2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Review by David Colman +VIDEO
An extraordinary new benchmark automobile
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Every once in a great while a car comes along that is so far ahead of the competition that it sets new standards for travel. The recently introduced convertible version of the Lexus LC 500 is just such a vehicle. Stunning to behold, extravagantly powerful to drive, and more comfortable than your favorite armchair, this stiletto of a Lexus will make you, and everyone you know, think that a probe from outer space has landed in your garage.
Driving a different car every week attracts a fair amount of attention not only from curious neighbors, but casual encounters with other motorists as well. In the three decades I have been testing new cars, I have rarely experienced the unadulterated admiration this Lexus aroused. After one lunch stop, a father and son enthusiastically questioned me about the merits of the LC 500. Later that same day, I was parked outside our local supermarket when a gentleman in a 2004 Lexus SC 430 (convertible hardtop coupe) circled the LC 500, then stopped to chat, driver's door to door, cop-style. The discussion lasted a full 20 minutes as we matched stories about open top Lexus motoring and what these similar cars cost, then and now. Sixteen years ago, he bought his top of the line SC 430 for $49,900. The latest Lexus drop top will run you double that, with a base price of $101,000.
Our test Lexus upped the ante with 21 inch Forged Alloy Wheels ($2,650), Head-Up Display ($900), Limited Slip Differential ($460), and Touring Package ($5,290), for an as delivered price of $111,325. At that number, my SC 430 Lexus cohort shook his head, saying, "Can't afford it. I'm retired now." But for those of you who can afford a car in this price league, the chopped top convertible version of the LC 500 coupe should be high on your list of automotive nirvana. Let's start the accolades with appearance. This car has no bad angles. After circling it innumerable times for photo sessions in bright sunlight and dim sunset, I have to admit I have never shot a more photogenic piece of equipment. The side elevation, the rear sculpting and even the usually obnoxious spindle front grill all coalesce to make the LC 500 unforgettably beautiful - top down, and more surprisingly, top up.
The top lift mechanism is a wonder to behold in operation. You can erect or fold the unit while underway (up to 31mph), so you can amaze bystanders with the syncopated complexity of the mechanism. When the top is up, the side profile of the streamlined cloth roof is so low that this Lexus mimics the flat roofline of a 1955 Porsche Speedster. The mechanism to activate the top is deftly located in a small compartment on the center console which also houses the switch to raise all 4 windows simultaneously. However, there is a practical downside to the flat roof architecture: the rectangular glass rear window pane is only a little larger than the mail deposit slot in your local post office.
With its 471hp 5 liter V8 mill burbling under that long hood, the LC 500 is one of the quickest cars in a straight line you can buy today, good for a 0-60mph sprint in less than 5 seconds. Thanks to the inclusion of a drive mode selector, you can play that motor's aural tune two ways. In Eco or Normal Mode, the DOHC, 32 valve powerplant emits a hint of snarl when you punch the accelerator, but the audio level is distinctly muted compared to the raucous symphony that blooms in Sport and especially in Sport+ Mode. With the top down in Sport+, and the 10-speed automatic shift lever locked in Manual Mode, the 4,500lb. Lexus heavy cruiser is fully girded for back road battle. You can hear the engine gulp air through all 16 intake valves and expel the spent gasses through the echo chamber baffles of the dual exhausts as you bang home each successive upshift. When the road contour calls for downshifting, the Sport Direct Shift automatic explodes in a Formula 1 cacophony of noise as it rev-matches each down change.
All the while, the superbly calibrated fully independent suspension devours pavement like an underfed wolf. Lexus has fitted the LC 500 with double jointed MacPherson strut front suspension with two lower arms. The rear architecture consists of multi-links plus a stabilizer bar. Anchoring all these bits to the pavement are a set of forged 21 inch alloys with a fleur-de-lis spoke pattern. These rims are fitted with enormously sticky (TW 300) Michelin Pilot Super Sport run flat radials (245/40RF21 Front; 275/35RF21 Rear) that defy lateral g-forces ferociously. To put it another way, this massive convertible will eat up back roads with the top contenders BMW, Porsche and Mercedes can offer.
If you can afford the entry ticket, the new convertible version of the LC 500 not only looks better than the coupe from which it was derived, but also exposes you to the elements in ways the closed version never could.
2021 LEXUS LC 500 CONVERTIBLE
ENGINE: 5.0 liter V8, aluminum block and cylinder heads, DOHC, 32 valves, Dual VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 15MPG City/25MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $111,325
HYPES: Ethereal Styling, Phenomenal Go
GRIPES: Mail Slot Rear Backlight
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10