2021 Lexus LC 500
- Summer 2020 (of course, right?)
What to expect
- Extraordinary design detailing and interior materials
- Powerful 5.0-liter V8 should sound even better with the top down
- Quad-layer soft-top design hides the support bows for a smooth look
- Top raises and lowers in 15-16 seconds at up to 31 mph
What is it?
The Lexus LC 500 has always been a stunning head-turner, with a fluid design that grabs your attention and slackens your jaw. It's much the same when you slide behind the wheel, where the watchword is luxury. Powered by a glorious-sounding 5.0-liter V8, the LC's grand-touring driving character makes you want to head out on a road trip using the scenic route. Only one thing is missing: a convertible top to bring the sights and smells of the outside inside.
You can now change that last "is" to "was" because Lexus will be making the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible a reality this coming summer. By that time, the LC 500 will be going into its fourth model year, which means that the car's basic interior and exterior design will match what we've seen up to this point — apart from the availability of the new drop-top version.
How does the new convertible top work?
That top is not a folding metal roof that stacks behind your head like a mechanically shuffled deck of cards. In the interest of weight savings and the preservation of trunk volume, the LC 500 convertible instead uses a folding soft top. But its design is not what you'd expect: Lexus has devised a four-layer top that hides the support bows to produce a smooth look. The extra layering is also said to make it quieter than a conventional soft top, facilitating the enjoyment of the high-end Mark Levinson sound system.
In around 15 seconds, and at speeds up to 31 mph, the top neatly folds into a nicely integrated tonneau that accentuates the car's svelte hindquarters. In this configuration, the 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 engine provides the soundtrack. Its intoxicating throaty exhaust note is an increasing rarity as the competition moves toward turbocharged powertrains, which tend to lack character unless they are enhanced by synthetic tomfoolery pumped in via the speakers.
Are there any downsides?
Cutting the roof off any car does a real number on structural integrity, and putting some of it back requires adding extra braces and gussets in unseen places under the skin. Lexus has done that sort of thing here, but the list of changes suggests a clever approach that might be more effective and add less weight than what we usually see. Also, the LC 500 can probably absorb a slight loss of torsional stiffness because it isn't meant for those who would drive up challenging canyon roads in maximum attack mode. The LC 500 convertible is built to appeal to those who prefer to take their time and soak up the experience.
We happen to like top-down driving in the evening and into the night. But in many drop-tops, such excursions can overly chill the participants. The LC 500 convertible has an enhanced climate control system that's set up to compensate in such situations. It automatically makes certain adjustments to airflow when the top is lowered. And in addition to the usual heated seats and steering wheel, the LC convertible has neck heaters and extra vents directed at the driver's hands.
Are there any other changes?
Lexus infotainment systems have historically been a mixed bag. The quality of the Mark Levinson sound system is consistently extraordinary, but the touchpad control interface and Lexus Enform smartphone integration strategy have always been underwhelming. This began to change in 2020 with the addition of Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa support, and the 2021 LC family adds in another piece in the form of Android Auto support. The hated touchpad still persists, though, so we're not completely convinced that all is as good as it could be.
Why does it matter?
Lexus hasn't had a sleek two-door convertible in its lineup ever since the SC 430 went out of production well over a decade ago. Many of its European competitors offer such convertibles, and the arrival of the Lexus LC 500 in 2018 raised expectations among Lexus enthusiasts. The coupe's graceful styling and composed yet powerful driving demeanor always seemed well suited to the introduction of a convertible version. The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible was an inevitable next step.
What does it compete with?
The BMW 8 Series convertible is configured similar to the LC 500 convertible, but it is an all-wheel-drive machine powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine. Known as the M850i xDrive convertible, it costs upward of $121,000. There's also the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class convertible, a rear-wheel-drive machine available with three engines. The SL 550 has a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 and costs over $114,000, and at the top there's the AMG SL 63 with a stonking 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 for over $155,000.
The Lexus undercuts all these V8-powered luxury competitors, and it offers a strong alternative to German styling.
The closest point of comparison for the LC 500 convertible might actually be the Jaguar F-Type, which offers three engines, a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, and price tags ranging from about $65,000 to well over $125,000. You can get a lovely sounding V8 F-Type convertible for a bit over $90,000, and like the LC you'll have a questionable infotainment interface, small trunk and tight cabin with the roof up. But in the Jaguar, none of that matters as much when you have a chance to put the top down away from traffic — we're optimistic the Lexus can pull off the same trick.
The LC 500 has always come across as a stunning luxury coupe that's best suited to grand-touring-style road tripping, the type of driving that's ideal for a convertible. In fact, you could say the case for the LC makes more sense as a convertible than as a coupe. We're glad to see the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible round out the Lexus LC lineup.