Lexus IS 350 C F Sport

Not all IS models are created equal.

What It Is
A luxury convertible perfect for weekend rides along the coast.
Best Thing
There's nothing better than cruising with the top down.
Worst Thing
For a luxury vehicle, we expected a more refined interior.
Snap Judgment
Lexus has done a lot right with the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C F Sport, but it could use a few adjustments.


Driving down the road with the top down in the middle of January seems like a crazy idea this time of year, but when you're cruising down the streets of Southern California, you're right at home. While you'll find many drivers with their tops down, you can expect seat heaters and the heat to be blowing.

And that's just what we did.

When you have a convertible, and the sun is shining and you're driving down the coast, it's almost a crime not to have the top down. We had the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C in for the week, equipped with the F Sport package for added performance. This model was produced before the refresh of the standard IS model, but we wanted to get a taste, regardless. We knew that the 2014 Lexus IS 250 had come under fire for being underpowered, but we hoped the IS 350 C F Sport would make up for previous disappointments. Read on to see what we thought.

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What We Drove

We drove the 2014 Lexus IS 350 C equipped with the F Sport package and F Sport wheels with performance tires. Our model offered standard keyless entry and ignition, smog sensor with automatic recirculation, power-folding hardtop, a metallic interior trim, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and more. The F Sport package added aluminum door-sill scuff plates and pedals, a front lip spoiler, upper and lower grille inserts, along with F Sport front seats, steering wheel, shift knob, front fender badges, a sport-tuned suspension, and heated front seats. Our model came to a total of $54,595, including the $910 destination charge.

The IS 350 C includes an array of standard safety features including an advanced airbag system, Safety Connect, vehicle theft deterrent, and a reinforced body with crumple zones. Driver assist technologies are also available.

The Commute

I don't know if the 2014 Lexus IS C would be my first choice for a daily driver, but it does get the job done. The seats are surprisingly comfortable and it's easy to find that perfect position for long or short drives, and the Bluetooth makes it easy for you to stream music and make calls without taking your eyes off the road.

Lexus has one of the easiest--in my opinion--infotainment systems to use, although there is a slight learning curve, just like with any system. Hooking up your phone takes a matter of moments, and although it may be easy to hook up initially, when you are on the phone and need to enter or exit the vehicle, it doesn't always pair or disengage correctly, causing dropped calls or the person on the other end to not be able to hear you. I haven't had this problem with other 2014 Lexus models, so this may be unique to the IS C.

Driving down the busy streets through traffic, a few things become instantly noticeable. For starters, every bump and rough road surface is felt through the cabin. Because this is an F Sport model, the suspension is stiffer than it normally would be. Also, the weight and size of the convertible sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure, there needs to be room in the back for the top, but other automakers have done this without causing the rear end to stick out farther than necessary.

Fuel economy was the saving grace of the IS 350 C F Sport, as it managed to achieve around 23 mph during our time with it, well over the estimated city mileage and one mpg over the combined rating of 22 mph. If nothing else, this is a great weekend car.

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The Grocery Run

The Lexus IS C may not be the right car to take to the grocery store. While the back seat may be big enough to hold up to 10 grocery bags, the trunk is laughable. Because the convertible top needs to fold into the trunk, there is just a small space for items, but you'd be hard-pressed to find something that will actually fit back there.

Despite the lack of trunk space, if you can fit all your items in the back seat, you might as well. However, even though this may be a convertible, visibility is limited with the top up, making maneuvering in and out of spaces difficult. The backup camera gives you an extra set of eyes, and with a car this long, it's very much needed.

Because the doors are so long, you have to be careful when getting in and out so you don't hit the car next to you. Added to that, it's hard for adults to climb into the back seats. It shouldn't be too difficult for kids, but if you're taller than 5'5, you may just want to take another car.

The Weekend Fun

What's the point of driving a convertible if you're not going to take the top off? Here in Southern California, convertibles aren't just for a quick drive down the coast. Locals will have the top down all day and night. Driving around with the top down, windows up, and the heat blasting at you is amazing. We had the chance to do that, and while it was chilly, the Lexus IS C put a smile on our face. There wasn't very much buffeting at cruising speeds, and when up to highway speeds, it was more apparent, but still not as bad as we would have thought.

As our model was equipped with an F Sport package, we wanted to see what it was really capable of. Stepping on the gas, we found acceleration off the line to be a little slower than we would have thought, but it managed to gain speed quickly. This vehicle is much heavier than it needs to be, and you can feel it whenever you're accelerating and braking.

We were left unimpressed with the interior. It was very minimal and bare, and while that may work for some, we found it lacking when considering the nearly $55,000 price tag. As with all Lexus vehicles, the default setting for the infotainment screen is to display the navigation screen, and when trying to look at the radio screen, you'll constantly find yourself hitting that audio button. At least the IS C didn't have that weird mouse-like control. Added to that, the controls are just slightly too far from the driver, and there was too much plastic. Even the leather surfaces felt a bit cheap.

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Summary

The 2014 IS C is the only convertible that Lexus currently offers, and it is in desperate need of a refresh. Other models were refreshed for the 2014 model year, including the IS 350 F Sport, and we're left wondering why Lexus opted out of sprucing up the IS C. The engine itself could use some fine-tuning, along with the suspension so the driver isn't tossed about the cabin when dealing with a bumpy road.

We may not be the biggest fans of the IS C as it sits, but we have a feeling that the 2015 model will come back swinging. Lexus needs to re-do the interior with better-quality materials, and update the infotainment system so we don't feel like we've stepped back in time a few years. With these tweaks, we think the IS C F Sport could be one of the top luxury convertible models.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $54,595
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 19
EPA Highway: 27
EPA Combined: 22
Cargo Space: 10.8 cubic feet (with the top up) Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Poor
Estimated Combined Range: 378
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Excellent

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