Lexus introduced the distinctively styled LC 500 coupe for the 2017 model year. A grand tourer with concept-car looks, it was a delightful car to drive on the street and, despite it weighing over two tons, also fun on the track at Laguna Seca. Of course, there is also a hybrid version, but new for 2021 is the convertible. Like the coupe, the convertible has the same stunning lines, and happens to look great with the top up or down. Despite a 200 lb weight increase over the fixed roof model, the handling and steering did not feel compromised. The low seating position, responsive steering and lack of body roll hides the weight very well. Listed at 4,540 lbs, it is still absurd that the long 113” wheelbase convertible weighs it as much a Dodge Charger Hellcat.
It is not about brute power though. It is about refinement and comfort with some uncouth wildness tossed in. Driving with the top up, it is a perfectly comfortable and quiet grand tourer. But other than a trip to the mountains into Truckee, California and a windy trip to the corner store with too many leaves blowing around, the entire week was spent with the top down. More on that later.
Styling is always the first conversation with the LC 500 including the convertible. It is an undeniably rolling sculpture. The huge grill is cleverly angled so as not to appear to be a gaping mouth with a flat surface. My brother-in-law, a graphic artist with an obvious eye for detail, walked around it with me while we discussed the styling cues front to rear, longer than any other car we have seen together. And being a music artist, he happened to record the departure and exhaust note two streets over as I left his quiet neighborhood.
Speaking of quiet neighborhoods, I may have disturbed mine on Thanksgiving night. The car had such universal appeal and fascination, no less than eight family members went for rides around the block, top town, wearing hats and coats, with many full-throttle blasts and manual shifting up and down through the gears. Eight different laughs, squeals of joy, oh-my-Gods, and wows was the result. It was a 471 horsepower, roof-less night, with a roaring exhaust along with popping and cracking shifts echoing off the fences, hills, and trees. Since every demo ride was in Sport Plus mode setting for the loudest exhaust, I was compelled to use three different routes to avoid upsetting the neighbors repeatedly. That is what style and sound contribute to the driving experience, making it engaging and complete.
Acceleration is best described as manageably quick. In other words, mid-12s capable quarter-mile in the low teens. The transmission was reluctant to allow a brake stand, also known as a brake torque, to any appreciable rpm during my limited testing, so the Dragy data showed soft launches with some tire spin of 2.1x sixty-foot times and best quarter mile of 12.83 seconds at 112.18 mph. Traction control was so smoothly integrated that the flickering indicator light on the dashboard was the only hint of tire spin and that was at low speeds on a cool surface. The car never got “wiggly” and shaking from wheel hop was hardly perceptible most of the time.
Adaptive dampers made for a supple ride and acceptably firm in Sport modes. The incongruity of the refined ride and the exotic DJ mix played by the right foot and paddles gave it a wonderfully flexible purpose. Despite rear seats that are only good for gym bags or kids too small to sit without a booster, the proof of practicality was a run to drop off donations. In other words, the trunk is big enough for a grocery trip of over $100 but not a Costco bulk run by any stretch. It loses two cubic feet of cargo space to the hardtop, down to 3.4 cubic feet.
Compelled to drive it, excuses were numerous. The local Cars & Coffee? Done deal. It is dinner time, but I want a specific tool for a home improvement project; I’m headed to Home Depot. Be right back. And yes, it is dark and cold, but I’m wearing a winter jacket and hat. The heated air blowing on the back of the neck certainly helps. Lottery tickets need to be purchased now, they cannot wait until tomorrow. The car must be driven. The upshifts, downshifts, and even stoplights are welcome because I get to do it all over again.
Never mind all the superlatives, the interior is very well appointed and styled. Unfortunately, the touchpad requires too many swipes for a basic function. The seats fulfill their mission of grand touring and occasional horseplay. The doors have stylish pattern in the leather with subtle raised surface contouring. The passenger dashboard features an artistic design in the material that got numerous compliments. Unfortunately, the layout with the center grab handle and right-side hinged center console made my wife comment it was not friendly to passengers from an amenity accessibility perspective.
For a household without a DVD or CD-ROM drive, the CD slot was an anomaly. And despite the frequent complaints seen online about the infotainment system controls, the screen is large, the graphics are clear and navigating between screens is intuitive. The problem is the touchpad which just does not compare to a hand wheel with detents forth and back and side to side, in addition to turning and a button press such as the controllers in BMW and Audi vehicles.
In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with Amazon Alexa integration, Lexus offers multiple safety and concierge services ranging from three months for Lexus Enform WiFi and three years for Lexus Enform Remote, Safety Connect, Enform Destination Assist and Dynamic Navigation. The Safety Connect feature is included for ten years and includes vehicle health reports and alerts for maintenance and vehicle issues. In addition to the Advanced driver-assistance systems, reading through the list of features, I cannot think of anything this Lexus lacks other than gesture control.
This example had an MSRP of $111,325. Already having a premium of $8,050 more than the coupe, this one had the handsome 21” forged wheels for $2,650, the head-up display for $900, and a Torsen limited-slip differential for $460 because casual slipping, sliding and tire spin isn’t becoming in such a refined form of transportation; said with pinky raised.
The Touring Package for $5,290 was the remaining option which includes a heated steering wheel, semi-aniline leather-trimmed front seats, Client Concierge with upper body heating and embossed head rests. Also includes the Mark Levinson 13 speaker, 915-watt Reference Surround Sound Audio System “tuned” for roof open or closed sound. A despite the crisp, loud sound system with the top down, the engine and exhaust are just too good to ignore.
Clearly not a “numbers” car with the weight and horsepower, I still loved driving it as I did the coupe. The soundtrack and snap-quick shifts are an absolute melody of high-tech mechanical goodness. It is very much a luxury car with an edge. A very thoughtfully designed and luxurious cruiser with unique and eye-catching styling that is truly artistic both inside and out.
Author BIO: Rob Eckaus
Rob is a long-time auto enthusiast and a graduate of AMG, Audi, BMW M, Bondurant, Exotics Racing, GT500 Track Tour, KTM X-Bow and SRT driving schools/events as well as a participant in hot lap sessions, drag racing, car events, and motorcycling. Rob is a member of the Western Automotive Journalists and the Motor Press Guild.
Besides a contributor to The Truth About Cars and former, The Auto Channel, his blog is Barely Streetable at Blogspot and his social media handle is Barely Streetable on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube