When the Lexus LC 500 coupe first made its appearance a few years ago, it proved that Lexus was indeed capable of designing a sharp-looking Coupe that could be a contender to rivals from BMW and Mercedes as well as select Maserati models. The exterior styling looked like rolling artwork, and the interior was comfortable and well insulated from the outside world. But while it functioned well as a coupe, some wanted a droptop. Lexus has delivered the 2021 Lexus LC500 convertible. But is it the ultimate toy?
LC500’s Exterior Styling Has Us Longing For The Quiet Days Of Summer
While ongoing wedding planning and other circumstances pushed the publication of this particular review into fall, the LC500 is a vivid reminder of what the sunny weather brings to the table. Like the coupe, the LC500 is a classic grand tourer, with the long flowing hood being complimented by a short rear deck and some genuinely stellar design elements. Sleek headlights and equally appealing curves complement the large chrome spindle front grille.
The main change is the foldable soft-top. Still, unlike other convertibles, where the top is often a design afterthought, the roof here looks natural and flows with the rest of the body lines (a rare feat to get right.) Trunk space in the LC500 was already tight to start with before its transformation into a convertible. Still, Lexus engineers managed to engineer the top so that its intrusion into the space is very minimal. It can still haul a weekend’s worth of groceries in a pinch though more extensive runs will require you also to use the tiny space in the rear. That’s fine since the small jump seats are not built for hauling people and are happier serving as leather-lined cargo shelves.
Our only complaint centered around rear visibility, with the top’s tiny rear window not offering a good view of what was going on behind our tester. This forced us to use the rear camera and our eyes when leaving a parking spot or undertaking high-speed lane changes. But with the LC500 designed to be a fashion accessory, such concessions are a price to pay to be a darling of the camera.
Technology Still Hampers LC500 Convertible Driving Experience
With the bulk of the changes focused on transforming the LC500 into a convertible, the interior carries over essentially unchanged (for better and for worse.) Material quality remains an LC500 strength, with our tester arriving with opulent leather seats and splashes of other high-quality trim, including metal accents. The leather-wrapped steering wheel fits nicely into your hands, and it encourages you to explore the car’s sportier side. The front seats are a balanced mixture of comfort and support. When you fully stretch out (made possible by using the floor space in the unusable rear passenger area), this svelte two-seater offers commendable levels of comfort.
But occasionally, the LC500’s problems with technology become very noticeable. Lexus is hard at work radically updating the infotainment systems on all of its models (this was previewed in the recently launched Lexus IS.) However, these changes have not made their way into the LC500 range yet, and as a result, it still comes up short in trying to beat BMW’s I-Drive and Mercede’s latest infotainment tech. The touchpad controller abruptly flips between being frustrating to use and an apathy generator that gives the 0-8 Detroit Lions a symbolic run for their money. The screen also falls victim to glare when the top is open, making navigating around the cramped menu setup even harder.
We look forward to when the LC500 will receive these infotainment system upgrades since we think it will finally allow the LC500 to be an actual threat to rivals like the BMW 8-Series and the Mercedes SL versus a mere outlier that appeals to Lexus loyalists.
Canyon Carving Performance At Your Fingertips
The 2021 Lexus LC500 convertible’s biggest strength is that it still manages to deliver a very sporty driving experience. While the act of chopping off its roof has introduced some minor high-frequency quivers into its chassis, the broader result is still a pleasant drive. Like its coupe counterpart, convertibles like our tester are powered by a naturally aspirated 5.0 liter V8 that produces 471 hp and allowed our tester to make the sprint to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. A 10-speed automatic is the sole transmission available, and while it balks at city driving, it transforms into a different character when tasked with sporty driving.
To find out, we embarked to our favorite slices of pavement in Ann Arbor to see how well the LC500 handled spirited driving. As we carved our way around some of the sharp corners on our route, it became clear that the LC500 has a different flavor of sportiness. Unlike rivals like the Porsche 911, which boldly embrace it with reckless abandon, the LC500 takes a more mature approach to things. There were occasions where our tester’s 4,476 lb curb weight made its presence known in sharp corners, but if the LC500 is allowed to take things at its own pace, it can still deliver the goods with the steering doing an excellent job of providing responsive feedback to our hands when the car is pushed hard. An encounter with a rogue turkey proved to be an unexpected opportunity to try out the brakes in emergency type stops, with our tester doing an excellent job of delivering confidence-building stability and allowing human and fowl to continue their respective journeys with minimal fuss.
Oh, and it would be a crime not to talk about the sublime sounds that the V8 makes when allowed to climb to its peak octave with the top down. Lexus engineers have added some throttle blips to help make gear changes less jarring, and it allows the V8 to produce lovely crackles and burbles when the gears are being changed. The audio experience helps gel the entire driving experience together, and the LC500 convertible should please buyers that want a GT experience but don’t want to pay the higher price tag commonly associated with rivals like the Porsche 911 and the Maserati Gran Turismo, with the latter expected to be revamped just in time for the 2022 model year.
Buyers that choose to add an LC500 convertible to their garage will be greeted with a base price of $101,100, which is a slight increase from the base LC coupe’s $93,050 sticker. Our tester arrived with over $8,000 in options which caused the final price to climb to $111,325, including the $1,025 destination fee. That’s considerably less expensive than the Porsche 911 and allows it to be lower than the S-Class Cabriolet and the AMG GT. Speaking of Benz, the German automaker will be unleashing a revamped Mercedes SL in the future, so look for that model to also compete with the Lexus in the droptop wars.
In the meantime, the 2021 Lexus LC500 is still a very compelling grand touring convertible. It wows the eyes with its elegant lines, while the V8 and some of its performance hardware allow it to make a solid first impression when pushed hard in the corners. It’s just a pity that the only thing currently keeping the LC500 convertible from being a true world-beater is its technology. Still, we look forward to seeing what happens once it gets some of the technology upgrades that it needs to stay fresh.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.