Move over CLK Cabriolet and 3-Series Convertible, there's a new player in the luxury drop-top game and it ain't a German. Lexus has debuted its new IS 250C hard top convertible at the Paris Motor Show today and with its attractive top-down aesthetics, aluminium folding roof and two-door appeal, the IS 250C should be just the thing to spice up Lexus's ageing IS lineup.
Going on sale in Japan around March 2009, with Europe and the USA following shortly after, the IS 250C boasts a significant number of revisions over the four door IS sedan to help accommodate that power-retractable roof, which folds out of sight in an impressive 20 seconds.
Firstly, the chassis has received significant strengthening to compensate for the lack of a closed passenger compartment, and to keep things squeak-free when traversing broken tarmac and expansion gaps. There's also a tweaked climate control system that blows hotter when the top is down, while a 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system helps drown out any wind noise.
Bodywork, of course, is virtually all-new for the IS 250C as well. Only the bonnet, headlamps, door handles and mirrors are shared between the convertible and its more reserved four-door sibling. Considering that two doors and a roof have been lopped off to produce the IS 250C, the visual difference is not that great between the two. Good for Lexus aficionados perhaps, but not so good for appealing to a more diverse crowd (ie: people under the age of 40).
That being said, it looks great with the roof stowed away in the boot (which, incidentally, can still accommodate the all-important golf bag when the top is down) and the transition between bootlid and rear seats is smooth and well-executed. With the roof up, the IS 250C's top tends to look like a bit like a lobster's tail thanks to an abundance of seams and shut lines (but thankfully it's nowhere near as awkward as that other Lexus drop-top, the SC430).
For more info on the 2009 Lexus IS 250C, check out the press release below.
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IS 250C ? World Premiere
Making its world debut at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, the new IS 250C combines the sporting elegance of the IS sedan with superlative engineering ingenuity to create a unique fusion of top-down driving pleasure and uncompromised closed-top dynamic performance in the premium sedan segment. Its lightweight, aluminium folding roof structure boasts the fastest three-part roof opening time of just 20 seconds. Through the remarkably compact packaging of its roof mechanism, the IS 250C offers a large boot space, generous rear seat access and spacious rear passenger accommodation.
Sharing the IS 250's 153kW/208DIN hp, 2.5 litre ultra-smooth V6 powerplant and 6-speed automatic transmission, the new Lexus convertible has been styled to offer minimal wind turbulence when driving with the hard top stowed. The enhanced torsional stiffness of the IS 250C design promotes ride comfort appropriate to the marque and, in coupe configuration, reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics on a par with those of the IS sedan.
With the hard top stowed, the IS 250C presents a seamless, elegant profile punctuated only by the integral roll-over hoops behind the rear seat headrests, reinforcing the full-length sweep of the rising beltline and the convertible?s broad, purposeful rear stance. No residual roof mechanism elements remain in view or project above the vehicle?s tapered waistline; the whole being entirely concealed beneath the broad, sweeping boot surface and adjacent, flush-fitting parcel shelf.
Constructed entirely in lightweight aluminium, the new IS 250C?s folding roof structure offers an unparalleled level of smooth, seamless and silent operation. Activated via a dashboard-mounted button, the ultra-quiet operating mechanism features a unique ?roof brake? mechanism which slows the closing of the hard top as it approaches the windscreen head. This ensures that, unlike many mechanisms in which the weight of the roof structure causes an increase in operating speed just before the point of closure, the IS 250C?s hard top descends smoothly into place.
Interior design and comfort
The IS 250C shares the sedan?s high levels of interior luxury and practical innovation, with several bespoke technical revisions designed to ensure the effective operation of the vehicle?s on-board comfort and entertainment systems when in convertible configuration. On board, the instrument panel and surrounding components, as well as the steering wheel, are shared with the IS sedan range, but the driver?s instrument binnacle has been extensively revised to increase open-topped motoring visibility.
The climate control system has been specially configured for top-down motoring with the addition of a speed sensitive control which automatically increases air flow in roof-open mode, and further increases airflow according to vehicle speed.
The 12 speaker, Mark Levinson? Premium Surround Sound system features equaliser tuning to provide consistent audio quality whether the hard top is up or down, automatically adapting to the natural loss of bass when the roof is stowed.
Set 30mm further inboard than those of the IS sedan to optimise headroom and divided by a centre console with built-in cup holders, the two, full-sized rear seats benefit from a revised, more slender front seat profile to offer ample legroom.
Improved by a wide-aperture door 300mm longer than that of the IS sedan, rear seat access has been simplified through a one-touch walk-in button offering high-speed, automatic front seat fold-and-slide activation for the ultimate in rear passenger convenience.
The IS 250C?s rear overhang has been increased by 50mm over the sedan, which combines with the exceptionally compact packaging of the folding roof to generate a significant increase in luggage space. The new Lexus can accommodate a 9? golf bag with the hard top stowed and the luggage cover in place.
Aerodynamics and Wind Stream Management
Benefiting from a steeply raked windscreen, ultra-smooth cabin profile, aerodynamically efficient, ?duck-tail? rear styling featuring ?airkick? effect, rear tail lamp clusters, and a comprehensive array of aerodynamic under-body covers, the IS 250C has been designed to combine the lowest possible drag coefficient with minimal wind turbulence affecting the open cabin. Hard top in place, the IS 250C?s drag coefficient of just 0.29 compares extremely favourably with the sedan?s exceptional 0.27Cd rating.
Lexus design engineers have focused particular attention on reducing wind turbulence and generating the most comfortable airflow characteristics for occupants with the hard top lowered. The angle of the front windscreen allied to the windscreen head design are major contributors to the achievement.
The new IS 250C employs the proven double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension format of the IS sedan range to offer a sporting, agile driving experience. Significant chassis revisions have been incorporated to promote the greater ride comfort appropriate to a convertible, and ensure a consistent dynamic performance in both coupe and convertible guise.
In conjunction with extensive temperature, vibration and shaking tests, all bodyshell and chassis revisions have also been implemented with the express aim of ensuring that, in coupe configuration, the IS 250C demonstrates almost identical Noise, Vibration and Harshness characteristics to those of the IS sedan.
The use of acoustic windscreen glass allied to painstakingly optimised roof, door and window panel seals awards the IS 250C class-leading low wind noise levels.
The IS 250C has been designed to achieve a 5-star frontal impact rating in Euro NCAP crash testing, offering world-class safety in either coupe or convertible configuration. Numerous body structure changes have been incorporated in the IS 250C to enhance collision strength, roll-over protection and torsional rigidity, minimising cowl shake and optimising chassis controllability.
In keeping with the IS sedan range, the new Lexus convertible benefits from the highest content of sophisticated active and passive safety technology in the segment, including Lexus? Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) incorporating open body-specific
Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) tuning for shorter stopping distances on split-friction road surfaces, a revised Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) system which supports the pre-crash seatbelt and pre-crash brake assist functions with pre-crash brake technology, and the Safety Restrain System (SRS) twin-chamber passenger airbag.
Further improving the new Lexus safety credentials in open-topped mode, the IS 250C is equipped with a new design of enlarged side airbags which provides head protection in the event of side impact. The convertible bodyshell has also been equipped with additional, energy absorbing side impact pads for both front and rear seat occupants.