If you can see yourself in an entry-luxury convertible, it might be time to scope out the C.
The C -- as in the IS 250C and IS 350C -- is the latest drop-top to wear the Lexus badge and is part of the expanding IS lineup of rear- and all-wheel-drive products.
Toyota's upscale division was one of the first automakers to introduce a modern-era hardtop convertible when it launched the SC 400 for the 2002 model year. That model has since been joined by 11 other folding hard-top hair dryers ranging from the $28,000 Mazda MX5 Miata to the $200,000-plus Ferrari California.
Comparatively speaking, the new C's $40,000-$45,000 pricing bracket would seem to represent a fair and reasonable value, especially since the car builds on the bones of the highly respected IS 250/350 sedans. For convertible duty, the shared platform has been strengthened to prevent excessive twisting and flexing, conditions that afflict most convertibles to some degree. As well, the front and rear suspension and steering setups have been recalibrated to accommodate the extra heft (the base C weighs about 400 pounds more than its sedan counterpart).
Physically, the four-passenger IS C shares only its hood with the sedan. The remaining panels are unique to the convertible and present an attractive shape, especially from the front or side, with the lid stowed. The rear end appears a bit thick-waisted, a byproduct of creating sufficient room for the stacking three-piece aluminum top.
With the roof raised, a 21-second procedure, the C's character morphs into conservative sedan. The elongated trunk spoils some of the visual fun and there's practically zero luggage space when the roof is stored. However, there's at least enough rear-seat room for two adult passengers who shouldn't be forced to pull their knees up to their chests.
The rest of the cabin looks similar to the IS 250/350 sedans, but there are unique upgrades in finishing materials plus a padded rear-seat floor console. As well, the gauges provide less reflection and added contrast on sunny days when the top is down. The display screen also features a bar graph that indicates the top's status while it's being operated.
Both C convertibles copy their corresponding sedan's powerplants. The IS 250C uses a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V-6, while a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 gets the IS 350C up and running.
A six-speed manual transmission comes with the base V-6, while a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel paddle shifters is optional, but standard on the 3.5 V-6.
Lexus claims the IS 250 C will hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in 8.4 seconds, with the IS 350C taking just 5.8.
On the road with the lid down, the standard dual-zone climate control automatically adjusts its settings according to outside temperature, the amount of sunlight entering the cabin and vehicle speed.
Other standard gear includes the usual powered accessories, including a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control maintains a safe distance between the Lexus and the vehicle in front and Hill Start Assist, for both manual- and automatic-transmission models, prevents the car from rolling backward on an incline when the driver's foot transitions from the brake to the gas pedal.
Option-package content incorporates interior wood trim, a 12-speaker premium sound system, rain-sensing wipers, rear backup camera, voice-activated navigation system and power tilt and slide ventilated front seats with memory settings.
Ultimately, what the C lacks in all-out sportiness, it easily compensates for with understated boulevard-cruising style, which is really what the rest of the Lexus stable is all about in the first place.