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2014 Lexus IS C Overview
The convertible will have to wait for the IS changes coming in 2014, and that means it will get a couple of little improvements along the way as well as some new trim in the F Sport package. But there’s one little piece of news Lexus hopes won’t get too much press: Another manual bites the dust.
Lexus claims it received only 1 order for a manual transmission in the IS last year. If that’s true, it’s hard to argue with the decision, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow either. This is only compounded by 2 further issues. First, the 6-speed automated manual with paddle shifters is nothing to get excited about. Fine in its automatic mode, when you start choosing gears yourself, you’ll be left wondering what the holdup is. More than that, if you prefer to pull the gearstick in the transmission’s manual mode, you’ll have to deal with the illogical pattern of pushing up to get into a higher gear and pulling back for a lower gear. Have the engineers never driven a car or played a video game? That is *backwards*!
Okay, okay—enough of my own personal crusades. What does the IS C offer in 2014? First, the Intelligent Transport System and the Dedicated Short Range Communication unit become standard features, and if you’re like most people, that means very little to you. Both are further steps along the road toward self-driving vehicles, as the systems utilize radar and wireless technology to communicate with other cars and the environment itself, both actively and passively. This includes applying the brakes when a crash is imminent or swerving back on track when your vehicle inadvertently leaves your lane, as well as gathering information from the surrounding area to let your car know it should slow down for a fire engine or ambulance in an approaching intersection, or merely that you’re currently entering a high-accident area.
Updates to the F Sport Package are less overlord-y, encompassed by some new metallic interior trim.
In general, the IS C comes very close to what you’d want out of an “entry-level luxury sport sedan” but always seems to err on the side of comfortable caution. Handling is competent but too soft for serious apex attacks. Steering is smooth and responsive, but numb. And what might be the highlight of the IS C—the interior layout—is marred by too-frequent intrusions of hard plastic pieces that do a great job reminding you this is a Toyota at heart.
At least they got one of the engines right. On paper, the 2.5-liter V6 in the 250C should be plenty capable. The engine's 204 hp at 6,400 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm make for a healthy combination, but the application is soulless, heartless, gutless and boring. The fact that it comes with the previously maligned 6-speed transmission only makes things worse. What this means is that you’re pretty much forced into upgrading to the much superior drivetrain of the IS 350C, as if more power was ever a bad thing.
What’s funny is that on paper the 3.5-liter V6 in the IS 350C seems like it shouldn’t be able to compete. It’s not a V8. It barely crests 300 hp. It boasts no forced induction. 304 hp? 277 lb-ft of torque? Surely this is not enough to motivate a vehicle that's kissing cousins with a 4,000-pound curb weight. Lexus says it’ll get you to 60 in just over 5.5 seconds. I call shenanigans. In feel at least, this engine is faster than that. The IS 350C also comes with upgraded brakes—13- & 12-inch platters, front and rear, as opposed to the IS 250C’s 11-inchers—and they’re the perfect antidote to previous complaints of excessive brake fade.
And because it’s a Lexus, it’ll come with a deluge of standard features. Leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-speaker stereo with SiriusXM… in fact, with all the standard features, it’s amazing how long the options list is. Go ahead and add heated/vented seats, navigation or an upgraded, 12-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. My favorite is the power-sliding/folding button for the front seats to allow access to the front, coupled with a memory system. Perhaps the biggest advantage is in the power-folding hardtop here, which rises and falls in just over 20 seconds. It’s smooth, it’s slick, and it gives you all the benefit of a hard top with the option of skygazing at your whim.
Want more? A Luxury Package gets you heated/vented seats along with auto-dimming mirrors, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and some dusky wood trim. The previously plugged F Sport Package goes much further with 19-inch forged wheels, carbon fiber accents inside and out (including the engine bay), a sport suspension, front lip spoiler, the heated/vented seats and a sport intake and exhaust.
Now, if you’re okay with your luxury sport sedan (entry-level or not) being a bit more comfortable than the competition, there’s a lot to look at with the IS C. Ignore the 2.5-liter engine and the 6-speed transmission it’s stuck with, and you should be okay. Just stay away from that manual mode, or you’ll find yourself upshifting right when you want to get down.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.