2015 Lexus IS 350C – Driven

The Lexus IS has been around since the year 2000, and has done quite well for itself. In fact, it has helped push the Lexus brand into the limelight, propelling the once fledgling luxury moniker into legitimate fights with Germany, Britain, and America’s best. But as the IS lineup enjoys its all-new redesign for 2014, the lone IS C continues unchanged, riding on the old IS platform and wearing the same IS design.

Now as 2015 comes to a close, Lexus has not official announced a replacement for the IS C, leaving it to serve as the brand’s only convertible. It’s tasked with competing against the BMW 4 Series, Audi A5 Cabriolet, and Mercedes C-Class Convertible – all of which are more up-to-date.

Of course, Lexus won’t leave the IS C out-gunned for much longer, or at least I hope. Though the updated IS Sedan could serve as the underpinnings for Lexus’ next convertible, I’ve got a sneaking hunch that there’s something new coming – something involving the new-for-2015 RC. The 2+2 coupe would make a fantastic foundation for hard-top convertible, and with its RC F derivative, could offer solid competition to the sportier models of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes’ convertible fleets. Only time will tell.

In the mean time, I had the chance to get behind the wheel of a 2015 IS 350C. I spent a week driving the drop-top around with the family in tow, doing everything from grabbing groceries to formal family functions.

How did it do? Keep reading to find out.

Video Walk-Around


Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Lexus IS 350C – Driven

The Lexus IS C is a decent looker, if you forgive its aging appearance. Yes, the car looks dated – I’ll get that out of the way. Besides that, the Lexus doesn’t look bad. In fact, I got an above average number of complements on the car, both from friends and strangers. It ranged from “Whoa, Lexus makes a convertible?” to “Man, these are great cars and I’ve really wanted one.”

The Lexus IS C is a decent looker, if you forgive its aging appearance

The IS C does have appealing looks, especially up front. The sloping hood dives into the pre-Spindle Grille grille, wrapping around the LED-encrusted headlights and down into the lower front fascia. A steeply raked windshield continues the rounded look, transferring it rearward onto the large deck lid. With the top in place, the entire car looks rounded, though with much more grace and styling than Lexus’ old SC Convertible.

The IS C takes a decidedly more angular appearance with the top down. Like most convertibles, the car looks best in this configuration. Transforming from one to the other takes roughly 15 seconds and one push of a button. The operation is fun to watch, but must be done with the car in park.


Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Once the top is peeled back, my tester’s peanut butter-brown leather seats shine like pearls in the otherwise dark abyss that is the black exterior paint and black interior trim. Matching peanut butter-colored stitching is found on the steering wheel, door panels, and center console. Not only do the seats look fantastic, but they feel just as good. They offer plenty of support, along with both heating and ventilation functions. Even the rear seats look great. The black seatbelts are mounted inboard, bringing even more visual appeal to rear bucket seats.

Not only do the seats look fantastic, but they feel just as good

Like the exterior, the dashboard carries over unchanged from the previous generation IS sedan. The instrument panel is made of a soft-touch material, but isn’t leather. The rubber-like material continues around, capping the door panels as well. The steering wheel feels good in-hand, but lacks visual appeal or drama. The wheel-mounted paddles are plastic and feel somewhat flimsy. The center stack is made of more plastics, as is the fake wood trim on the center console.

The Lexus Enform software powering the in-dash infotainment system is the same software found elsewhere in the Lexus lineup, but continues to look dated. It works well and is simple to figure out – even for non-computer people – but its visual interface doesn’t suggest it belongs in a $50,000 car from 2015.

The HVAC controls, on the other hand, are convoluted and non-intuitive. Small buttons on either side of the center stack operate the temperature controls for the driver and passenger, but the fan controls are relegated to “soft” keys inside the climate section of the Enform software.

As much grief as I give the IS C’s interior, it functions well, for the most part. It’s comfortable, roomy for two people, and accepts a car seat with ease. It also drives three-year-olds into fits of uncontrollable laughter and joy when driven as a convertible. My daughter always wanted the top down.


