Full 2014 Lexus IS 350 C Review
What's New for 2014
The metallic interior trim in the F Sport option package has been revised, but otherwise, the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C is unchanged.
Convertibles typically sell to the truly optimistic souls among us. These are people who envision themselves cruising along a sunny Mediterranean coastline, even as they're driving on slush-encrusted highways after a Midwestern snowstorm. Such daydreams are made just a little bit easier in an entry-level luxury convertible like the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C, which has a snug-fitting retractable hardtop to keep out the elements and a rich interior that you'll enjoy regardless of the weather.
Naturally, that solid metal roof also makes the IS 350 C more impervious to thieves while providing a quieter ride to boot. Of course, all of this applies to the less expensive IS 250 C (reviewed separately) as well, but the 306-horsepower V6 engine in the 350 version easily justifies the extra cost. Not only does this engine pour on its power in a wonderfully smooth, refined manner, it delivers the Lexus IS 350 C to 60 mph in about 6 seconds. That's a quick time within the small population of premium-brand, four-passenger convertibles in this price range.
Still, the 2014 IS 350 C is not without a few drawbacks. The folding hardtop is exceptionally bulky, and when it's down there's very little room to carry anything in the trunk, save for maybe a golf bag. In addition, the cramped backseat is really only useful in a pinch. Finally, in spite of its quickness, the IS 350 C is ultimately tuned for comfort, and more aggressive drivers may be put off by the rather sluggish responses from its automatic transmission and steering system.
If that's you, the 2014 BMW 4 Series convertible or the 2014 Infiniti Q60 are the most logical alternatives in this price range. Both are more engaging to drive and have more spacious interiors. You'll also find more room in the 2014 Audi A5 convertible, though it doesn't have a retractable hardtop and, with only a four-cylinder engine, it's quite a bit slower. Given the limited choices for moderately priced luxury convertibles, the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C is certainly worth consideration, especially if you're seeking one with a weatherproof hardtop and a big helping of refinement.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus IS 350 C is a four-passenger, retractable-hardtop luxury convertible offered in one well-equipped trim level. The smaller-engine IS 250 C is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the IS 350 C includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated mirrors with built-in turn signals and puddle lamps, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats (includes two-way lumbar control), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary audio input jack and iPod/USB interface. Also standard is the Safety Connect telematics system, which includes collision notification, stolen vehicle and emergency assistance services.
The optional Luxury package includes bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, upgraded leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, genuine wood trim, driver and front passenger seat memory settings and illuminated door sills.
The Navigation package adds a navigation system, a rearview camera, voice commands, HD radio and Lexus Enform telematics features (which includes functions like emergency roadside assistance and smartphone app integration). A 12-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to the navigation system.
Other options include parking sensors and adaptive cruise control bundled with the company's Pre-Collision frontal collision warning system. A variety of F Sport option packages are also available. In them, you'll find engine, suspension and brake performance parts; 18-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires; and upgraded interior trim and amenities.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Lexus IS 350 C features a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 306 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that includes manual shift control.
In Edmunds testing, an IS 350 C fitted with optional F Sport performance equipment accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg combined (19 city/27 highway).
Standard safety features on the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C include antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, front-seat side curtain airbags, front-seat knee airbags and Lexus Safety Connect emergency telematics.
Included with the optional adaptive cruise control is the Lexus Pre-Collision frontal collision warning/preparation system, which can snug the front seatbelts and activate brake assist immediately when the driver presses the brake pedal in situations where sensors detect an impending collision. Also available are front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera (included with the navigation system).
In Edmunds brake testing, a Lexus IS 350 C (with an upgraded F Sport accessory brake kit and optional summer performance tires) stopped from 60 mph in 112 feet -- a good distance but exactly what you'd expect from a car of this caliber with upgraded tires and an accessory brake kit.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C you'll find an attractive and well-stitched passenger cabin accented by top-quality materials. Gauges and controls are clear and intuitive, though navigation-equipped models make it a little harder to get at touchscreen-controlled features like audio and climate functions while the nav system is in use. This nav system's smartphone integration features include Internet radio stations like Pandora and iHeart radio, as well as Yelp reviews for restaurants.
Up front, the seats offer good comfort and support and the power-adjustable seats and steering wheel make it easy to find an ideal driving position. Rear-seat occupants are not so lucky, as this is a very tight backseat that's only useful in a pinch. Trunk space is extremely limited as well, with an adequate 10.8 cubic feet of cargo room with the roof raised and a paltry 2.4 cubic feet with the top down. That's enough for one modest-sized golf bag, but not much else.
On the move, the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C feels refined and quick. The body structure is solid enough to remain composed even over poor road surfaces, something not all convertibles can claim. The retractable hardtop enhances this feeling by minimizing noise levels and temperature extremes.
Unquestionably, the IS 350 C's 306-hp V6 engine is far more lively than the IS 250 C's smaller engine and, for most shoppers, the added performance will easily offset the 350's higher price. More aggressive drivers may be put off by the standard automatic transmission's sluggish responses to rapid gas-pedal inputs, as well as the car's rather slow steering.
However, if you're mainly looking for a relatively fast and comfortable luxury-brand convertible, the Lexus IS 350 C's smooth ride should suit you just fine. What's more, the company's F Sport line of suspension, brake and wheel/tire upgrades is available to enhance the car's capabilities for buyers prepared to spend the extra money.