-sized smart card to lock/unlock the convertible's doors, open the trunk and start the engine - as long as the fob is nearby, it'll do the trick.

Nestled in the front, you're comfortable and surrounded by luxury. Fit and finish and the quality of the materials is impressive - as expected from a Lexus. Parts of the interior are also made with recycled material.

But some instruments, especially the radio and temperature readings, are hard to see; they appear washed out and difficult to read in the sunlight.

The driver's position is excellent and everything is well within reach.

But it can be tricky accessing the two rear sports seats when the roof is closed, even though there is a handy one-touch system for the front seats so it's easier to access the rear. Just push a button on the front headrest and it moves the front seat forward so it's easier to enter and exit the rear seats.

The two rear seats are nicely sculpted for passengers. An adult can actually ride back there without feeling too cramped.

Other nice touches include leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, and a three-spoke tilt and telescoping steering wheel. You can add a navigation package to my 250C tester for $2,400; on the 350C, it costs $3,900.

The IS C also comes with a range of impressive safety features including frontal airbags, side airbags, side curtains, driver and front passenger knee airbags, vehicle stability control, traction control, hill start assist and adaptive front headlights that follow the road with every turn.

Thanks to its hard-top roof, the IS C gives you the option of driving a convertible all year long. And the best time to enjoy it is just around the corner.


2010 LEXUS IS 250C

Type: Two-door, four-passenger hard-top convertible

Base Price: $52,100; as tested, $53,700

Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 204 hp/185 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel-drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.8 city/6.7 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: BMW 3-Series convertible, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class cabriolet, Volvo C70, Infiniti G37 convertible, Audi A5 cabriolet


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