What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Lexus IS 250 C sees no changes of note.
Compromise can be a good thing in an automobile, especially when it involves something like a convertible. The 2012 Lexus IS 250 C combines the sunny exhilaration of a convertible with the everyday practicality of a coupe, and who wouldn't want this? It's the hardtop convertible design that makes it possible, a complicated and expensive sort of compromise to be sure, but one that offers the best of both worlds when it comes to luxury motoring.
Compared to a conventional soft top, the hardtop offers better insulation from the weather, not to mention better insulation from everyday highway noise, plus it delivers better protection from would-be thieves. The compromises paid for all this come in weight and complication (and cost), but what you'll notice most will be the notable restriction in trunk space to accommodate the folded top. And the Lexus IS convertible also looks pretty ungainly because of the oddly shaped tonneau cover required to cover the top when it's folded into the trunk. Nevertheless, this Lexus hardtop retracts in just 20 seconds, making the transition from closed coupe to drop-top cruiser a breeze. And that's what matters.
Likewise, the IS 250 C's small V6 engine has a small appetite for fuel, but the price paid is performance that is only adequate at best. In its favor, the suspension ably insulates passengers from the bumps, but it will disappoint drivers looking for lively, engaging handling. Lastly, although it has rear seats, the cramped rear quarters are best left to smaller passengers. No compromise is made, however, when it comes to interior quality, as the IS 250 C upholds the company's strong reputation for handsome, well-constructed cabins.
Naturally, the 2012 Lexus IS 250 C isn't the only choice in this segment. Our favorite is still the BMW 3 Series given its more dynamic nature. You might also want to check out the Audi A5 (http://www.edmunds.com, a high-end model of the Volkswagen Eos or the Volvo C70 . But if a smooth ride and a top-notch interior are your main priorities, you should be pretty happy with the IS 250 C.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The four-passenger 2012 Lexus IS 250 C is a retractable-hardtop luxury convertible that is offered in one well-appointed trim level. There is an IS 350 C with a larger engine and a few additional features; it's reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the IS 250 C includes 17-inch wheels, foglamps, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power front seats (includes two-way lumbar control), leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are the Safety Connect telematics system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and iPod/USB interface.
The Navigation System package adds a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth phonebook downloading, a rearview camera, voice commands, real-time traffic and other information, and Lexus Enform enhanced telematics features. A 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system can be added to the navigation system. The Luxury package adds xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming side mirrors, automatic wipers, driver memory functions, heated and ventilated front seats, and wood trim.
Stand-alone options include a few of the items listed in the above packages, plus 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control with Lexus' Pre-Collision system. A variety of F Sport suspension and brake performance parts are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lexus IS 250 C comes with a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic that includes manual shift control.
Lexus estimates that the IS 250 C will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates with the automatic are 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. The manual transmission comes in slightly lower at 19/28/22 mpg.
The IS 250 C comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, front seat knee airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags (a rarity among convertibles), pop-up rollover bars and Lexus Safety Connect emergency telematics.
Included with the optional adaptive cruise control is the Lexus Pre-Collision system, which can retract the front seatbelts and activate brake assist immediately when the driver presses the brake pedal if an impending collision is detected.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Lexus IS 250 C boasts first-class accommodations in terms of premium materials and sporty design. As expected from any Lexus, fit and finish is top-notch. The navigation controls feature a mix of physical and touchscreen buttons for intuitive operation.
Whether the top is raised or lowered, the IS 250 C's climate control automatically adjusts fan speed and distribution to maintain optimum comfort. The audio system also adapts to al fresco motoring by adjusting the equalizer settings based on wind noise.
Convertibles generally place little emphasis on rear seat comfort, and the IS 250 C is no different. With one of the smallest backseats in its class, space is at a premium for even the smallest of passengers.
As with most retractable hardtops, trunk space is significantly reduced when the top is stowed. With the top up, the trunk offers a decent capacity of 10.8 cubic feet. With the top folded, that figure drops to a puny 2.4 cubes. Fortunately, what remaining space there is will still accommodate a golf bag.
Top up or down, the 2012 Lexus IS 250 C delivers high levels of refinement. The body structure is shake-free even when driving over rough pavement and the folding hardtop provides impressive isolation from highway wind noise. Acceleration is adequate with the automatic transmission and we actually prefer it over the six-speed manual that's neither accurate nor fun to shift. Those desiring livelier engine performance should check out the more powerful IS 350 C.
As far as handling, the soft suspension and lifeless steering are tuned more for comfort than spirited driving. But those looking to add some spice to the IS 250 C might consider the optional F Sport dealer accessory parts which, among other items include firmer suspension components and high-performance intake and exhaust systems.