There are some cars where you can throw the numbers out the window because all that matters is the experience. This is the 2022 Lexus LC 500 Convertible, and such is also the case for the Lexus LFA; the brand’s spare-no-expense, “let the engineers do whatever they want” dream project. And dream they did, equipping the LFA with a carbon fiber body shell, sequential transmission, and one of the best sounding engines of all time, the 4.8-liter V10. Limited to 200 units and priced at $375,000 USD it was actually sold at a net loss for Toyota but it was also the turning point.
While LFA was largely an engineering project, Lexus took a similar level of passion this time focused on design. Free from the shackles of convention the results of their efforts manifested in the universally acclaimed 2012 LF LC Concept. In 2017 the LC 500 launched as the new flagship for the Lexus brand looking virtually identical to the LF LC with some of the lessons learned from the LFA sprinkled in for good measure.
While an LFA convertible prototype had been seen running around the streets of Japan it was never released as a commercial model. With the LC Convertible Lexus has successfully realized the sleek flowing lines of the coupe, and it looks equally stunning with roof open or closed. The automatic soft roof opens or closes in 15 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/h and folds up compactly leaving room for back seats (only good for pets and small humans for short stints) and very little trunk space.
The silhouette bears an undeniable similarity to the LFA, but with an extended wheel base and a touch more ground clearance. The striking spindle grill has permeated through the entire lineup and it looks impressive here with its curvaceous three dimensional shape. Beautiful front LED projector lamps and rear multi layered tail lamps look like they’ve jumped straight from a designer’s concept sketch and into reality. Door handles are embedded flush into the door which pop open. New for 2022 is the Cadmium Orange paint as if the design wasn’t already a head turner.
The design language of the exterior continues with an equally gorgeous bespoke interior. Standout pieces like the one piece door handles, metal climate controls and a polished volume knob with some heft to it are all unique to the LC making it feel special. Closer inspection reveals even more details, like the forged carbon fiber door and trunk panels and the classy carbon fiber backed analog clock in the dash. A bit of a shame that the generic bright orange passenger airbag safety warning sits next to the clock but that seems to be the only concession made for an otherwise “design first” interior.
Trimmed in a black semi-aniline leather the heated and ventilated seats are supremely comfortable as you sink into the thick layer of memory foam yet still offer plenty of support for when things get sporty. Alcantara surfaces found in the coupe are replaced with either leather or a composite material which sacrifice some tactile luxury with materials that will stand up to the elements when the top is dropped.
First introduced in the LFA because an analog tachometer could not keep up with the speed at which the LFA could rev, the LC is equipped with one of the coolest instrument cluster designs ever. It features a physical bezel that slides over a TFT screen, placing the tachometer smack dab in the middle or off to the side revealing information displays setup through steering wheel buttons.
The one and only element of the LC 500 that is not so timeless is the infotainment system. Though the 10.3-inch display was so far ahead of its time at launch that it still looks current, the interface side of things has definitely moved on. Emphasizing that the display is not a touch capable it is actually tucked in behind a plastic visor, instead relying on the ol’ Lexus Touch pad and cursor paired with an outdated voice command system to navigate the system.
To give you an idea of how old school this system is the manual suggests calling up a Lexus agent through its Enform suite to setup destinations for you remotely. Wired Apple Car Play and Android Auto are supported though we found the implementation to be rudimentary at best. With some patience you can set up destinations ahead of time or simply use your smartphone as the primary input device.
Even worse is that climate controls for the very neat neck warmer, heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated Seats are buried in infotainment menus, though Lexus has created a “Climate Concierge” which automatically operates these features in accordance to the temperature. The wind deflector installed in the back seat proved very effective as well to keep noise out of the cabin.
Where the infotainment system does excel is with the 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio, which features an amazing sound stage and clarity even with the roof open. It’s clear Lexus wants you to focus on the driving experience as many features are locked out while the vehicle is in motion. Having said that when parked you have your own private open air drive in theater using the in-dash DVD Player.
While we don’t get the insanely cool shift speed selector from the LFA, in its place drive mode select dial. Normal, Eco, Comfort, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom modes are at your fingertips adjusting suspension, throttle response, exhaust noise and more. The ability for this car to transform from quiet luxury grand touring vehicle to an adrenaline factory is astounding.
Dropping a V8 into a vehicle automatically gets an enthusiast’s heart pumping, but it wouldn’t do the Lexus’ 5.0L 2UR-GSE justice to leave it at that. After experiencing it in the LC you’ll find that all V8’s are not equal and there is something very special about this high revving engine; part fine-tuned instrument, part roaring beast.
For many driving enthusiasts, the sound of the engine is one of the most important aspects of the car and in this regard the LC 500 does not disappoint. While it doesn’t quite reach the highs of the banshee wail of the LFA, LC uses a similar trick by allowing specially filtered frequencies of engine note to be piped into the cabin putting you in the center of an absolute symphony of internal combustion. Paired with a computer controlled exhaust valve and the roof open it equates to an incredible soundtrack, an automotive nirvana. Backing up that wonderful noise are 471 horsepower at 7,100RPM, and 398 lb-ft. at 4,800RPM, enough for a 0-100km/h in about 4.7 seconds.
Equally impressive is the 10 speed automatic transmission which will have you flicking up and down the gears and giving the magnesium shift paddles a real workout. Bouncing off the rev-limiter like rabid dog, the roar of the V8 eggs you on to ring it out up to its 7,100RPM limit. Gear changes are sublime, and the auto-blip downshifting is ultra-satisfying. In automatic mode the car behaves exactly as you would expect depending on the driving mode you have selected.
Equipped with adaptive variable suspension, a Torsen limited slip differential and a Yamaha rear performance damper the LC Convertible handles as good as it looks, easily holding the line with neutral handling and sharp turn in but also providing a supple and luxurious ride quality befitting the Lexus name. The suspension tuning is remarkable especially when you consider we are rolling on 21-inch forged wheels wrapped in 245/40 front and 275/35 rear run-flat tires.
In our time with the LC Convertible with mixed highway and our fair share of backroads we observed fuel economy of 15.5L/ 100 km. Not only is she thirsty, but she only runs on the good stuff (91 Octane or better) – it’s a good thing the LC makes burning that fuel and gas money feel worthwhile.
Unlike the LC 500 Coupe, the convertible comes standard with much of the coupes Performance Package. New for 2022 is the option for a “Bespoke Build” where you can choose from three wheel styles, interior and exterior color combinations including parts from the inspiration edition of 2021. The LC Convertible starts at $124,300, and the new Cadmium Orange paint adds $650.
The 2022 Lexus LC 500 Convertible isn’t going to win any awards, or win many drag races with cars you can buy for similar money but spending time in its presence is an absolute joy – whether taking in its design, using it as a relaxing refuge from the stresses of daily life, or taking it out for an exhilarating Sunday morning drive. This is a car that is truly special; it’s the best Japanese car on sale today and will be sought after long after production lines stop.