New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Tested: Lexus IS250C

2010-03-11 13:00

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Lexus
Model IS250C
Engine 24-valve DOHC 2.5-litre petrol V6 with dual VVT-i
Power 153kW at 6 400 r/min
Torque 252Nm at 4 800 r/min
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Zero To Hundred 9.0 s
Top Speed 210km/h
Fuel Tank 65 l
Fuel Consumption 9.3 l/100km (claimed)
Weight 2075 kg
Boot Size 205 - 553 l
Steering electric power steering
ABS with brake assist system and electronic brakeforce distribution
Airbags six
Tyres 225/45 R 17 (front); 245/45 R 17 (rear)
Front Suspension Independent by double wishbones
Rear Suspension Independent 5-arm multilink
Warranty four years/100 000 km
Price R550 200
A Cape Town summer is something to be savoured. Everything slows down by a gear or two. The winter layers are shrugged off, pedicures become fashionable and languid lunches are the done thing. Days are longer, too – the perfect accompaniment for a cruiser such as Lexus’ IS250C.

The proliferation of four-seater coupes that happen to have roofs that fold away has been something to behold. Initially the preserve of “those quirky French”, the concept of being able to switch from a folding hardtop to an open-top cruiser without having to leave your car must be something if even the most sensible of Japanese carmakers is willing to give it a whirl.

Lexus is not a newcomer to the world of open-top motoring, although this IS derivative is the first to employ a three-part metal folding roof configuration. The system is claimed to be the fastest operator in this segment – from coupe to convertible in 21 seconds. It is a fully automatic system, though, using a system of 13 motors and 33 sensors for snag-free operation.

Three-part roof in operation is a special treat for bystanders

Thankfully, with the roof in play, the bootspace is huge, while, with the roof neatly stowed in the boot, the area is nothing to scoff at. Here a recess for smaller parcels and handbags is created, and should you need it, the roof can be lifted by degrees to stow or remove articles from beneath it.

However, the folding roof is not the only outstanding feature on this car. The sumptuous IS250C has a number of features unique to the cabriolet version that should make getting about in a droptop that much more pleasant.

Following coupe form, the doors are huge. However, a three-step hinge prevents you unwittingly bumping the door up against all manner of people and objects.

As an additional feature, since the rear screen is rather tiny, the rear headrests fall forward at the flick of a switch to allow the driver a better view to the rear. But since the little button only works to release the headrests, you are allowed to make passengers in the rear work for their passage by having them right the headrests.

Lexus already makes light work of the entry and exit process by employing one-touch electric folding and sliding front seats. There remains no elegant way of getting in and out of a convertible’s rear seat, but it is made more bearable in this Lexus. 

Light-coloured leather means you're less likely to scald your bum after the IS has been left to soak up the sun outside your local beach bar

Of course, I find that driving with the top down is best reserved for early mornings (that’s why you have heated seats and, on the IS250C, heated “shoulder pads”) and dusk, but for those who prefer the chargrilled look, this Lexus is perfect. It has an air conditioning system that cleverly adjusts the temperature and fan speed when the roof is down, which means you’ll be able to catch a decent tan without having to feel the burn.

If you’re even just a little of an attention whore, the IS250C will give you a tremendous kick.  The nature of my job dictates that I may not always be able to travel completely incognito, but this convertible refuses to allow the slighest measure of discretion – even with the top up.

While I’m still trying to figure out if the spellbinding purple paintwork was the main attraction (and no, Cattleya is not a “Barney purple” but more like a brinjal-inspired black and magenta hue) or if it was just the car’s wildly attractive appearance, the IS250C attracted gawks and points wherever it went.

At least you have the reassurance of a V6 under-belly if ever there is a need to perform any paparazzi-dodging manoeuvres. Granted, the IS convertible is a cruiser first and a speedster later (maybe), but it has enough vooma to ensure the car never feels burdened by the metal roof (and its associated paraphernalia).

It is powered by the 24-valve 153-kW V6 common to the local IS range, which is also mated to the proven six-speed automatic gearbox, so there are no real surprises there. There’s good reason for this, I’m sure. It’s not the most engaging nor hell-raising powerplant, but it’s a smooth and steady performer.

Rear view rather trim considering it is meant to house the roof-structure, too

The assurance offered be the powerplant is backed up by a range of driver aids should you (probably not by design) get it a little crooked. You see, the Lexus IS250C tends to prefer breezing through those longer sweeps rather than thundering through them.

ABS and EBD, vehicle stability control and traction control, and VDIM vehicle dynamics integrated management are on hand to keep things on the long and winding, even if you don’t. 

IS250C’s fully independent suspension uses a multilink arrangement at the front and a five-arm system at the rear to provide a ride that is supple and cosseting. Rolling on bespoke wheels shod with 17-inch rubber, this car certainly won’t respond kindly to the stand-on-the-brakes-and-chuck-it driving philosophy...

Good thing too; the IS250C is pure class, from the way it handles itself to how it makes its occupants feel. Full leather upholstery, eight-way electric adjustment for seats, seven-inch touch screen LCD display and voice command, park distance monitors with a reversing camera, Bluetooth functionality and a Lexus Premium audio system are all standard.

Incidentally, the facia is identical to that seen in the rest of the IS range, although it is definitely starting to look dated with compared with its competitors. Large buttons and chunky dials are always appreciated, though, and the familiar Lexus (and in part, Toyota) switchgear is comforting.

Familiar IS architecture is ergonomically sound, but starting to look and feel a little weary


The resemblance to its IS sedan sibling is astounding, yes, but since most components are not shared, that’s virtually where it ends. What the IS250C’s design does reveal, though, is just how evergreen and classic the sedan’s original styling is. Lop the roof off it and it gains an immediate style boost. Classic. 


The IS’s dash has essentially been copied and pasted onto this convertible. It’s easy to navigate, the buttons and knobs are large and reassuring. However, overall, the interior look is starting to go a little staid now. As is common with cars in this configuration, the rear bench is merely there to create the illusion of the IS250C being a four-seater. However, to make confinement more pleasant, a centre console with two cupholders separates the two seats. 


Class personified. This car’s ride is graceful and elegant, seemingly perfect for swanning and more leisurely activities. It comes with a full arsenal of driving aids, and we’re sure they are top notch, although whether these aids will actually be called in to use is something else. 

Lexus’ latest convertible is strictly for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Although it is a little attention-grabbing, it remains supremely comfortable and serene at all times – top up or down.

However, one of this car’s biggest detractions is its price. Yes it comes with practically everything as standard issue (as is the Lexus way…) but the other side of half-a-million remains a lot of money for a car in this segment.

The IS250C has quite a few competitors in the premium segment and, even compared with them, it’s pricey. Consider this – the slightly bigger, but more powerful Audi A5 convertible 2.0 TFSI multitronic costs R493 000, while the 2.5-litre Volvo C70 T5 costs R529 600. Extras are added at your peril, though.

Would I buy one? Not necessarily. The Lexus, although comfortable, does not feel as "fresh" as its newer rivals, and its higher mass is espeically apparent under acceleration. The Audi, albeit larger-boned and canvas-topped, would likely get my vote.

Be that as it may, in this segment prospective buyers are unlikely to be thrown by an additional 30 for extras. Here, what a car can do for you is paramount. In that respect, the Lexus is no different from its peers, really. It will make you feel like a queen.


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