Full 2010 Lexus IS 350 C Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Lexus IS 350C is an all-new retractable-hardtop convertible based on the IS sedan that features the larger of two available engines.
A classic convertible should exude an undeniable grace. It should make you feel good about yourself, the world around you and the car that's taking you through it. The 2010 Lexus IS 350C certainly has the ability to do all that as a luxury retractable-hardtop convertible with a comfortable ride and world-class interior craftsmanship. However, a classic convertible must also exude classic styling and have the ability to minimize the compromises inherent to any vehicle that's had its roof lopped off.
The IS 350C is based on the Lexus IS sedan and features the more powerful of two available engines (the IS 250C is covered in a separate model review). As with any convertible, the roof is the big story here. With a touch of a button located to the left of the steering wheel, the three-panel roof gracefully folds and tucks itself down into the trunk in an impressively quick 20 seconds.
With the roof raised, the cabin quells wind noise almost as well as a traditional coupe and better than other retractable hardtops. Unfortunately, this roof design and convertible transformation isn't as elegantly executed as on competitors such as the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Volvo C70.
From a strictly aesthetic standpoint, the car's hind quarters have been engorged to swallow the roof, creating the appearance from profile that the front of an IS sedan was welded to the back of a much bigger coupe. From a more practical perspective, the rising beltline and tall tail limit visibility and make the cramped backseat even more claustrophobic. And despite this big back end, trunk space is no better than in competitors (it's actually a bit worse in some ways).
Therefore, the IS 350C makes more concessions to top-down motoring than its rivals. However, there is still plenty to like if Lexus' reliability, service, comfort and quality are top priorities. Indeed, the cabin boasts flawless materials and construction, while a long list of standard and optional features provides goodies one expects from a vehicle in this price range.
The 306-horsepower V6 is energetic to say the least, easily matching or bettering its competitors' acceleration. While the IS 250C's smaller V6 boasts better fuel economy, the 350C is the choice for those who need that extra bit of get-up-and-go. And although acceleration may be brisk, the IS is still tuned for comfort rather than spirited driving.
Overall, the 2010 Lexus IS 350C is a civilized touring convertible that'll make you feel good about a weekend drive through the country. However, the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Volvo C70 will do that for about the same price without the functional and styling compromises the IS C makes. In this way, the IS C doesn't quite clear the bar for a class-leading classic convertible.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Lexus IS 350C is a four-passenger convertible with a fully automatic retractable hardtop. It is technically available in a single trim level, but there is also an IS 250C available that is essentially the same car with a smaller engine and fewer features.
Standard equipment on the IS 350C includes 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, a power tilt-telescoping steering column, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and USB and auxiliary audio jacks.
The Luxury Package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic wipers, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, automatic seat return for rear seat entry, upgraded leather upholstery, driver memory settings, heated and ventilated front seats and different wood trim. The bi-xenons and heated/ventilated seats are available as stand-alone options. A navigation system with real-time traffic and a back-up camera is also an option and can be bundled with a 12-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. Other extras include 18-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control (includes collision preparation features) and a variety of Lexus F-Sport performance upgrade items.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive IS 350C is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 306 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with shift paddles is standard. Lexus estimates a 0-60 time of about 6 seconds, which is on par with the Infiniti G37 convertible. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
The 2010 Lexus IS 350C 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. Included with the optional adaptive cruise control is 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 IS 350C boasts a finely crafted interior, with top-notch materials, excellent fit and finish, and an attractively sporty design. Cars with the navigation system have an easy-to-understand electronics interface that utilizes both physical buttons and a touchscreen display. However, we'd prefer a redundant display for climate and audio readouts, as both disappear when you're viewing the navigation system.
Lexus thoughtfully programmed the ventilation system to automatically adjust itself based on whether the top is raised or lowered, altering the volume and distribution of air. The same goes for the audio system, which automatically changes the equalizer settings based on additional wind noise.
You expect backseats in a convertible to be small, and the IS C obliges -- it's notably cramped for leg- and shoulder room compared to its competitors. Rear visibility is also compromised by a rising beltline, large rear headrests and a small rear window. With the roof raised, the trunk offers a decent 10.8 cubic feet of capacity, but it shrinks to a puny 2.4 cubic feet with it lowered. That's too small for a standard roller suitcase, but the remaining space has been precisely shaped to accommodate a golf bag.
The 2010 Lexus IS 350C offers the sort of refined ride you'd expect from Toyota's luxury division. Wind noise is impressively hushed for a convertible, even the hardtop variety, and the structure feels tight over body-bending road imperfections. While a less powerful IS 250C is available, the 350C is the car you want if anything close to rapid acceleration is in order. This 3.5-liter V6 is a truly sweet engine, providing smooth, seamless power. The IS C isn't exactly a blast to drive, though, as it's hampered by slow, lifeless steering and a suspension setup tuned more for comfort than handling. A variety of F-Sport accessories are available to spice things up should you so desire.