2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible review
The Lexus LC is without doubt one of the most striking looking – and strikingly beautiful – cars on the road. Straight from science fiction, it’s a car that is always a welcome if rare sight on our roads.
Released in 2017 and offered in both V8 and hybrid form, it certainly caught a few imaginations, with nearly a hundred roaring out the door (well, around 80 roared, the other 20 hummed) in each of its first two years on sale.
Then last year Lexus unveiled a convertible version of the sleek coupe and it has finally made its way to our shores to form part of the 2021 line-up.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
If you go for a “standard” LC Convertible, you’ll pay $214,000 before on-roads. That nets you massive 21-inch forged-alloy two-tone wheels, rear parking sensors, auto LED headlights with cornering lights and washers, auto high-beam, keyless entry and start, head-up display, reversing camera, sat nav with SUNA live traffic, auto wipers, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated electric front seats, semi-aniline leather trim, front seat neck heaters, heated steering wheel, active noise cancelling and a tyre repair kit.
If you’re quick you can pick up one of “fewer than ten” Limited Edition LC Convertibles. That car weighs in at $234,000 and has the most beautiful Structural Blue paint job. Lexus says that most paint reflects about half of the light that hits it while this paint reflects almost all of it. It’s an amazing colour, inspired by the iridescent blue of the Morpho butterfly and photos honestly don’t do it justice.
The Limited Editions interior is a mix of white and blue leather which is not to my taste but is undeniably distinctive.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?
Lexus cars come with a four year/unlimited-kilometre warranty which slips the company neatly between the three years offered by the likes of BMW and Audi and the five-year program of Mercedes (including AMG).
What the others don’t offer – at least not at the scale Lexus does – is an impressive after-sales program called Encore. For buyers of the top-end Lexuses, there’s a new program called Encore Platinum. That includes three years capped-price servicing ($595 every 12 months or 15,000km). Lexus will come and get the car from you and return it and even leave you with a loan car if you want one.
Three years roadside assist is also part of the deal.
Encore Platinum adds a car swap service called Lexus On Demand where you can book another Lexus for up to eight days at a time up to four times during the three-year membership. You can do that at either a participating Lexus dealer or, rather usefully, at Qantas Valet in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?
What can you say about the LC? Well, there’s a bit to say, because this is the box-fresh Convertible version. You can choose from two colours for the roof fabric which Lexus is keen for you to know is wrinkle free.
The roof itself is a three-layer construction with aluminium and magnesium parts to keep weight down on an already chunky car. Sadly you won’t often see a lovely magnesium brace across the rear bulkhead which really appeals to the armchair engineer in me.
It’s a beautiful conversion, with a reprofiled boot to allow for the automatic roof stowage system which takes just 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50km/h.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
As amazing as the exterior. Some folks call it retro but I reckon it’s closer to avant-garde. It doesn’t really grab any design tropes that make me say, “Oh, that’s from a 1960s Whatever”. It’s very modern and filled with beautiful leather and metal finishes that you don’t even see even at this level. I defy anyone to tell me a Ferrari has better finishes – they’re lovely but not this lovely. Anything similar from Aston Martin or Bentley is vastly more expensive and in some cases still won’t match the Lexus for quality.
The rear seats are, basically, shelves, though, so don’t get any big ideas carrying your loved ones around. The front seats are extremely comfortable and cossetting. Basically, two people want for nothing in an LC, except maybe a better control method for the beautiful 10.25-inch touchscreen.
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?
A welcome update for 2021 is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both via USB. Less welcome is the continuation of the touch pad on the console to run the 10.3-inch media screen. It is absolutely the kind of thing you get used to but it’s hard to hit the targets you want on first acquaintance. It’s such a shame it’s still so iffy because it’s the only real debit mark in the otherwise superb interior. Moving on from that, you also get 13 Mark Levinson speakers with 918-watts of power and DAB radio.
WHAT IS THE STORAGE LIKE?
The choice of a cloth roof has ensured a reasonable boot remains, with 148 litres available. That’s not a lot less than the coupe which doesn’t have a huge boot to start with.
Apart from that you get a pair of cupholders up front and generous door pockets that will take a water bottle lying down but probably not a wine bottle. The rear seats aren’t really seats, so there’s room back there for the inevitable golf bag or a number of soft bags.
WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?
In the LC500 Convertible you will find Lexus’ absolutely glorious, high-revving 5.0-litre V8. I call it old-fashioned because it’s naturally-aspirated, but that’s where the term’s usefulness ends. At 7100rpm you’ll hit peak power of 351kW while peak torque of 540Nm arrives at 4800rpm.
