By Keith Griffin
The 2012 Lexus IS 350 is a pretty coupe. Add a hardtop convertible to it and color me in love, specifically Matador Red Mica in love.
That’s the color on the 2012 Lexus IS 350c that was an absolutely perfect companion for the week it was loaned to me by Lexus. It’s an absolute open-air blast to drive, especially when it arrived during a perfect stretch of late August weather that leant itself to top-down driving every day of the week.
One appealing aspect of this Lexus is its get-up-and-go performance. Lexus says its 0-60 time is 5.6 seconds – plenty fast for real-world driving (i.e. sudden lane changes merging on the highway, etc.) and pretty good considering the extra weight associated with a convertible. The IS 350c’s 3.5-liter V6 delivers 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm along with 277 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm.
The week after the Lexus IS 350c sat in my driveway a 2012 BMW 650i sat in its place. Purists are going to howl with disgust but I’d take the Lexus over the 6 series in a heartbeat for overall drivability. That’s how much I liked this car.
Ten Months of Driving
The beauty of a convertible for true fans is it can be driven, if you’re just a bit deranged, probably 10 months a year. I’ve driven convertibles on sunny days with temperatures hovering in the 40s and I’ve been fine with the heated seats turned on.
One thing some folks overlook, though, is how uncomfortable convertibles can be when the temps go north of 90 degrees. Lexus has that dilemma all figured out. The IS convertible’s air conditioning system automatically adjusts for the outside temperature when the top is lowered, improving interior temperature consistency and comfort. The system adjusts the air outlets, temperature and air flow exiting the outlets. The airflow volume adjusts to outside temperature and vehicle speed, while the temperature control adjusts to outside temperature, amount of sunlight and vehicle speed. The system also includes a pollen filter and variable-control compressor. Of course, the pollen filter works best when the top is up.
Some folks don’t like convertibles because they are noisier – not so with the Lexus IS 350c. It’s been given additional sound-deadening materials. Plus, wind noise is reduced when the top is up because it is metal and not cloth. Operation of the roof is quick with the simple touch of a button.
Also, there is no cowl shake, which is when the front windshield vibrates, when the top is down. This is a well-made convertible.
OK, so lets address the 800-lb gorilla in the room: price. The model loaned to me by Lexus had a starting price of $46,640 for a well-equipped vehicle, including all of the safety features expected (six airbags, stability control, etc.).
The price quickly jumps with the addition of the luxury package for $3055 that features items like Bi-Xenon high-intensity headlights; heated and cooled front seats (a necessity for a convertible and should really be standard); one-touch auto fold seats; and rain-sensing wipers. Why rain-sensing wipers are a luxury item – and not a safety item – I’ll never know.
Than there’s the navigation system with what I call a profit-enhancing price of $2465. Most of its services could be provided by aftermarket nav systems. Of course, it wouldn’t be seamlessly integrated but you could save probably $1900 and get a great system. One thing I don’t like is seeing the rearview camera bundled into such an expensive package. But good systems can also be bought aftermarket.
The luxury and navigation packages are going to add more than $5600 for a bottom line of $53,632. Is it a price worth paying? It strikes me as a bit overpriced for the enjoyment of top-down driving. However, this is a car that can be driven probably 363 days a year here in New England so it’s not just a fair-weather toy.
Not typical of me to mention paint jobs in a review but the Matador Red Mica paint on my loaner deserves special attention. It’s been a long time since somebody approached me in a parking lot to discuss a car’s paint. That’s another selling point for me on this car: the Lexus attention to detail, even on the paint.
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Wheelbase: 107.5 inches
Length: 182.5 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 55.9 inches
Curb weight: 3880 lbs.
Engine: 3.5-liter, 24-cylinder V6
Horsepower: 306 @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 277 lb. ft. @ 4800 rpm
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 19/27
Base price: $46,640
As-tested price: $53,632
Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) BMW 3 series convertible, Infiniti G convertible, Porsche Boxster convertible