Retractable hardtop convertibles are the answer for car owners who like driving convertibles but who live in areas where ragtops can wear quickly or prove otherwise troublesome (like leaking or freezing) in inclement weather.
The 2014 Lexus IS 350C hardtop convertible joined the increasing supply of retractable hardtops in 2010. The current 2014 edition is my vehicle for the weeklong USA Pro Challenge, a pro bike race from Aspen to Denver, Colorado.
The mountain drive from Snowmass Resort to Aspen is only about 7.5 miles, but it was warm and sunny Monday morning, so after a nearly a five-hour ride yesterday from Denver with the top up, a top-down ride seemed only right.
The Lexus IS 350C hardtop retracts electronically with a push-button to the left of the steering wheel. It took 22 seconds.
One common concern for those considering a convertible is the potential noise of driving with the top down. I drove the Lexus IS 350C primarily on a sweeping downhill mountain road to Aspen and then along city roads. The coupe offered a quiet convertible drive, with one exception.
With the stereo volume turned up and the top down, I had difficultly hearing the navigation instructions. I turned off the radio for the rest of the drive. The inconvenience, of course, may not have been as much about the wind rush of the Lexus as it was the increasing hearing difficulties of the middle-aged driver.
Another general concern for convertible owners, particularly those with retractable models, is a lack of available trunk space. Where does the top go when not in use?
The Lexus IS 350 C doesn’t have much trunk space with the top up. I travel light, usually with only on carry-on suitcase and a laptop bag. The items fit, but there’s a crossbar in the trunk that’s part of the convertible mechanism. The space isn’t large enough for a regular size suitcase or duffel bag.
With the convertible top down, there’s no space for an overnight bag, but my computer bag fit in the small remaining compartment.
Article Last Updated: August 18, 2014.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.