You could buy a Mercedes-Benz SL, but that’s quite old now. New Aston Martin Vantage Roadster? It’s hard to argue against, but it’s also nudging £130k. Porsche 911 Cabriolet? Obviously lovely, but also a bit obvious. Those buying a convertible clearly want something that stands out, unlike anything else on the road. Enter the Lexus LC 500 Convertible.
This is the open-top sister car to the LC 500 coupe, which we’ve already driven in both regular V8 and LC 500h hybrid guises. The drop-top is only coming as a V8: the folding roof eats up all the space otherwise taken up by the hybrid batteries (it barely leaves enough room for luggage either). Still, as if we’re going to complain that a V8 is the default choice…
A 477hp 5.0-litre V8 at that, sweeping this two-tonne open-top four-seater to 62mph in 5.0 seconds, yet still returning a class-average 24.1mpg. Yes, VED costs £2,175 in the first year, but that’s included in the price – which starts from just under £91k. Our test car with the Sport Plus Pack is £96,625. Remember how much the Aston costs?
Lexus is excited about this car. It reckons sales will exceed those of the coupe in 2021. And even those who don’t buy one show great interest in other Lexus models, such as the RC, NX and RX. Even if it doesn’t sell, it might help sell another.
We caught the last of the summer heatwave to drive an LC 500 Convertible as nature intended: roof down, hat on, three-hour route programmed into the navigation. And we came away thinking what a satisfying purchase this must be.
Driving the Lexus LC 500 Convertible
This is a genuinely striking car. It’s big, bold and brave, with a Japanese luxury vibe, in contrast to sober Germanic or curvaceous Italian designs. The grille is avant-garde, both front and rear lights are structural art and the lines are crisp and distinctive.
It’s an elegant convertible, one that looks assured both roof up and down. Lowering it opens up the amazing interior to the world, and this too is delightful.
The shapes are bold and complex, yet it all flows rather than jars. The stitched, perforated leather door structures are works of art, the configurable dials are like a high-end Japanese smartwatch, the 10.3-inch infotainment screen is wide and the combination of two-layer fascia and tall, wide, wraparound centre console cocoons you nicely.
There are seats in the rear but they’re tiny token gestures. The front seats are the place to be, as they’re wonderfully comfortable, have built-in neck heaters and are lavished in beautiful soft leather. Occupants feel like they’re sitting within the car, yet aren’t placed down too low. It’s commanding, albeit less sporty than an Aston.
The LC 500 Convertible is an easy and relaxed car to drive. The ride from the 21-inch wheels feels a bit tappety at first, but the adaptive suspension takes over as speeds rise to give a cushioned flow. It feels luxurious and breathes nicely over undulating roads in a very premium way.
It steers nicely, with a wieldy and well-connected feel. The system isn’t over-aggressive or sharp, which again encourages a relaxed and elegant style. Good on-centre positivity helps navigate this wide and heavy car across twisting roads with laid-back simplicity.
It handles, too. Adaptive suspension, rear performance dampers and a racing-style Torsen limited-slip differential give it an attitude beneath all the comfort and refinement. It’s not a sleeves-rolled-up drive, but one that has more depth and tidy precision than you might at first think.
The engine is outstanding. Rather than offering a guttural, all-guns-blazing V8 experience, it’s much more cultured and lush. Impossibly smooth, this is a polite yet engaging engine, serving up that distinctive V8 feel and making you realise what we’ll miss when they’re gone.
Its 5.0-litre capacity delivers the 477hp output, rather than relying on turbochargers. This means it’s a motor that likes to rev, with pickup above 4,000rpm being satisfying. This measured power delivery, rather than all kicking in with an instant rush, further aids the LC 500 Convertible’s calm, relaxed speed.
The folding soft-top operates reasonably speedily (15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph), and it’s neatly integrated when lowered. More importantly, general refinement is outstanding with the roof down, even at speed. The interior doesn’t become too noisy, wind bluster is kept at bay and occupants gently feel the wind wisping around them, rather than being blasted with an air-force gale. It’s a fine roof-down GT.
Verdict: Lexus LC 500 Convertible
This luxury convertible might not be on your radar if you’re in the market for a Mercedes-Benz SL, but it should be. It’s easygoing, rich and indulgent, elegant and satisfying. Sports car fans, it might not be for you, but as a feel-good experience, it’s an open-top car of note. The select few hundred who buy one each year are people of fine taste indeed.
2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible specs
Price: £96,625 (Sport Plus Pack)
Engine: 5.0-litre V8
Gearbox: 10-speed automatic
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 167mph
Fuel economy: 24.1mpg
Length/width/height: 4,770 / 1,920 / 1,350 mm
Boot capacity: 149 litres