It’s also full of exotic materials like titanium valves and the forged rods mean confidence that high revs won’t cause problems. Which is handy, because it sounds amazing when you flatten the throttle.
The slightly silly ten-speed automatic remains. Silly because there are ten gears but the first gear is really tall, a bit like a Mustang’s. No doubt that’s to help with the Euro VI emissions figures, but you may as well have six gears because you’ll so rarely see the top half of the gearbox.
Having said that, it seemed a lot happier than the previous LCs I’ve driven, with a lot less hunting between gears. Part of the recalibration also means that if you’ve got 70 percent of throttle on, the engine will rev out rather than shifting early.
WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?
Lexus quotes 12.7L/100km on the combined cycle which is actually doable, although with a bit of enthusiastic driving combined with the hefty two-tonne plus kerb weight, that will quickly climb into the mid-teens. It’s not bad, though, especially considering smaller capacity turbo V8s with not that much more power drink just as much. Which, when compared with similar power outputs from ten years ago, isn’t excessive.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
This is a happy place. From the second you open that long door with the flush-fitting handles, it’s a car that makes you happy. Actually, just clapping eyes on it does that. I know that seems like a ridiculous thing to say, but there are only a few cars on the road today that flick a switch deep in your brain that makes you – momentarily at least – forget about whatever is frustrating you. It’s just gorgeous.
The LC has a typically Lexus feel – extremely solid, very smooth, and almost unbelievably refined. Part of that is down to the clever active noise canceling system which also transforms into a “have a listen to this” system when you dial things up a bit when you want to have some fun.
The LC could be an RC when you’re tooling around in comfort, only more refined. Dial it up to Sport+ and while it doesn’t turn into an RC F Track Edition, it instead becomes an agile sports coupe with a fantastic soundtrack.
With the roof up, you can sort of tell it’s not the same as the coupe, particularly when you’ve stepped out of one. There is that bit of extra weight higher up in the chassis, along with bracing along the rear bulkhead and underneath, and a host of new spot-welds (the most Lexus thing ever is to know how many new spot-welds made it into the new model) and other bits and bobs.
Roof down, it’s the usual compromise. You get a bit of flex but you get that V8 soundtrack leaping down your ear canals. The Lexus V8 is a thing of aural beauty, with a deep-chested roar that you’ll never tire of.
The steering remains light but with just enough feel to let you know what’s going on. Part of the price difference between the standard coupe and the convertible is explained by the inclusion of a mechanical limited-slip differential. That sharpens things up and helps offset the fact you can’t have the Performance Pack available on the coupe which adds rear-wheel steering.
It’s a lovely thing to cruise in and a brilliant thing to lean on. Find yourself a mountain road with a nice rock cliff face to run alongside and you will not be able to get enough of the way it brakes, steers and then bellows out of the corner, with a subtle tail wriggle if you give it enough.
But in the city, it’s as docile as you could hope. Did I mention I am an unabashed fan of this car?
HOW SAFE IS THE LC?
The LC comes with the usual braking and stability systems, as well as six airbags, forward collision warning, reversing camera, forward AEB, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and a pop-up pedestrian bonnet.
There is no crash test data from anywhere, so no ANCAP safety rating or indeed any rating that I can find. I’d be surprised, however, if it failed to manage five stars.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
There aren’t many for the coupe and even fewer for the convertible. You can have a BMW M850i xDrive for a whopping $281,900. You do get almost useable rear seats but you’re not getting anything like the looks (just take that as read for any of its rivals, actually). You can step down to the six-cylinder 840i M Sport which is rear-wheel drive but still at $222,900.
The Mercedes-AMG E53 is less powerful and quite a bit cheaper at $188,235. It’s got a lot of stuff as well as all-wheel drive, but it doesn’t have a V8 like either the Lexus or the BMW.
And, er, that’s about it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The LC is hard to categorise. It’s not like any of its German friends but is all the better for it. It’s a genuine piece of art the company is rightly proud of and everyone who sees one thinks it’s amazing to look at inside and out. It’s bought by People Who Know. And from what I can tell does not inspire rudeness or jealousy from other road users because it’s just so cool.
The LC500 Convertible is a strong play from Lexus and from a visual and experiential standpoint, it’s as close to perfection as you’ll get. Like many in the Lexus range, it’s a deliberately different car and all the better for it.