Sure, it's been a tough winter, even in Atlanta. But some recent time spent with the 2011 Lexus IS 250C convertible gave us a nice moment of sunshine and reminder that spring is just around the corner.
This entry-level luxury model is a sweetheart, thanks to its 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 engine. That power plant is tied to a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, which the tester had.
Lexus says the engine is all aluminum and has direct injection and variable valve timing, which maximize efficiency and performance.
Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg city, 30 highway with the automatic, and 19 and 27 with the manual.
The IS 250C, which is the cabrio version of the IS 250 sedan, has a new appearance up front, with a redesigned grille and front bumper. The rear styling has gotten a few tweaks also.
The end result is a very well-crafted, handsome vehicle, inside and out.
On the inside, the 250C is technically a four-seater, but the two rear seats are pretty tiny. The leather seats do have 10-way power adjustability, though, making at least the front passengers comfortable.
Plus, Lexus designers had the presence of mind to make the driving experience with the top down practical.
The retractable hardtop takes only 21 seconds to open or close.
There are anti-glare gauges that let you still see the dash despite the sunlight when it's open, as well as audio and climate systems that adjust for the added wind noise and temperature change.
And for pleasant sounds, enjoy the 13-speaker, 194-watt stereo with six-CD changer that comes with the Lexus Premium Audio System.
If you want more goodies inside, there is a Premium Plus Package that features perforated leather seating that heats and cools, a Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound system with 14 speakers and 10 amplifier stations, a DVD-based navigation system and wood trim.
For performance, try the new F Sport Package, featuring a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels and front and rear spoilers. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard.
Rain-sensing wipers and a backup camera with front and rear parking sensors are optional.
There are good safety features, such as vehicle stability control, antilock brakes, brake-force distribution and brake assist. Lexus offers a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which keeps a pre-set following distance behind the vehicle in front of you and prepares the seatbelts and brakes for a collision when necessary.
Lexus features its Enform system with Safety Connect to give satellite communications in the event of an accident or if the car is stolen.
The IS 250 C starts at around $40,000 and ranges to a little over $48,000.
With its sharp looks, snappy handling and reasonable price, the IS 250C provides a breath of fresh air in the luxury coupe/convertible field.