Three years after the introduction of the second-generation IS sedan Lexus introduced a new convertible model at the Paris Motor Show last week. The convertible version of the IS is denoted by the letter C and is available initially in IS250C and IS350C trim, going on sale in the first half of 2009, for the U.S. and Europe.

The new power-retractable hardtop roof is constructed from aluminum and folds away in just 20 seconds. It has been styled to offer minimal wind turbulence when driving with the top down, and when the top is up cabin noise is said to be the same as the sedan.

The model on display in Paris shares the same 2.5L V6 engine as the IS250 saloon and is rated at 205hp (153kW). Other models are expected to follow over the course of next year, including the 3.5L V6 IS350C and possibly a topless variant of the IS-F. All of the convertibles will share their powertrains with the sedan models.

Only the bonnet, headlamps, door handles and mirrors are shared with the IS saloon, all other body panels have been redesigned exclusively for the convertible. These include a new fog light design, a steeply raked windscreen and a sleek new roof profile. At the rear there are new lamp clusters with LEDs and a high-mounted LED stop light integrated in the boot lip spoiler.

The instrument panel, surrounding elements and the steering wheel are the same as on the IS saloon, but the instrument binnacle in front of the driver has been revised to ensure good visibility is maintained during top-down driving. The 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system also has a special feature that automatically adapts to the natural loss of bass when the roof is lowered.

The convertible has been designed to achieve a five-star frontal impact rating in Euro NCAP crash testing, with world-class safety performance in both coupe and convertible configuration. To achieve this without the solid roof structure, Lexus engineers needed to make numerous changes in the body structure enhance collision strength, roll-over protection and torsional rigidity.

For added protection when driving with the roof down, the IS 250C is equipped with new-design larger side airbags that provide head protection in the event of a side impact. The bodyshell also features additional energy-absorbing side impact pads for both front and rear seat occupants.

Availability in other markets, along with pricing in general, are yet to be announced.