Decades from now, the Lexus LC convertible will shine at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Free from the practical demands of new-car buyers, no one will think twice about unintuitive tech or question why the turn signal stalk feels like it belongs in a Toyota. People won’t fixate on how a 471-hp convertible could be out-accelerated by a 335-hp AWD competitor; instead, they’ll salivate over the sound of a naturally aspirated V-8. Remember those? They’ll walk around the LC500 and admire the inimitable design. From a brand once associated with hybrids and sensible luxury, the 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible is a refreshing change of pace for drivers focused more on emotion than track-tested performance or frustrating touchpads.
However, the 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible makes 471 hp, and you’re curious, aren’t you? Even if the LC500 is for many buyers destined to be a second (or third) car, MotorTrend testing puts its 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque into perspective. Taken by itself, the 2021 Lexus LC convertible’s 4.7-second sprint to 60 mph sounds impressive, and achieving that time wasn’t difficult. We produced our best acceleration times by using pedal overlap and then releasing the brakes once the engine reached 2,000 rpm. On the street, the LC500 Convertible is a gentle cruiser as the engine doesn’t really pick up until about 4,000 rpm. If the engine’s roar is all you want to hear, don’t merely enter one of the car’s sport modes; use the magnesium paddle shifters to relish every tunnel and freeway underpass.
A sub-5.0-second 0-60-mph time isn’t slow, but against the Lexus’ competition, it’s not great. We’ve tested a 523-hp BMW M850i AWD convertible and reached 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds. BMW suggests the AWD version of the six-cylinder, 335-hp 840i convertible will hit that benchmark speed in 4.6 seconds, while the last-generation Mercedes-Benz SL450—a 362-hp I-6-powered hardtop convertible—made it to 60 in a claimed 4.9 seconds. What those numbers hide is the fact all those desirable drop-tops except the M850i are significantly more efficient than the Lexus. No, buyers of six-figure convertibles don’t often have efficiency top of mind, but it’s a means to an end: More efficient cars usually offer their owners more miles on the road before having to refuel.
In our figure-eight performance testing, the 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible behaved similar to how it drives off the track—and that’s not always the case. MotorTrend‘s figure-eight test, by the way, evaluates acceleration, braking, handling, and the transitions in between. In this case, the Lexus LC500’s 25.1-second time at a 0.74 g average was no match for the BMW M850i convertible we’ve tested (24.3 seconds at 0.82 g average), but it had no trouble dusting a previously tested LC500h hybrid coupe (26.1 seconds at 0.68 g average). The 2021 LC500 Convertible is sporty and fun, but after spending some time in it on the figure-eight course, it isn’t a true sports car experience.
Comfort Over Aggression
The 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible’s character is perfectly fitting for a GT car targeting the near-70-year success of the Mercedes SL, a rival that’s new for 2022. With the Lexus LC500, a comfortable ride came as a bit of a surprise considering the 21-inch forged wheels on our $113,420 test car. The only time the suspension reminded us we were in a low-slung two-door was the way the convertible thumped over depressions in the road or on the way down from sudden rises in the pavement.
The LC500 Convertible takes care of business on any winding road, though it doesn’t take too much to activate the stability control system. That’s OK, as this car is best experienced at comfortable or brisk speeds instead of at 9 or 10 tenths. If, on the other hand, you take the LC to a track to test the available Torsen limited-slip differential, you can have some drifty fun: It’s relatively easy to slide and subsequently control the rear during sideways action.
At some point, you’ll need to operate the heated seats and infotainment system, and that’s where the 2021 Lexus LC500 disappoints us the most. We know good things are coming to Toyota and Lexus infotainment systems, but the automaker hasn’t yet waved its magic wand toward the LC. This distracts from the grand-touring experience in what is otherwise a rich interior. The 10.3-inch infotainment screen isn’t operated by touching it directly; rather, there’s a finicky touchpad for that. In a soft-top convertible like this one, summer heat and the touchpad don’t mix well. The system became a nuisance a couple of times after the heat made the touchpad and the metal volume knob too hot before we had a chance to cool off the car.
That wasn’t our only system issue, either. During our time with the 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible, twice we wondered why we were so hot before realizing the heated seats were on from a previous trip. Lexus buries these controls in onscreen submenus, making what should be simple adjustments an infuriating multi-part process that’s “only” four steps if you swipe the touchpad exactly the right way during each step (good luck!). We’d also like to see a higher-res rearview camera display and a split-screen Apple CarPlay experience like the Toyota Highlander on the latter’s available 12.3-inch touchscreen. That said, the LC’s existing split-screen functionality outside of that phone-mirroring feature is useful.
Even as the only Lexus model to carry a starting price of more than $100,000, the 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible is a value compared to eight-cylinder German competition. The Lexus undercuts the BMW M850i, though that convertible has AWD that is not available on the LC. If you’re not entranced by the Lexus’ excellent exhaust note, the six-cylinder 840i is an intriguing option to undercut the LC. And that’s to say nothing of the new Mercedes SL, a 2+2 that makes its debut for the 2022 model year.
Really though, the 2021 Lexus LC Convertible is for drivers who appreciate the sound of an increasingly rare engine, a naturally aspirated V-8. It also delivers superbly finished design details inside and out; don’t miss the gorgeous trim piece with tons of tiny tessellated L logos on the passenger side dash. There’s a richness and exclusiveness to the Lexus you may not get with the enticing Jaguar F-Type, now a V-8-only roadster. Yes, BMW and Mercedes have entries in this exclusive and prestigious class, but it’s more unexpected coming from Lexus. We hope time will soften our impression of the car’s tech issues from frustrating to merely quirky. Until then, patient buyers should enjoy the Lexus LC Convertible for what it is: a less than perfect eight-cylinder halo car with more than enough specialness to justify its six-figure price tag.
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