2012 Lexus IS 300 C
|The Good: |
– Good ride and handling
– Decent cabin space and trim
– Good fuel economy
|The Bad: |
– Somewhat awkward styling
– Tight rear-seat access
– Could be a bit quicker
The Lexus IS 300 sedan has been around for so long that sometimes you forget that you can now buy a two-door drop-top version of it. The IS-C range, introduced in the GCC back in 2010, attempts to cover both the coupe and the convertible market with its folding hardtop. But what is it really about?
We ran this 2012 Lexus IS 300 C tester for a few days in late 2011, and then the exact same car again for a couple of months in the summer of 2012. From the front, the IS 300 C is the same as the sedan. The doors are longer and frameless, while the top is an intricate multi-piece affair. The rear view reveals a massive bum, necessary to tuck in that folded roof while maintaining useful cabin space, although we feel it looks a bit better with the roof up.
The interior is indeed pretty, although it is the same setup we’ve been seeing since the Lexus IS sedan debuted locally in 2006. There’s some rather firm “soft-touch” materials on the dash and upper doors, with black supple leather for the door inserts and armrests, contrasting with the reddish-brown leather upholstery on the seats. Even rear passengers get a padded cocoon, and the ceiling has a proper cloth headliner.
Cabin space up front is excellent even with the well-bolstered seats, while surprisingly adequate in the back too. Assuming they can squeeze in, rear legroom and headroom is fine for two adults, even the windows give a claustrophobic feel. They’ll be happier with the top down, but then the sizeable boot’s luggage volume is cut down to almost nothing. There’s no shortage of covered cup-holders, both front and back, with a central-armrest cubby and pop-out door pockets as well.
Tech features include a touchscreen multimedia computer that’s easier to use than Lexus’s new-generation joymouse contraption that they use in their latest models. It contains the interfaces for the CD/MP3 stereo, Bluetooth phone, navigation, rear camera and climate control. The great stereo has USB support and further redundant controls on the steering and console, while the auto a/c is probably the coldest one we’ve ever experienced, although it’s annoying to use touchscreen controls to change fan speeds.
Other features include power-adjustable ventilated front seats, smart keyless entry and start, cruise control, front and side airbags, HID headlights with LEDs, fog lamps, and more. All good, but one niggling issue we faced was that the smart key only unlocked one door, so the other door had to be manually unlocked to let the passenger in. With no instruction manual, we went on the internet and found the convoluted “secret” process to make the hands-free key unlock both doors. Odd oversight.
The standard engine is the 3.0-litre V6 that’s starting to show its age. Making a modest 228 hp at 6200 rpm and 300 Nm at 4400 rpm, it moved the portly convertible in 8.1 seconds during our 0-100 kph test in June weather. It isn’t a rocket, but it is more than adequate for hustling around the city. The standard transmission is a smooth 6-speed automatic with manual-shift capability. And the fuel economy is very good for a V6, as we managed 10.86 litres/100 km.
The IS convertible handles very well. Despite its soft styling, it is still based on the IS 300 sedan, so it benefits from tight suspension tuning. Body roll is minimal, the steering is firm with a bit of feel, the brakes are decent, and the 245/45 tyres offer fairly good grip up to a point before smoothly transitioning to understeer. It’s very safe and clinical, maybe fun even.
The alloy wheels not going beyond 17-inch in size was a good idea, as ride comfort is pretty good. We could feel some mild jitteriness, depending on the road surface, but it’s no more than what you’d feel in a BMW 3-Series. Most bumps are taken care of smoothly. It is also pretty quiet for a convertible, although we could hear some road noise, again depending on the surface.
We’ll say right off the bat that the image this car portrays is not one that we’d go for. However, we were perfectly content cruising the streets and tackling corners with it. It’s a proper premium car after all, quite possibly the cheapest hard-top luxury convertible on the market, and based on proven mechanicals to boot. It’s a pretty good package.
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