Full 2012 Lexus IS 350 C Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Lexus IS 350 C sees no changes of note.
Despite the somewhat negative connotation of the word itself, compromise is usually a good thing. For instance, it's how opposing political parties get things done (or so we've heard). But compromise is also the reason that the 2012 Lexus IS 350 C appeals to those looking for a luxury convertible that's easy to live with.
The IS 350 C's retractable hardtop has many advantages over a conventional soft top, starting with better insulation from the weather, not to mention highway noise. Then there's the anti-theft quotient, since it can't be slit open on a dark street. It also retracts in just 20 seconds, making the transition from closed coupe to drop-top cruiser a breeze. The compromises paid for all this come in the form of reduced trunk space when the top is stowed, while this particular application also has an ungainly appearance produced by the hard tonneau cover that conceals the folded top.
In its favor, the IS 350 C's suspension ably insulates passengers from bumps and bangs in the Lexus style, although it will disappoint drivers looking for lively, engaging handling. Lastly, the complicated mechanism for the hardtop restricts rear seat passenger space, so the backseat has limited utility for passengers. No compromise is made when it comes to interior quality, however, as the IS 350 C upholds Lexus' reputation for handsome, well-constructed cabins.
Still, the 2012 Lexus IS 350 C isn't the only good choice in this segment, with competitors presenting their own strengths and weaknesses. Worthy rivals include the stylish Audi A5, the more dynamic BMW 3 Series, the powerful Infiniti G37 and the capable Volvo C70. But if a smooth ride and a top-notch interior are your priorities, you should be pretty happy with the Lexus IS 350 C.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The four-passenger 2012 Lexus IS 350 C is a retractable-hardtop luxury convertible that is offered in one well-appointed trim level. There is an IS 250 C with a smaller engine; it's reviewed separately.
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 sound system 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, 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 the Lexus Pre-Collision system. A variety of F Sport suspension and brake performance parts are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 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 19 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 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.
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 2012 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 using 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 2012 Lexus IS 350 C delivers high levels of refinement. The body structure proves free of shake and shimmy even when you're 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.