From the moment we first saw it, there was no doubt that the Lexus LC500 was a beautifully styled sports coupe, and as you tend to do when you see a beautiful coupe, thoughts drift to what it might look like with the roof removed from the equation. Or more accurately, a roof that can be removed from the equation when the mood takes you.
It seems like Lexus was thinking the same thing as well – and now we get to test the equally beautiful 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible at its local launch. Looking at it in the flesh, this could be one of those instances where the convertible looks even better than the coupe.
What do you think? As good? Better? It’s certainly a stunner from every angle in the metal. We had a close look at one of the 10 limited-run variants, too, and the blue paintwork is absolutely sensational in the sunlight.
There are vastly more expensive cars from premium brands that could do with the same attention to detail in regard to the colour application, that’s for sure. There’s no orange peel or dullness to be found in the finish anywhere.
In fact, the paint is more like a custom application rather than a mass-produced execution.
You can read our updated pricing and specification story for all the details, but for quick reference, the LC500 Convertible will be priced from $214,000 before on-road costs, while the first 10 ‘Limited Edition’ examples will be priced from $234,000 before on-road costs.
|Engine||5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8|
|Power and torque||351kW @ 7100rpm, 540Nm @ 4800rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||12.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||15.6L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||149L|
|ANCAP safety rating||N/A|
|Main competitors||BMW 8 Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, Porsche 911 Cabrio|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$214,000 (plus ORC)|
While the styling certainly nails the brief and brings the essence of the exclusive LFA supercar into a vastly more affordable realm, the Lexus signatures of build quality, practicality and versatility all remain. Lexus was extremely keen to retain some of the standout features of the Coupe – cabin space and comfort, a useful boot, and ergonomics.
For instance, despite the low-slung appearance of the beautifully executed material roof, it’s only 11mm shorter on head room in the front seats compared to the Coupe.
The boot stows 149L, and in the words of Lexus engineers "had to remain useful" rather than simply being there. It will easily carry clothing and gear for two adults on a weeklong road trip, for example.
Likewise, the cabin also retains useful storage, and all the ergonomics and comfort you would expect from Lexus, despite the much sportier intention of this stunning two-door drop-top.
Forget the back seats exist – except for emergencies, you won’t want to use them, and aside from young kids who haven’t gotten too tall yet, no-one will really want to be back there either. Still, the LC is ‘officially’ a 2+2, but it’s smarter to think of the back seats as extra storage most of the time.
The touch/track pad that controls the infotainment system is still way too fussy to use easily (especially on the move), and it needs to be better, but aside from that gripe, the cabin nears perfection. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are catered for, and work well, as does the native satellite navigation system. The Mark Levinson audio system is quite simply superb – roof open or closed.
Trying to find the heated and cooled seat controls through the climate tab, for example, is trickier than it needs to be, and not particularly easy to execute while you’re on the move either. We write about it often, and it’s safe to assume Lexus’s next-gen system will be a different kettle of fish, but currently the controls aren’t intuitive enough.
The driver’s display is clear and concise, though, and you’re not missing anything there. And once you work out the nature of the controls, the system itself is excellent. It’s just the way Lexus forces you to control it that grates.
The roof can be lowered and raised in approximately 15 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h, and the compact nature of both the design and the folding mechanism means it eats into boot space as little as possible.
There’s additional underbody bracing, as well as a meaty upper brace around the leading edge of the boot to ensure the body structure is as rigid as it can be, despite the removal of the fixed roof structure.
Under the long bonnet, there’s the same 5.0-litre, naturally aspirated V8 engine we’re familiar with generating 351kW at 7100rpm and 540Nm at 4800rpm.
While the numbers are impressive enough, it’s the soundtrack that best exemplifies why we’re incredibly grateful Lexus has decided to persist with an engine devoid of forced induction and inclined to spin freely to redline. What a noise.
There’s a slick-shifting 10-speed automatic mated to the V8, and Lexus has managed to tune it in such a way that it isn’t constantly hunting for ratios and shifting seemingly for the sake of it. Rather, it is either almost imperceptible in Comfort or Eco mode, or it just picks the ratio it wants and stays there. Move to Sport or Sport+ modes, though, and you certainly know when it’s shifting gears.
The LC is no lightweight tipping the scales at 2035kg, but it’s not stupidly thirsty either – 12.7L/100km is the official claim on the combined cycle – and at launch we saw 15s for most of our drive that didn’t take in much traffic. We did get stuck in through some twisty sections, however.
Straight up, the Lexus feeling of solidity is very much in play. The cabin is quiet and insulated with the roof up, and the way the air flows over and around the LC when the top is dropped keeps it that way with the roof down. I struggled to find any instance where it felt like the LC was losing out to a conventional metal roof, such is the quality of the four-layer soft-top.
I closed the roof over a section of rutted B-road to see what might happen if things got a little unruly. Not a squeak, rattle or noise. Not one. There was barely even any vibration through the screen-mounted rear-view mirror, so insignificant is the scuttle shake. And no loss of composure either. The LC really is as good as a drop-top can get in a performance sense.
The steering and balance, despite harnessing all its power through the rear wheels only, are first-rate. The limited-slip differential helps, but the LC is poised and effortless, and doesn’t feel like a big heavy barge that you have to work hard to muscle around. Plenty of big GTs do. This one doesn’t. It’s sharp and responsive, and heads where you point it.
The engine is snarly down low and shrieks up high in the rev range – a soundtrack that is improved with the touch of the roof-lowering button. In Sport or Sport+ modes, everything becomes more urgent and focused.
Aside from the throttle blip on the way down, there’s no silly popping and blurting through the exhaust. Nothing manufactured to try to add a false sense of theatre. Just the glorious sound of a tuned V8 doing exactly what it was designed to do.
The LC Convertible is fast without demanding the commitment or talent of a race driver. In fact, it’s the perfect platform to enjoy without intimidation if you’re so inclined. A platform, then, that targets the intended buyer perfectly.
The ride is neither too firm nor too floaty, and it's surprisingly comfortable roof up or down, even on poor roads. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, though, the LC Coupe is just as impressive.
Lexus might be known for building cushy, luxury sedans more at home on a limo fleet than a racetrack. But cars like the GS F, RC F and now LC500 have changed that perception, and changed it big style. The LC500 Convertible is an exceptional two-door blending luxury with just the right dose of sporting ability. The stunning styling is an extra benefit.
There might be faster or ‘better’ two-doors around, but none strike the balance that the LC does. Lexus has another winner on its hands.