The convertible version of the Lexus IS glided into our market quietly last month; only a press release alerted us of Lexus Malaysia’s latest addition. There won’t be test drive units available for the media (so we’re told), so Lexus Malaysia organised a media preview session where we got to feel and touch, but not drive the IS 250C.

Priced at RM432,000 OTR without insurance, the IS 250C is the brand’s second drop top model after the SC 430 (Toyota Soarer) and competes with the likes of BMW’s 3-Series Convertible and the Audi A5 Cabrio.

Continue reading the report after the jump.

Although it looks identical to the IS at a glance, this car shares only four exterior parts with the sedan – side mirrors, door handles, bonnet and headlamps. Compared to the four-door, the IS 250C is longer by 50 mm and lower by 25 mm, but width and the 2,730 mm wheelbase is unchanged. As expected, it’s much heavier though – 170 kg more to be exact, pushing kerb weight to a hefty 1,730 kg. Although the 325i Convertible weighs exactly the same, the Lexus looks the bulkier of the two, especially at the rear end. Personally, I expected a sexier looking car, especially when the saloon already looks so good.

Most of this added weight is down to the three piece folding hardtop and reinforcements to make the convertible body as rigid as the saloon’s, which was the engineers’ target (they added crossmembers and underfloor bracing, for instance). Two of the three roof pieces are in aluminium to cut down weight (the ones above the glasshouse) and the transformation from coupe to convertible (and vice versa) takes just 21 seconds, which is faster than the rival BMW by one second.

In practise, the IS 250C’s roof mechanism is the most complicated this writer has ever seen and the whole process feels like an Autobot in action; look at the pictures to see what I mean. There are 13 motors and 33 sensors taking part in this magic show, by the way. I sat in the rear seat when the roof closed and the speed of it “falling down” was quite unnerving if you look at it.

My 175 cm frame fit in the back snugly, and our 6ft tall model pictured here just managed to (front seat in my driving position), although I feel there should be more room under the front seats for feet to tuck into. You’ll also have to endure an upright seatback, but that’s not unusual for such a car. To get in and out from the rear seats, you just need to press a button; the motorised movement is more elegant than yanking a handle, but it’s rather slow – I prefer the manual method. Boot space is class leading with the roof up (553 litres) and can still swallow a small golf bag or three duffel bags with the roof down.

It’s a Lexus, so material quality and the way pieces are put together is top notch. As usual, the semi-aniline leather upholstery is supple and comforting, and the thick carpets make you want to kick of those shoes and bury your feet in them. The dashboard and features differ little from the Luxury spec IS 250, except for mildly revised instruments, metal pedals, five fewer speakers (there’s still eight of them) and two less airbags (six). The latter two is because there’s less room to locate them when compared to a four-door saloon.

The kit list is very long: 10-way powered memory front seats that are ventilated, the abovementioned semi-aniline leather, keyless entry/start, shift paddles and swivelling HID headlamps with washers are all standard, among others. The rear headrests can be flipped down remotely (by a lever located between the rear seats, easily reachable by the driver) which I found to be quite cool. This is needed to maximise the very limited rearward visibility with the roof up. The old Proton Saga style green quartz clock is still there though; it looks terribly out of place in such a car.

How does it drive? Our guess is as good as yours, but it won’t be great driver’s car that’s for sure. The saloon isn’t as good dynamically as its looks suggest, and a heavier roofless version should offer little to the enthusiast. Don’t expect much in acceleration and response either; I found the 325i Convertible to be rather sluggish, and the BMW has better figures than the IS 250C’s 9.0 sec 0-100 km/h time and 210 km/h top speed. Of course, convertibles are more for show than go, so this shouldn’t be a problem to the target market.

The drivetrain pairing of a direct injection 2.5-litre V6 with 205 bhp/252 Nm and a six-speed auto is unchanged from the sedan. What’s slightly altered is settings for the VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) system to compensate for the added weight. This car also gets bigger, ventilated rear discs compared to the saloon. It is priced at RM432,000 OTR excluding insurance, which is a huge RM127,000 premium over the IS 250 Luxury. This alone will ensure the IS 250C’s exclusivity and cause heads to turn, factors that should figure high in buyers’ priorities.

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