It’s a car that I’m absolutely confident will be a future classic, and that’s not something that can be said for most of today’s vehicles. As we live in this new age of technology, it’s difficult to predict which turbocharged four-cylinder crossover will age well enough to appreciate after bottoming out. This year, Lexus has chopped the top off, adding to the portfolio of future classics. We jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible to try it out for ourselves.
The heart of the beast is why we’re so insistent on the LC being well respected for decades to come. In an industry where forced induction and smaller displacement seems to rule, the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 is a welcomed return to what got many of us into cars to begin with. This engine outputs 471 horsepower at 7,100RPM and 398 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800RPM. It uses modern tech such as direct injection and even a 10-speed automatic, but the noise is all natural and the kind of thing that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand right up.
After even Aston Martin has gone with an AMG turbocharged V8 in their Vantage, the LC is one of the only screaming naturally aspirated V8 screamers out there. The exhaust note is just intoxicating and the car behaves exactly like you want a grand tourer to. The automatic transmission is “just fine” when left on its own, but the number of gears is just too much if shifting manually. It does 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, which isn’t bad for a 4,500 pound convertible. Seeing as the LS 500 (reviewed here) has gone to a six-cylinder setup, this may be the final time that Lexus offers this wonderful V8.
The hardtop LC isn’t exactly a nimble car, but the weight balance is quite good and it corners sharply. Its structural rigidity, adaptive rear-wheel steering and responsive variable steering help it behave quite compliantly. The LC 500 Convertible is still sharp, but there’s noticeable cowl shake and it has more of a pool-noodle effect when compared to the coupé. Those wanting to do any sort of performance driving will want to stick with the fixed-roof model.
That aside, in a straight line as a highway-stormer, the LC 500 Convertible is an absolutely sublime choice. Lexus has engineered a wonderful car, and its road manners are proof of this. The damping is the right balance between firm and supple, and the LC demolishes mileage like it’s nobody’s business. It’s quiet and smooth, with tire and engine noise virtually nonexistent at highway speeds. Being a convertible though, there is some road noise transmitted through the cabin through the soft top – it can get annoying in certain settings.
Aside from the obvious weight difference and ensuing change in overall dynamics, the LC Convertible’s major difference is, obviously, the ability to go topless. The soft convertible top can open in roughly 15 seconds, and hides away under a hard tonneau cover behind the rear seats. It’s a slower mechanism than expected, but is also Lexus’ first soft-top – the previous IS and SC convertibles had power retractable hardtops. A neck heating system pushes warm air out directly below the front headrests and onto occupants’ necks, making cool-weather top-down cruising a reality.
The interior of any and every LC is a thing of beauty, with unmatched attention to detail, excellent quality and gorgeous aesthetics. The door handles are a one-piece unit that come right out of the door panel, and fit and finish is among the best currently available. The seats are also very comfortable as expected, and aside from blind spots thanks to the small windows, the driving position is just perfect for a grand tourer. It’s more aesthetically pleasing and feels like better quality than anything Aston Martin’s current lineup offers. There are two rear seats, however if your passengers have legs, they’re little more than just eye candy – a large Mark Levinson subwoofer lives between these seats.
That said, the single biggest weakness to the LC is also related to the interior – the infotainment. The 10.3-inch widescreen is nice to look at, but the touchpad that controls the system is clunky, unintuitive, and difficult to use. Said screen is also not a touchscreen. Accessing major controls like the heated and cooled seats and heated steering wheel take far more steps through sub-menus than it should, and we experienced a few random system freezes that required a full vehicle re-start.
The LC 500 does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though without a touchscreen it’s quite difficult to use. Lexus’ Safety System+ is on board as well, which includes automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, pre collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist, and more. The lovely Mark Levinson sound system is also in play here, and is a great supplement for your favourite tunes when cruising top down.
Lexus prices the LC from $103,550 to start, and the convertible from $122,500. The LC 500h (reviewed here) hybrid is only available in coupe form, and we don’t recommend it nearly as strongly as we recommend the regular gas engine tested here. The only available option on the LC 500 Convertible is a $10,000 Inspiration Series package that adds a Marine Convertible top, Amalfi White interior trim, and unique colours and finishers inside and out. At $123,150 as tested, the only option on our test vehicle is the Infrared paint which was matched to Toasted Caramel leather.
With that price and our observed fuel efficiency of 13.6L/100km, the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible isn’t exactly a car you buy to be economical. This is a car you buy because you want something that nobody else around you has. The crisp, modern styling isn’t overdone to a point where it’ll age poorly, and the engineering comes with the proven reliability of the Lexus brand. No matter how you look at it, the LC is the perfect balance between a supercar and a grand tourer. This is a real head-turner that’ll be the subject of longing gazes for many years to come, especially since it’s quite possibly the swan song of this V8 engine.