Voltaire said, “It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.”
Beauty, thy name is Lexus LC 500.
OK, the name isn’t beautiful, but Toyota’s luxury brand understands beauty and sure as heck knows how to affect us … mix beauty, power and luxury, then drop the top.
If you’ve seen the bodacious LC 500 coupe since its 2018 debut you know it’s a looker. Sleek lines, stylish corseted nose and sexy rear end. For 2021 Lexus creates a drop-top version that exudes even more beauty.
READ: 2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT C Roadster Review
Mine was a pre-production model that Lexus graciously sent to Midwest auto writers during this pandemic when new vehicles are becoming a bit scarce as factories have been closed and are slowly reopening and ramping up production.
Funny, but even as a pre-pro model the LC 500 convertible was meticulously assembled, tight as a drum and ready to spread joy across the countryside as I wound it over wandering rural roads that were mostly damp. Darn it, rain fell nearly the entire time I had the car. Still, I got to drop the top briefly and log a few miles under lightening leaden skies.
Everything I enjoyed about the coupe remains the same, but now the flip of a switch (hidden under a leather-padded console flap) powers down the top in a beautifully orchestrated fashion, in about 15 seconds. Word is, you can even lower it while driving, up to 31 mph. I didn’t test that.
The silver test car featured a black cloth roof and with it up there’s slightly more road noise than in the coupe, but it’s not a problem. Down, well, of course it’s tough to hear the fancy optional 13-speaker Mark Levinson 915-watt stereo. I mean you can, but you’ve gotta crank it.
Oh yeah, this baby will roll. But instead of blasting its way to triple digits like the last three muscular machines I’ve had (Vette, BWM M8 and Dodge Challenger) this 5.0-liter V8 instantly and smoothly works its way through a magnificent 10-speed automatic gearbox. It’s butter in the sun smooth.
That, my friends, is the difference between this luxury roadster and the aforementioned racers. This is a GT, a Grand Turismo touring type drop-top. It’s not really intended for the track, it’s meant for long highway jaunts and cruising country lanes. Oh, the power is there, 471 horses, but unlike those 0 to 60 in 3 second models, this one does it in a more leisurely 4.4 seconds.
That’s still quick and you won’t mind that extra second or so because it’s still quicker than 90% of everything on the road. And there’s a bonus, the LC 500 delivers a superb ride along with sporty handling. Everything here feels perfect, smooth, and refined, yet the grumble of the V8 is seductive as it’s tone is tuned via acoustical ducting.
Attack the twisties and you can hit the apex and smoothly wind your way through an S-curve, no bother. Oh, there are six Drive Mode settings, but Normal is fine and Comfort is even better if you have to traverse crumbling Wisconsin rural roads. It’s rare to feel a ride this well controlled and not lose the feeling of sportiness.
Go to Sport+ mode and everything from steering to suspension tightens up and the power emphasis is put on the low end. Yet even in Sport+ ride wasn’t uncomfortable. That’s rare among cars with sporty drive modes.
Up front is a double-joint multilink suspension and the new lighter rear unit also a multilink. Lexus says there are 650-levels of damping in its adaptive variable suspension. Whatever the number, this system works so well I wish every car and truck employed it.
Braking wisely errs on the high-performance side with 15.7-inch ventilated front rotors being clamped by six-piston calipers, and 14.1-inch vented rotors in back with four-piston calipers. Both have high-friction brake pads to help extend pad life and assure quick stops.
Inside and the test car was awash in black leather and gray stitching. Trim was a satin chrome. Fit and finish are primo with a modest look of elegance, not showy. That’s saved for the exterior.
While the overall dash layout is good and the info screen large, there’s still that annoying Lexus laptop-style touchpad on the console for adjusting the screen functions. It’s a digital demon. Ugh!
But the rest is good, a power tilt/telescope steering wheel that also is heated. Six drive modes you can easily adjust via dials on either side of the instrument pod. All the requisite safety aids and comfy supportive power seats that are easy to adjust. They also are heated and cooled and come with three memory settings.
Lexus also adds head-up display that was adjustable and something I actually found myself using a lot so that I could keep my eyes on the road.
Like to shift manually, but of course without a clutch? Well, the Lexus includes large paddle shifters to allow you to control gear changes. But the 10-speed was so good, I only used the satin chrome paddles to make sure they functioned.
You probably won’t use the trunk much either. It’s small, just 3.4 cubic feet. Makes the Corvette’s 8+ cubic feet in back look generous, plus the Chevy has a frunk (front trunk) for even more cargo space. A couple overnight bags will have to do in the Lexus, although there is a fake back seat that could hold a couple other bags. It won’t hold people with legs though.
Further on the practical side is gas mileage and price. Spoiler alert, the price is well beyond practical.
I got 18 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates the Lexus at 15 mpg city and 25 highway while 91 octane fuel is preferred.
Pricing for the new LC 500 convertible starts at $102,025, including delivery, so more than the Vette, but way less than the BMW M8 Competition Convertible. This one would be more as some of the features, including the stereo, are optional. No pricing for the add-ons was available just yet.
So, which way to go for power, prestige and luxury? Lexus nails all three with this LC convertible. But at that price this beauty will be a rare treat to see on U.S. roads. Lexus estimates it’ll sell 400 to 600 or so of these a year. Look for sales to be heaviest on the coasts where more wealth is located.
The LC 500 is a standout car that will garner major attention (second only to the Vette), yet softer in all the right places.
Overview: 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
Hits: Beautiful styling, plus power, smooth handling, comfortable ride and handsome interior. Heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated/cooled seats, 6 drive modes, big dash screen, complete cast of safety aids. Powerful Levinson surround sound stereo. A bona fide touring car.
Misses: Annoying laptop-style touchpad on console to adjust screen functions, plus tiny trunk.
Made In: Aichi, Japan
Engine: 5.0-liter V8, 471 hp
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: 4,540 lbs.
Wheelbase: 113.0 in.
Length: 187.4 in.
Cargo: 3.4 cu.ft.
MPG: 15/25, 18.0 (tested)
Base Price: $102,025 (includes delivery)
Major Options: N.A.
Test Vehicle: $102,025
Sources: Lexus, Kelley Blue Book
Editor’s note: Mark Savage’s auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.