Lexus IS 350C – Driven

The familiar V-6 produces 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque

Open the hood and you’ll get an eye full of plastic covers. Somewhere buried underneath is the familiar 3.5-liter V-6 that has powered other Lexus products for years. In this application, the naturally aspirated engine produces 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Mounted behind the engine is the carry-over six-speed automatic transmission from the previous IS generation. Thankfully, it routes power to the rear wheels, thought it would be great to have the eight-speed automatic found in the current IS lineup. Regardless, the drivetrain still offers a trip to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

That eight-speed would surely help the IS C’s fuel economy, though I did best the EPA’s estimates for combined mpg. The EPA rates the car at 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. I averaged 24.6 mpg in equally mixed driving over 366 miles.

The engine and transmission work well together, delivering smooth power and shifts. A gradual throttle tip-in allows for butter-soft take-offs, while the brakes have an immediate, yet linear travel. The IS C does offer driver-selectable drive modes that change a few aspects of the car’s performance, but it is mostly felt in the throttle’s sensitivity. Three modes are present: Power, Normal, and Snow.

Driving Impressions

Lexus IS 350C – Driven

It isn’t the fastest or most fun Lexus to drive, but it delivers on its luxury-smooth promise

Despite everything about its looks, the IS C continues to provide a memorable driving experience. Its steering is decently weighted with little on-center vagueness. Its power delivery is smooth and consistence. Shifts are more luxury oriented than sporty, but that matches the IS C’s character. In fact, the IS C is wholly more focused on luxury than performance. Sure, its engine produces more than 300 horsepower, but it isn’t realized until higher in the power band. Torque is adequate, but not stump-pulling.

Behind the wheel, the IS C feels heavy. Body roll is more pronounced than in other Lexus products, particularly the new IS sedan and RC coupe. Visibility is good, however, lending to a more confident feeling when in traffic. Overall, the IS C is a decent driver that works well at its intended purpose. It isn’t the fastest or most fun Lexus to drive, but it delivers on its luxury-smooth promise.


Lexus IS 350C – Driven

The Lexus IS 350C carries a base price of $47,240. Opt for the less-powerful IS 250C, and the price falls to $42,860. My IS 350C tester came equipped with several options that inflated the price. The Luxury Package is the most pricey at $3,055, but includes the Bi-Xenon HID headlights, LED DRLs, heated and vented front seats, wood interior trim, illuminated scuff plates, and rain-sensing wipers. The Navigation system costs an additional $2,490 and includes the backup camera and other Enform software features.

Front and rear parking sensors ($500), the cargo netting in the truck ($250), and the delivery and processing fees ($925) bring the total to $54,460.


2015 BMW 4 Series Convertible

BMW 4 Series Convertible

The BMW 4 Series was born out of BMW’s recent renaming scheme, which solidified the 3 Series as only having four doors and necessitated the creation of the 4 Series, which plays the part of the two-door coupe and convertible. Like the Lexus IS C, the 4 Series comes in two trims: the 428i and 435i.

When compared with the IS 350C, the 435i is the appropriate choice. It comes powered by a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-six that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Its eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels. For those needing AWD, the 4 Series Convertible is available with BMW’s xDrive.

Prices for the 435i start at $56,950 and go north with any added options.

2015 Infiniti Q60 Convertible

Infiniti Q60 Convertible

Did you know Infiniti still made a hardtop convertible? Yep, and it’s still based off the Q60 Coupe, which shares its bones with the Nissan 370Z. It’s certainly not the newest for flashiest of the current Infiniti lineup, but the Q60 Convertible continues to offer stiff competition for the Lexus IS C.

The Q60 Convertible is powered by the familiar 3.7-liter V-6 that produces 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque in this application. It comes mated to your choice of seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual, making the only car of this trio available with a three pedals. Power is delivered to the rear wheels.

Prices start at $48,550 for the automatic and $53,400 for the six-speed manual.


Lexus IS 350C – Driven

Despite its age, the IS 350C is still a fun car to drive – not so much for its driving dynamics or memorable drivetrain, but for the sheer fun of driving a convertible. Press the button, drop the top, and all those nit-picky issues seem to fly away in the breeze. In fact, I’d wager that is exactly what Lexus wants its customers to think. After all, the demographic for a convertible hardtop isn’t usually the same demographic who spends their weekends at the autocross course.

Nevertheless, issues still exist. Lexus would be wise to pad its lineup with a more modern and sophisticated hardtop convertible. While I tend to think that will come via a drop-top RC, however Lexus chooses to update the car would be warmly welcomed.


  • Smooth top operation
  • Comfortable front seats
  • A decent driver


  • Showing its age
  • Pricey

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