Before the IS 350 C, Lexus had only one convertible, the SC, a high-priced two-seater. The IS 350 C builds a convertible out of the Lexus' smallest and least expensive car.

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The grille is the same as the one on the Lexus IS 350, using Lexus' Finesse design language, seen in the way the top corners of the grille point out. As a safety feature, the headlights use adaptive technology, pivoting to follow whichever direction the wheels are turned.

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The 3.5-liter V-6 uses variable-valve timing and direct injection to enhance its efficiency, giving it 306 horsepower while achieving an average of about 21 mpg.

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For this retractable hard top, Lexus changed the car's side profile from the original hard top, making a less attractive drop-off at the back.

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The top itself works like other retractable hard tops we've seen, folding itself up in a complex manner and stowing itself in the trunk. It uses up about 90 percent of the trunk space when stowed.

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With the top down, the IS 350 C makes for a nice open air cruiser, with room for four.

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Although the IS 350 C's engine makes it feel like a sports car, the suspension is too soft for the task. Pushing the car hard into corners reveals vague steering and suspension travel.

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The interior materials are particularly nice in this car, lending heavily toward a luxury character.

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The multifunction steering wheel is mounted with buttons for the audio system, and paddle shifters for the transmission's manual mode.

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These electroluminescent gauges are inset with rings that light up when the tach redlines or when the speed goes over about 77 mph.

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The six-speed automatic has a sport mode and manual mode to aid enthusiast driving. But these modes don't shift fast enough for really serious driving.

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A hard drive-based navigation system is new for the IS. It integrates traffic and weather, warning about bad traffic ahead on any programmed route.

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Weather forecasts are delivered through XM satellite radio, along with any sports scores and stock prices.

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The satellite radio interface has presets for easy channel loading.

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iPod integration is also new for the IS, allowing music selection by artist, album, and genre.

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We were impressed by the towers of speakers in each door from the Mark Levinson audio system upgrade.

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The Bluetooth phone system works very well in the IS 350 C, downloading phone contacts and allowing dialing by name with the voice command system.

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A rearview camera doesn't have any overlay information, but does make it easier to park.

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