Auto123 reviews the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible.
Believe it or not, as modern and even futuristic as the Lexus LC 500 looks, it’s actually been around since 2017, when the ’18 model first started arriving in dealerships. It looked spectacular then and it still does, especially in convertible form. And that happens to be the variant the good folks at Lexus provided us with for a springtime test drive.
Like the coupe that looked so similar to its 2012 LF-LC concept, the convertible version is a spitting image of the concept first seen at the 2019 LA Auto Show. It’s made it to production with little to no differences, and that’s a very good thing.
While there are many delectable details to consider when it comes to the exterior styling, it all starts with the stance and profile of the LC 500. The great, long hood, speedster-style tonneau cover and perfectly-sized ducktail spoiler are gorgeous to stare at and even with the soft top up, the LC 500 Convertible looks an absolute treat, because top up or down, the detailing is spot on.
It starts with that fantastic grille, and those ultra-edgy headlights make for a low, wide stance and look that is part performance GT, part stealth jet fighter and just damn aggressive overall. Around the side, once we’re done taking in that gorgeous profile, the focus turns to the great two-tone 21-inch wheels, the spokes of which get a subtle twist that gives the impression of movement even while standing still.
After that, it’s all about the futuristic taillight lenses with bulbs that provide kind of an infinite 3D effect and dual oblong exhaust outlets. Oftentimes, ultra-aggressive exhaust outlets like that are a little ironic in that they hide much smaller exhaust tips, but that’s not really the case here as the actual exhaust tips – the ones that actually transport all that burned fuel runoff – are big and look like they will make themselves heard.
Wrap it all up in the Infrared paint seen here (or Nori Green, or Flare Yellow or…it’s all good, really), and you have one of the most exciting-looking cars available in Canada. One that received more comments from passers-by during my test than any vehicle I’ve tested in recent memory.
Inside, I find it to be a little bit more of a mixed bag. There are some adventurous features to be sure, but their effect is diluted a little by the fact that as special as the LC is, it’s still produced by a mass-market manufacturer and its massive parts bin has been raided.
The details that do make the LC 500’s interior great, though, are spot on. I love the “floating” interior door pulls, the high-class leather and suede used for all the surfaces and the way the roof controls are hidden beneath a slick cover just below the infotainment system’s touchpad. The roof, meanwhile, goes about its business in about 18 seconds and can be operated at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
With the top down, meanwhile, occupants are well taken care of with a heated steering wheel, heated seats and a neat feature that blows warm air on the neck from a vent at the base of the headrest.
Not sure if I love the “Toasted Caramel” interior colouring of my tester, though. There’s too much of it and a few more splashes of the great brushed aluminum trim seen in some parts of the cabin (it adorns the door pulls, parts of the dash and parts of the steering wheel) would have been welcome. I’m not a huge fan of the shade itself but luckily, there are black and red options and, if you spec the $10,000 Inspiration Series package, a very modern white-and-blue two-tone treatment. That also adds a blue roof and exclusive Structural Blue exterior colour.
That’s all well and good but then you notice that the gauge cluster is shared with the IS 350 sedan and the infotainment system has made it to this “halo” model completely unchanged, which waters down the experience down a little. It’s cool that the gauge cluster changes its look depending on your drive mode – I personally like the white bezel you get in Sport+, which evokes the LFA supercar – and that the tachometer actually moves left and right to display more information on the screen behind it, but maybe I just wanted to see something a little more special here. Those drive modes, by the way, are activated via an extra stalk that sprouts funkily from the side of the gauge hood.
Then there’s the infotainment system, which is a struggle here - just as it is in every other Lexus. The problems have been well-documented here and elsewhere, so I won’t go too far into it. The bottom line is that the touchpad controller is either not sensitive enough or too sensitive and carrying out commands is just too hit-and-miss. Not an LC problem; it’s a Lexus problem.
What is a problem more unique to the LC is that the seat heater, neck heater and steering wheel heater controls – all of which can be set to multiple levels – are all accessed via that head unit, which makes activating the features a more tiresome process than it would be with more traditional buttons. That’s a problem as these features tend to be used quite regularly in a convertible.
Power comes from a 5.0L V8 (the convertible does not get the coupe’s hybrid option) to the tune of 471 hp and 399 lb-ft of torque, and while other Lexus vehicles do use this motor, they don’t tend to do it with quite as much panache – or noise – as this does. Having the top down is a plus here, that is if a bellowing exhaust is your thing. Because remember those pipes I was talking about? Their report is loud and ultra-addictive, sounding much more Mustang than Mercedes, and it flies down the road under throttle, feeling much more powerful than the numbers suggest. Power is sent rapidly to the rear wheels via a quick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that is perfectly tuned, as it should be in a top-flite GT car like this.
Also perfectly tuned is the chassis. The ride really impresses, feeling rough only through the harshest bumps and even the effects of those can be reduced by activating comfort mode, as that softens up the dampers. There’s very little of the squeaks and rattles sometimes associated with convertibles, too, even in bigger drop-tops that cost more than this car does.
Speaking of cost: removing the fixed top adds an additional $18,950 to the purchase price (which means it also costs more than the aged Mercedes-Benz SL 450, but less than the BMW M850i, its two main rivals in the segment), but I think I’m OK with that because this is one special car that, thanks to its limited production, outstanding looks and burly V8, could very well be a future classic. Hard to make that claim about many cars these days.
Loud and proud powertrain
Potential future classic
We like less
Big price jump over coupe
Cheap-feeling leather surfaces
Mercedes-Benz SL 450
Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet