Lexus’s luxurious new four-seat convertible should be a no brainer. But Martin Love finds himself in two minds
LEXUS 250 ISC
MILES PER GALLON: 31
CO2 PER KM: 214 GRAMS
GOOD FOR: MAY
BAD FOR: DECEMBER
It is an irony of modern life that the more choice we are offered, the less we seem able to make a decision. We can choose where to shop, where to send our kids to school and in which hospital we’d like to have our hernia repaired (“A clinic with a view of the river and a doctor who smells of apricots”). But the reality is we shop at the nearest supermarket, the children go to their local school and the hospital is the one with a cancellation “in 12 days, thank you very much”. Choice is just an illusion, an extra layer of perceived value, created by marketeers. And nowhere is this better demonstrated than the world of folding hard-top sports cars.
The myth: a high performance, four-seat coupe that turns into a roomy cabriolet at the flick of the button. The reality: a wildly over-engineered two seater with space in the back for a pair of size-00 models that turns into an awkward-looking cabriolet with a small boot at the flick of a button.
If you want a proper sports car/family car/convertible car/sensible car/luxury car… buy one. All-in-one varieties are almost always a compromise. Surely it’s better to excel in one field than muddle through in several.
This week I’ve been driving Lexus’s 250 ISC – the convertible variant of the sublimely sensible and wonderfully driveable IS range. Unfortunately, the seven days I spent behind the wheel coincided with one of the wettest weeks we’ve had since we went camping this summer in Devon, so I barely managed to open the roof. But that doesn’t matter, because the joy of this type of car is that it shines come rain or… well, shine. It’s a family car for sunny escapes and rainy returns. So we headed out to the countryside for a relaxed family lunch. Within 30 minutes the teens in the back were complaining of claustrophobia, nausea and boredom (no change there, then).
Up front, I pulled my seat forward to create a wafer-thin-mint’s worth of extra legroom for their Uggs in the back. But the moaning continued. We tried to hypnotise them by playing loud music, but the stereo developed a nervous tic and kept jumping to Classic FM, which drove them mad. In an attempt to keep the peace, my wife took the wheel and I swapped into the back. I could see what the teens meant – about the space at least. The music sounded wonderful.
Later, I went for a drive on my own. There was more space, I moved the seat back so my head was no longer rubbing on the roof. The car’s handling and performance, clearly aimed at Corniche-style cruising, came into its own. It felt refined, mature, even stately. But also a little sluggish. Everything is so damped and weighted and luxurious you feel like you’re driving through a Mogadon haze. Finally, the rain stopped and a full moon broke from behind the clouds. I whipped open the roof – a mere 21 seconds thanks to the car’s 15 different roof motors and 37 individual sensors. If the coupe-for-four was a disappointment, the cabriolet-for-one was a relief. And maybe that’s the real choice to make here. A family car to enjoy in the company of yourself.?