Last year I was fortunate enough to drive and review the Lexus LC500 Coupe. I labelled it a ‘dignified monster’ for its blend of performance and comfort. Now, though, I’m behind the wheel of the all-new 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible, and on first impressions that metaphor remains well and truly in place.
Not all convertibles are created equal. The act of chopping the roof off an accomplished coupe sometimes hamstrings what was a great hardtop. That’s not the case with the LC500 Convertible, which remains true to the philosophy of its hardtop sibling, blending muscle car performance with grand touring sensibilities.
The LC500 Convertible, a first for the nameplate, arrived locally late last year with just two variants in the range. The regular run-of-the-mill LC500 Convertible is priced at $214,000 plus on-road costs. It’s the car we have on test here.
But, for those with deeper pockets and wanting exclusivity, there’s the LC500 Convertible Limited Edition; a $234,000 proposition that brings with it an exclusive colour, Structural Blue, married to a white-and-blue semi-aniline leather interior. There are also distinctive Limited Edition scuff plates. Australia was slated to receive just 10 of the Limited Edition, so if that’s your bent, get in quick.
|2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible|
|Engine||5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8|
|Power and torque||351kW at 7100rpm, 540Nm at 4800rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||12.7L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||13.6L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||149L|
|ANCAP safety rating||Untested|
|Main competitors||BMW 8 Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, Porsche 911 Cabrio|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$214,000|
For now, though, we have the standard convertible, and as is the Lexus way it’s overflowing with standard inclusions. Equipment highlights include: 21-inch forged alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, dusk-sensing LED headlights, keyless entry and push-button start, an 8.0-inch slide-out digital instrument cluster modelled on the one found in Lexus’s LFA supercar, a 10.3-inch infotainment screen featuring satellite navigation with live traffic updates, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, DAB+ radio, and a premium 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DVD player.
There’s dual-zone climate control, a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats, electrically adjustable with memory function and trimmed in semi-aniline premium leather, a heated steering wheel, front seat neck heaters and sports pedals.
It’s a comprehensive list of equipment befitting a premium grand tourer, but it’s all secondary to the LC500 Convertible’s party trick. And that can be found under that long and imposing bonnet.
Like its Coupe sibling, the LC500 Convertible is powered by Lexus’s brilliant and increasingly rare 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8. It generates a monstrous 351kW at 7100rpm and 540Nm at 4800rpm. It’s matched with a 10-speed automatic sending drive to the rear wheels exclusively.
Lexus doesn’t quote a 0–100km/h sprint time for the Convertible, but it does claim the Coupe can complete the dash to triple figures in 4.7 seconds. It’s not unreasonable to think the heavier soft-top might be a fraction slower. Still plenty quick, though.
That 5.0-litre V8 is, quite simply, a masterpiece, at once linear and predictable all while bellowing raucously from the songbook of the automotive gods. It’s quite benign, too, when it needs to be, like navigating traffic and the urban grind. The engine and exhaust note remain muted at lower speeds, rumbling away softly in the background, and a gentle reminder there is so much more on tap should you need it.
And when you do need some extra mojo, the bellowing V8 snarls into life and urges the big convertible forward with aplomb, and a snarling and angry bark sadly lacking in all but the most niche cars of today.
Settle into a highway cruise, and the big V8 goes about its business in an unflustered manner. There’s no straining at the leash, merely an easy lope for the big mill, barely working up a sweat to maintain 110km/h.
The 10-speed auto does a decent job of keeping you in the right gear, never feeling overly fussed or like it’s trying too hard. Switch over to either Sport or Sport+ mode, however, and the 10-speed ’box is happy to let that stonking V8 howl for your pleasure, holding onto revs freely as you surge forward with abandonment.
Of course, a convertible needs to be driven with the roof down to best enjoy the experience. Drop the four-layered cloth lid on the LC500 – it takes just 15 seconds and can be operated at speeds up to 50km/h – and your senses are suddenly heightened, assaulted even.
Insulation from the elements is decent, with some wind noise to be expected. It’s not unbearable, though, and conversations can be conducted at normal levels. That is, unless you want to play with the LC500 and let that glorious V8 off the chain.
And oh what a noise it is, that snarling V8 amplified by the absence of the LC500’s roof. There’s a line here about ‘wind in the hair’, but the reality is the LC500’s cabin remains well insulated from wind. There’s no evidence either of ‘scuttle shake’, that pesky phenomenon of convertibles where the lack of a roof induces flexing of the remaining body structures. Make no mistake, this is a supremely well-engineered convertible.
And that translates to the ride and handling of the big tourer, which remains composed and supple. It’s not taut, but neither is it wallowy. Instead, the 2035kg drop-top handles most of the detritus thrown its way with ease, ironing out bumps easily and settling back on its not inconsiderable haunches quickly, leaving you to enjoy a comfortable grand touring experience.
That experience translates to the cabin that feels every bit of the LC500 Convertible’s $214,000 asking price. The interior is trimmed in gorgeous semi-aniline leather that feels plush and soft. Those front seats are supremely comfortable, too, hugging your body like grandmother.
Every surface is yielding to the touch and feels quality in hand. The steering wheel frames the LFA-inspired driver display that changes colour depending on the selected drive mode – white for Comfort and an angry red for Sport and Sport+. Its party trick, of course, the tacho that slides from the left-hand side of the instrument binnacle to the centre when those two more aggressive drive modes are selected.
Our long-held gripes about Lexus’s fiddly infotainment system remain, however. The touchpad and toggle controller are simply too fussy for meaningful and decisive inputs. The cursor on the screen often skips over the desired menu or submenu item. It does get easier with prolonged use, as we’ve found with other long-term Lexus loans, but it remains a frustrating user experience.
The second row is next to useless for adult humans – cramped with almost no leg room, even behind my relatively diminutive 172cm driving position. And ingress and egress require some mild contortion. If your needs run to a genuine four-seater convertible, the LC500 isn’t the car for you.
The boot remains usable, however, despite ceding space to the roof mechanism. Lexus claims there’s 149L of available space, and visually it looks enough for a couple of adults to stow a couple of bags. Certainly enough room for the weekly shop.
Despite that bellowing V8 under the bonnet, Lexus claims an official fuel consumption figure of 12.7L/100km on the combined cycle. Our week with the soft-top returned an impressive 13.6L/100km, and that included plenty of urban traffic and some spirited and raucous driving on some rural blacktop. Impressive for such a big, powerful car.
Lexus covers the LC500 Convertible with its standard four-year/100,000-kilometre warranty, while a trip to the workshop is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing is available, Lexus asking $595 per visit for the first three years/45,000km.
The LC500 Convertible is also part of Lexus’s Encore Platinum, which brings with it a host of benefits. You can read about them here.
The LC500 remains untested by safety body ANCAP, although its suite of advanced safety systems is reasonably comprehensive, including six airbags, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. There are also auto high-beam headlights, a pop-up bonnet in case of a frontal collision, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The LC500 Convertible should be celebrated, its blend of styling, performance and that thunderous V8 an assault on all the senses. Lexus has taken what is an exceptional Coupe and turned it into an equally as absorbing and cromulent Convertible. Kudos.