Review: 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible — Elegance Meets V8 Brutality

Cars, Reviews I By Peter Nelson I November 19, 2020

All photos by Peter Nelson

After reading up quite a bit on the LC 500 convertible, we had to see what it was all about. Other reviewers have said it has a gorgeous interior, it’s fun in the twisties, and it really stacks up against its European competition (Lexus does so regularly). But does it really? Its awfully heavy, we haven’t been too keen on their conventional automatic gearboxes in previous reviews, and did we mention its awfully heavy? Though, it sure is pretty.

This is how our full week with the 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible went. Many thanks to Lexus for lending us this gorgeous red tester for our review. Base price on the 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible comes in at $101,000, our tester’s all-day price was $111,160 after options and delivery.

Engine and Transmission

Positives: brilliant naturally-aspirated V8

Negatives: none, really

We loved Lexus’ 2UR-GSE under the hood of the RC F when we tested it back in February. We didn’t think we could love this sweet, silky V8 even more, but with the top dropped on this big grand touring convertible, all of its great character was amplified. We could hear its angry, fast-revving growl so much more clearly, and hearing it smack its 7,200 RPM redline driving between opposing, canyon road rock faces was pure, beautiful music. The top-up experience allowed us to hear its beautiful soundtrack as well, though it was substantially more muffled (a testament to this soft top’s insulation). The LC was great at maintaining a more restrained-yet-brooding tone when just cruising around, then changing into a very loud, snarling beast in the upper half of the tachometer. Its active sport exhaust system worked well, though we generally kept the LC in Sport+ so that it was always ready to open the taps. Our POV video below demonstrates this well.

Despite the LC 500 convertible weighing in at a portly 4,540 lbs, Lexus says it’ll hit 60 MPH from a standstill in just 4.6 seconds. This is believable, as we came awfully close without even launching it; just plant your foot and watch the revs quickly climb. Its mighty heart produces 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, and has a lofty 12.3:1 compression ratio, which is impressive for a 5.0-liter, dual-overhead cam, naturally-aspirated V8. Sound aside, the way it gained and lost revs was incredibly smooth as well: we likened it more to a BMW inline-6 than a V8. Gas mileage was decent, too: the LC achieves an EPA-estimated 15 MPG City and 25 MPG Highway – we saw just over 18 MPG after a lot highway miles and fun mountain roads.

The LC 500’s transmission was a conventional, close-ratio 10-speed automatic with quick, snappy shift times. When set to Drive, it was a little slow to respond to shifts via the large paddles behind the steering wheel. Though, when set to Manual, it shifted significantly faster, much to our relief compared to the RC F; the RC F’s one downside that really bummed us out was its laggy shifts. The transmission helped amplify the engine’s character in fun ways, too: the engine’s loud, sharp rev-matches while downshifting were intoxicating. The transmission didn’t always upshift when the redline was met in D, either; It rather let the needle bounce a tad to up the theatrics. This side of a Ferrari or Lambo, this engine had a great redline-bounce sound.

Suspension, Handling, and Brakes

Positives: Great body roll control for its size

Negatives: Limits were met pretty quickly, due to its size

The LC 500 had a very good, quality ride around town. It soaked up imperfections well and rode over undulations without any discomfort. Even cowl shake and general looseness caused by rolling around in a convertible wasn’t too bad, which is in part thanks to having a Yamaha Performance Damper mounted up in the chassis to keep these in check.

We couldn’t find much on the specs of the conventional suspension equipment, other than the front suspension being double-joint multilink independent, and rears being independent multilink. Though, when it came to cutting through sections of fun canyon roads with gusto, this big beast did very well at maintaining composure and grip.

While the LC 500’s weight was quite apparent, it still hustled through technical sections of tarmac way quicker than we had expected, and did so without any drama. Even with traction control turned off it stayed very composed, probably in part due to its Torsen limited slip differential. It actually took a bit of work to get the rear end to break loose with traction control off. One area where we found its limits quickly, was while trying to accelerate out of longer sweepers – it would start to understeer and get sloppy. Though, navigating through such sections with some patience and maintenance throttle led to a nice, pulse-raising reward of brutal acceleration and grip.

Braking power was ample, though the conditions we used them the most spiritedly weren’t ideal for testing: cold temps in the mountains meant we never experienced any fade, and they always felt quite strong. The brakes were a tad grabby around town, but this was easy to get used to. Otherwise, its 15.7-inch rotors up front and 14.1-inch rotors out back certainly improved the LC 500’s overall look.

Interior and Exterior

Positives: Incredibly comfortable interior, gorgeous exterior looks

Negatives: Not very tall-person friendly

The LC 500’s interior was truly a sight to behold: rich leather surfaces throughout that felt great to the touch, which also inspired us to relax and take a load off as soon as we sank into its comfortable front driver seat. We didn’t both trying to fit in the backseat as we surely would’ve dislocated a shoulder in the process. Every button and surface felt substantial and well-made, even the little panel that hid the soft top controls. The layout was very pleasant as well; he driver get one cupholder that’s further towards the infotainment screen, and the way the eight-inch infotainment screen meshes with the beautiful panels and trim pieces was quite nice. This level of interior luxury is on par with the Aston Martin Vantage we drove, except with a substantially better infotainment system, and for far less money.

Lexus’ ol’ faithful space-pad-toggled infotainment system was the main way to move through menus, no touchscreen unfortunately. We still find this system to have a bit of learning curve compared to other OEMs’, both in touch, and memorizing where different menus are. Luckily, its 915-watt Mark Levinson sound system was easy to crank, and produced excellent audio clarity. The LC soft top passed our normal test of being able to listen to podcasts at quarter volume at highway speeds with flying colors. Lots of steering wheel controls helped with overall tech configuration, including enabling driver aid tech.

Lexus’ Safety System+ suite of driver aids come standard in the LC 500 and functioned well. We enjoyed having blind spot monitoring and a clear backup camera, as visibility wasn’t the greatest with the top up. Radar cruise control and lane keep assist were easy to turn on and off thanks to its large, clear digital dash screen.

Our one gripe with the Lexus’ interior was tall-person friendliness: we had to recline the driver seat quite a bit to fit this author’s 6’3” stature comfortably. No human blessed with arms and legs would be able to fit behind our seat the seat configured the way we had it. Even with the seat all the way down and reclined, the top of our head was just level with the top of the windshield (we would not pass the broomstick test at a track event). We had to keep the steering wheel quite high to see the full digital gauge cluster, too, and we also couldn’t alter the head-up display to be visible at all.

On the outside, we find the LC 500 to be simply gorgeous. For possibly the first time ever, we couldn’t find a less-than-ideal angle to photograph, especially with the top down. Its Infrared red color photographed nicely in all light (hence our wide selection of photos), and exterior features like its large front grille and sharp taillights matched its lines flawlessly. Its portliness is apparent in-person; it’s a large grand touring convertible, but this isn’t a bad thing. As a halo car that for the brand that is the culmination of all of their current design language, they did well.

Two-Faced, But in a Good Way

We really liked the LC 500 Convertible. Its refined, luxury sensibilities mixed with brutal V8 theatrics made for a great all-around experience. If we wanted to just cruise in comfort during our commute and catch up on podcasts, it was as gentle as the IS 300 AWD we reviewed a few months back. If we wanted some pupil-expanding fun in the twisties, it delivered this in spades. Plus, it only took around 15 seconds to drop the top and improve the overall experience immensely. Now we want to give the standard coupe a go; more chassis rigidity, less weight, potential to be more tall-person friendly; besides losing its beautiful convertible looks, we imagine the overall experience would only get better.

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