Appearance: Because it's a hardtop convertible, the IS 250C has a seamless profile. But top up or down, it's an attractive — if not flashy — coupe. Some may complain that the rear end suffers from too much junk in the trunk, but that's the price you pay to store the retractable roof.
Performance: Handling is precise; the rear-wheel-drive car is sure-footed in hard cornering. The ride is refined for a coupe. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, whether in manual mode — stick or paddles — or in automatic. The brakes are strong and responsive. Sure, we might like more umph and instant acceleration than the ultra-quiet 204-horse V-6 provides, but that's not what this car is about. It doesn't need a loud exhaust note or push-you-back-in-the-seat performance; it's about cruising and comfort.
Interior: Everything seems well thought out, from the comfortable, supportive seats to the glove-box organizer. Lyra loved the gray wood-grain trim and the easy-access feature that moves the driver's seat back and lifts the steering wheel when you're getting out. There's also an inside lever that the driver can reach to let people in or out of the back, which Lyra found handy in a school car line. Elsewhere, the instrument cluster is simple and attractive, and includes an icon that shows you when the roof is fully retracted or back in place. We liked the backup camera because there is a definite blind spot when the top is up. The rigid rear seats can be somewhat cramped for adults and don't seem suited for long drives. With the top down it's best to keep the windows up to spare the rear-seat passengers from the gusts that come at highway speeds. A few nits: The rear seat belts are held by straps with a magnetic fastener. If the top is down, and the strap isn't secured, the belts flap around loudly. And no sunglasses holder? In a convertible? Boo. As you would expect, runk space is sacrificed because of the hardtop storage. When the top's down, you have enough space for just a few grocery bags. But when the top is up, you have some modest trunk space, maybe even enough for a weekend getaway.
The bottom line: No feature stands out, yet the IS 250C does everything well enough to be a daily driver. Perhaps the biggest compliment was that Peter's practical-minded wife loved the car's mix of style and sportiness.
It took us some time behind the wheel to appreciate the entry-level Lexus convertible for what it is, rather than for what it isn't. Despite its sleek look, this isn't a sports car. The IS 250C is a cruiser that comes with a price — for a Lexus, anyway — that doesn't break the bank.
Our 3 favorites
The hardtop: It retracts in 20 seconds.
The Bluetooth connection: It's clear even when you have the top down.
LCD screen: Sharp definition. And there are built-in weather and traffic updates.
Fuel economy: Style, sophistication and 29 mpg on the highway.
Interior feel: It's upscale, but doesn't come as part of an upscale price.
Fun factor: A convertible that a family of four — like mine — can enjoy.