Lexus LC 500 convertible — An outstanding grand tourer

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(November 1, 2020) It's a stunner. Everywhere we'd go someone would comment on our "great-looking car." The 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible possesses looks to kill, a stunning conglomeration of creases and lines highlighted by a giant Lexus spindle grille. It's a concept car for the road with a top that opens — and closes — in 15 seconds with the push of a button.

This mechanical ballet can be accomplished while cruising down the boulevard as long as you keep the speed under 31 mph. Press the magic button and the windows roll down, the top leaves the windshield and travels rearward as the trunk opens to accept its cargo. Nothing new here — the LC 500 is among numerous mostly high-end convertibles that can do this amazing trick, but the Lexus has it over many of its
competitors with a four-layer fabric top that keeps the interior library quiet. The kind of quiet you expect from a Lexus.

And the LC 500, which has been sold in two-plus-two coupe version since 2018, looks breathtaking with top down. It's the star of the Lexus lineup and the perfect weekend getaway vehicle for two people. It's a grand tourer that would serve its occupants well for a coast-to-coast road trip providing it can be accomplished with a paucity of luggage with only 3.4 cubic feet of storage — top up or down. The rear seats, which aren't inhabitable by humans, can serve as a storage area, as well.

The front-engine rear-drive LC 500 is powered by a naturally aspired 5.0-liter V-8 mated to a 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission with paddle shift manual mode.  It makes 471 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm and 398 pound-feet of torque @ 4,800 rpm.  One of the highlights of the convertible is its V-8 growl that gets the adrenalin pumping as it goes into full-throated roar as the rpm rises. It's a sound worthy of the car's six-figure price tag.

And the V-8 in relatively fuel efficient with an EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 25 highway and 18 overall on premium gas.

The LC 500 is not supercar fast hitting 60 mph from a stop in 4.6 seconds — fast enough for most people — and it handles in a very competent manner. Although it doesn't reach the overall performance level of a Porsche 911 or a Jaguar F-type, its handling proved entertaining on our usual back-road "test tracks," and fast enough to roar past a slow-moving car on a two-lane road or hustle into fast-moving traffic on an Interstate highway. To get the most out of the 4,500-pound convertible on the twists and turns it has several driving modes — Eco, Comfort, Normal, S Sport and S Sport+ — that modify the car's demeanor. Our usual passengers preferred Comfort, but we also discovered the S Sport setting was a good fit making the car more responsive and the engine note pleasingly louder.

Its beautifully crafted interior and its wonderful seats make driving in whichever mode you prefer a relaxing experience. Drivers sit low with a tall console that contains a cupholder, gear selector, and concealable storage. Even on long drives, the deeply bolstered and suede sport seats provide comfort — even better when heated or ventilated. A heated steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, and Mark Levinson audio system add to the experience. Materials are premium with suede headliner/doors, and stitched dashtop.

The only thing watering down the experience is Lexus's head-scratching infotainment system. It uses a trackpad, which creates dreaded distracted driving. Using your finger like a mouse while driving a car is not a good idea. Menus for audio are not especially easy to use either, but at least you can connect through Bluetooth, 4G Wi-Fi, and Apple CarPlay. Amazon Alexa compatibility and navigation are part of the package. We discovered much to our delight that Lexus voice control never missed a beat in following our command to access a XM/Sirius radio station.

Safety is enhanced by radar adaptive cruise control, forward crash mitigation, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning systems. Rear cross path detection and cameras aid maneuvering in tight spaces and out of driveways. Drivers will appreciate a comprehensive head-up display that appears to hover over the hood.

The LC 500 comes in just one well-equipped trim level starting at $102,025 including a $1,025 destination charge. Our test car with several options including 21-inch forged wheels ($2,650), head-up display ($900), limited slip differential ($460), and touring package ($5,290) came to $111,325.

The rather expensive touring package includes semi-aniline leather seats with a "climate concierge" and upper body heating, a heated steering wheel, windshield de-icer, embossed headrests and an upgraded Mark Levinson sound system.

2021 Lexus LC 400


Base Price: $102,205; as driven, $111,325
Engine: 471 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 398 pound-feet @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 113.0 inches
Length: 187.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,540 pounds
Turning circle: 35 feet
Luggage capacity: 3.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 21.7 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 15 city, 25 highway, 18 combined
0-60: 4.6 seconds (Lexus)
Also consider: BMW 8 Series, Chevrolette Corvette, Porsche 911

The Good
• Quiet interior for cloth-top convertible
• Ample list of standard features
• Sporty and comfortable
• Head-turning styling

The Bad
• Very small trunk

The Ugly
• Touchpad controller distracting