What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Lexus IS 350 C sees only a few interior and exterior cosmetic changes, the most prominent being optional LED daytime running lights.
Sometimes, compromise is a good thing. Without it, we would forever be wrapped in deadlock and a comfortable middle ground wouldn't exist. The 2011 Lexus IS 350 C is a prime example of how advantages can be taken in compromise. One admirable feature might negatively impact the vehicle in another area, but on the whole, this Lexus convertible represents a solid choice for drivers who want a little of everything.
A retractable hardtop-style convertible provides plenty of advantages. First of all, the electrically powered top goes up or down in a mere 20 seconds. In terms of safety and security, it's certainly a good thing to have a steel shell instead of a piece of cloth between you and the elements (or a thief with a box cutter). The IS 350 C's retractable roof provides even more enticement with its tightly sealed gaps that reduce wind noise to a hush. The compromises come in the form of reduced trunk space when the top is stowed, reduced rear visibility and a rather ungainly appearance from behind.
Concessions have been made in other areas as well. The IS 350 C's suspension ably insulates the passengers from ruts and bumps, but will disappoint drivers looking for lively handling. Having rear seats in a convertible adds convenience, but the limited space back there makes them appropriate for the smallest of passengers only. One area free of compromise, however, is the high-quality interior that is synonymous with the Lexus nameplate.
The 2011 Lexus IS 350 C isn't the only choice for a luxury convertible, with competitors presenting their own strengths and weaknesses. Within this price range, the Audi A5, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Volvo C70 are all worth consideration. Shoppers who place a low priority on performance could be well served by the nearly identical and more affordable Lexus IS 250 C, which is covered in a separate review.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The four-passenger 2011 Lexus IS 350 C is a retractable-hardtop convertible that is offered in one well-appointed trim level. Standard equipment on the IS 350 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 stereo with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio jack and an 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 outside mirrors, automatic wipers, driver memory functions, 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.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Lexus IS 350 C comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that includes manual shift control.
An Edmunds test of an IS 350 C (fitted with plenty of optional F Sport performance accessories) yielded a 0-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The IS 350 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 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.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Lexus IS 350 C (again with the F Sport upgrades) came to a stop from 60 mph in an impressive 111 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Lexus IS 350 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. Unfortunately, some climate and audio controls are also run through the touchscreen display and cannot be adjusted when you're viewing the navigation system.
Whether the top is raised or lowered, the IS 350 C's climate control automatically adjusts fan speed and distribution to maintain optimum comfort. The audio system also adapts to al frescomotoring by adjusting the equalizer settings based on wind noise.
Convertibles generally place little emphasis on rear seat comfort, and the IS 350 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. At its maximum, 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 2011 Lexus IS 350 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 significantly quicker than its IS 250 C twin, so for drivers who desire more lively performance, the IS 350 C is the obvious choice. The soft suspension and lifeless steering are tuned more for comfort than spirited handling, but the optional F Sport dealer accessory parts are able to add some spice to the mix.