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Lexus IS 250C SE-L

Is folding hard-top version of exec saloon a class contender?

Good sports convertible is about more than build quality, a generous spec and sun-kissed motoring.

Kerb appeal and image are both must-haves in this market – and that’s precisely what Lexus set out to provide with its newest drop-top, the IS 250C. 

This isn’t the first folding metal hood we’ve seen in the sector, but its set-up is the fastest.

Bosses at the firm claim the IS 250C’s three-piece lid takes 21 seconds to stow, making it the quickest of its type in the world – although we recorded 27.2 seconds for the sequence to finish.

Whether the hood is up or down, you’ll struggle to call the Lexus stylish, however. While the newcomer uses the same rakish nose as its saloon brother, from the base of the windscreen back, it’s all-new – and not entirely successful.

To accommodate the folding roof, designers have left the IS with an ungainly and heavy-looking rear end. Inside, you’re able to see the ugly metal spars in the rooflining – not something you’ll find in the BMW.

The rest of the interior will be familiar to existing IS drivers, so while quality is decent, it’s short on style. Fake wood, polished chrome and heavy detailing are the order of the day, but the neon dials seem tacky in a car of this calibre.

Thankfully, the heated leather seats are comfortable and the long standard kit tally on the Lexus also includes sat-nav, climate control and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones. Yet the upright rear seatbacks mean that journeys with more than two people in the car will have to be brief.

With the roof up, there is a lot of room in the boot, but fold it down and space is tight. Those with larger bags should think about packing them elsewhere if they want the hood down.

You’ll notice the top is no lightweight, either, as the whole car moves about on its suspension while it stows. On the road, the Lexus continues to lose ground to its rivals.

The 2.5-litre V6 struggles to shift the heavy body with purpose, and power delivery is blunted by the smooth but painfully slow auto gearbox.

A pair of paddleshifters provide manual control, yet the box rarely did what we asked of it, holding gears for longer than we wanted to and refusing to change down when selecting lower ratios. The engine note, which is barely noticeable when cruising, also sounds strained when pressing on.

The heavyweight roof is evident in corners as well, as the IS rolled more than either of its rivals on the twisting roads of our test route.

A combination of smaller wheels and softer suspension means it is more comfortable when cruising along the motorway, though. Ultimately, the Lexus provides plenty of grip, yet doesn’t offer enough feedback to challenge the BMW for driver appeal.

In the final analysis, your choice here will depend on what you want from a drop-top. But compared to the sportier 3-Series and more desirable A5, the Japanese car has its work cut out, whichever way you look at it.

Details

Chart position: 3
WHY: Lexus has taken its time to introduce a drop-top IS variant. So, is the resulting cabrio worth the wait?

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