Sharp Supercharged Lexus IS 350C at SEMA

October 26th, 2011

Lexus IS 350C

Some folks laugh at SEMA, the auto aftermarket show that opens next week in Las Vegas: the dopey cars with bolt-on wings, the girls with bolt-on bras (lots of photos here) and so forth.

But SEMA represents a vast industry of automotive specialty manufacturers and distributors that make and sell all kinds of accessory auto parts—performance and cosmetic—for every kind of vehicle.

Every once in a while, you see a car there that truly improves on what the factory has offered. Such is the Lexus IS 350C as modified by VIP Auto Salon. These guys seem to work on Lexus cars almost exclusively, and while most Lexi leave me cold, the 350C is beautifully executed, and VIP has left nothing untouched.

The standard 350C is far from a bad car, even though it doesn’t offer a manual gearbox and can’t really compete with the convertible offerings of Audi and BMW. Its 3.5-liter V6 outputs 306 hp and will do 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, says LeftLane.

But the VIP boys have added a custom supercharger, headers and tuned ECU controller, which boosts power to 386 hp and 372 lb-ft of torque. Besides suspension upgrades, lowered springs, Bilstein shocks and 19-inch wheels, the show car gets the full treatment of:

  • an aero styling package (spoilers, diffusers, etc., tastefully done)
  • carbon fiber hood
  • “custom chameleon paint” (whatever that is)
  • custom seat inserts
  • special interior and exterior LED lighting.

Lexus IS 350C, frontShould Toyota have put mods like this into its 350C from the beginning? Well, yes, if it wanted to make the Lexus competitive with, say, the Audi A5 convertible (and if so, the car desperately needs a manual tranny).

But maybe it was focusing on a niche below German performance-oriented machines. Maybe it was looking for the buyer who would be happy with a little less clout and a few more dollars left in his pocket. Infiniti makes a pretty nice car with its G37 convertible, and maybe that’s the competition Lexus was aiming at.

Toyota knows well how to make sporty cars. It is showing off the 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport at SEMA, with all the goodies you’d want. Kind of like what the VIP guys did with the convertible.

Can Lexus’ IS 350C and GS 350 F Sport really compete with cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Lexus IS 350C
Used Audi A5
Used Infiniti G37
Used Lexus GS 350

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  1. Randy
    October 30th, 2011 at 10:10 | #1

    I would love to see portions of the automotive aftermarket industry regulated out of business. They are only too happy to make and sell products that are illegal in many states (like underbody neon) or items that make your car unsafe (such as headlight and taillight covers that users leave on at night) along with patently absurd super-loud pipes and mufflers, suspension, wheel/tire combos and brake kits that can leave a car dangerously unstable, and horsepower add-ons that destroy emission equipment and cause crashes. The car insurance industry could go a long way to eliminating the irresponsible parts of this industry by refusing to insure (or pay off) people who modify their cars with this junk.

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