Thursday 22nd October 2020
Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page

 



First drive: Lexus LC Convertible. Image by Lexus.

First drive: Lexus LC Convertible
The gorgeous Lexus LC Coupe becomes the, er, even more gorgeouser LC Convertible. We like. A LOT.

 



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Lexus reviews

Lexus LC Convertible

5 5 5 5 5

One of our favourite cars to ever issue forth from Japan, the sublime Lexus LC 500 Coupe, has been subtly updated underneath and not-so-subtly updated up top, where it has lost its fixed roof to become the drop-dead-gorgeous LC 500 Convertible. As plush GTs go, this is very hard to fault indeed.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lexus LC 500 Convertible
Pricing: LC range from £80,100; 500 Convertible from £90,775, Sport+ Pack from £96,625, car as tested £98,875
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip differential, ten-speed Direct Shift automatic
Body style: two-door prestige convertible
CO2 emissions: 275g/km (VED Band Over 255: £2,175 first 12 months, then £475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 24.1mpg
Top speed: 168mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 464hp at 7,100rpm
Torque: 530Nm at 4,800rpm
Boot space: 149 litres

What's this?

The comprehensively beautiful Lexus LC Convertible. Taking a car as striking and elegant as the LC Coupe and giving it a retractable fabric roof was always going to be a risky business in terms of the ensuing aesthetics, but kudos to Lexus' designers who have integrated the foldy bit of the car into the rest of the design with a startling elegance. It looks sensational with its hood up, which is the big challenge for any convertible, and once you drop the top then the LC 500 has the sort of presence that'll stop traffic on the M25. When you're driving it in Yorkshire.

In terms of the interior, trying to live up to an exterior as good as this one was always going to be a tough ask and, in the case of the Lexus LC, the cabin isn't operating at the same exalted level. Oh, it is largely excellent: the fit and finish is exceptional, the layout is ergonomically superb, the driving position is immaculate, and the seats/door cards both look marvellous and are deeply comfortable to sit on/pleasant to the touch (delete as appropriate). There's also the amusing 'slidey-dial' thing going on in the instrument cluster and those rather appealing chubby little stalks mounted high up on the binnacle, the one on the left managing the five main drive modes plus one owner-configurable setting, the one on the right switching the traction control off or readying the LC for a flurry of snow.

There are, however, some issues. The rear seat space seems to be even less generous in the LC Convertible than it is in the LC Coupe and the latter car is already most emphatically only a '2+2' at best. Perhaps think of the second-row, um, chairs of the Convertible as a 'second boot', because the stashing of the roof strips out another 48 litres of cargo capacity from the LC and leaves its main storage area at a rather feeble 149 litres overall. Some of the graphics in the instrument cluster could do with a spruce up, too, while the infotainment is mediocre in appearance; good news here, though, as the Convertible now supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you can bypass the ho-hum proprietary OS for a slicker set-up via your smartphone. But it's a constant Lexus bugbear of the 2010s and '20s that's the main problem in here, and that's the flat-pad infotainment controller.

Lexus, please: this thing does not work. It's infuriating trying to gently trace your finger to get the bonging and wildly flitting on-screen cursor to move where you want it and, worse still, if you want the heated seats/steering wheel/neck-warming vents in the front pews on, you have to use this recalcitrant thing to activate them because there are no 'hard' switches for these functions situated on the console. A Lexus UK representative was proud to talk about the Android Auto link-up as improving the infotainment offering but as you still have to (in the main) use the accursed pad to control it, that's like someone complaining about a teapot being of such a poor design that it constantly scalds your hands when you pick it up and the designers attempting to remedy this issue by changing the type of teabags you use in the pot for a more flavoursome brew. At the end of the day, you're still going to get burnt.

Harrumph. We're making a big deal of this, however, because it's about the only thing we genuinely don't like about the LC Convertible. That roof, somewhat incredibly the company's first folding fabric effort (please, no one mention the risible SC 430; that was a retractable hard-top, anyway), pops up or down fully automatically in just 15 seconds and you can do that on the move at up to 31mph; the switch for the roof, incidentally, is tidily hidden underneath a small leather panel just aft of the gearlever, which'll fox you if no one tells you where it is before you climb in. Nevertheless, there's a lovely steering wheel, clear and intuitive climate controls on the centre stack, and quality-feeling switchgear throughout, so the cabin gets a big thumbs up from us (notwithstanding 'The Pad of Doom').

In terms of the range, there is but one choice, the V8-powered 500. Lexus' chief engineer on the project looked at housing all the magubbins that goes with the 500h V6 petrol-electric drivetrain in the Convertible but while it was physically possible, it was felt that it would compromise the LC's sporty-GT driving experience too much to make it worthwhile. You'll therefore pay from £90,775 for the entry model, a premium of £10,675 over the equivalent V8 Coupe, or £96,625 for a car fitted with the Sport Plus (rendered as 'Sport+' officially) Pack, which brings in 21-inch forged alloys, a Torsen limited-slip diff, rear performance dampers, carbon-fibre scuff plates and those neck-heating vents in the semi-aniline front seats. As you'd expect of a Lexus, the standard spec is generous almost to a fault but the company listened to the HNWI customers who bought into the LC idea early after the 2017 launch, who said they wanted 'more optionality' when purchasing their near-£100,000 Japanese machine. To that end, Lexus has provided further cost extras, like a 13-speaker Mark Levinson Audio System (£1,000) and a Colour Head-Up Display (£1,250), for buyers to choose from.

Lexus is also keen to point out that the premium to go from a Lexus LC Coupe to a Convertible is broadly comparable with the same figure demanded by rival companies asking the same thing in their ranges. As usual at this sort of level, the list of competitor machines in question is varied but Lexus was happy to cite the most obvious BMW 8 Series Convertible and Porsche 911 Cabriolet as the cars it is chiefly targeting, as well as (intriguingly) the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster; which, by extension, must mean you can consider the V8-powered Bentley Continental GTC an alternative. Tough crowd, that, so can the LC Convertible achieve such lofty goals from its parent manufacturer?

How does it drive?

This is one of those very rare cars where losing the roof manages to actually improve the package. This is not to say that the Lexus LC Coupe is in any way poor to drive - it's not, it's bloody terrific - but it's fair to admit that even Lexus itself deems the LC a GT first and foremost, rather than a sports car. It's therefore not the sharpest-driving machine in the world in the first place and so making some small sacrifices in terms of a loss of a gnat's of structural rigidity and an increase in kerb weight (around 100kg, in the case of the Lexus) are more than paid off by the benefits brought about by dropping the roof and enjoying driving in the elements.

Principally, this is because the LC Convertible seems to concede precious little dynamic ground to the Coupe, certainly when it comes to public-highways driving. There's maybe a trace too much shudder to the frame of the windscreen over rougher road surfaces than you'd like from a soft-top and perhaps a sensation of marginally less keen turn-in to a front end that's clearly lifting more due to an increasingly rear-biased weight balance on the Convertible, but we're talking such fine margins that it really doesn't matter. Get the LC 500 Convertible into a flowing, smooth groove and you'll be genuinely revelling in wonderful steering, highly impressive body control and a suppleness to the damping that means you can actually use Sport and Sport+ modes on British tarmac without the Lexus becoming an unyielding, crashy mess in the process.

It's also still imperious in the extreme for refinement, as the ride quality in Comfort mode is exquisite. Plenty of sound-suppressing materials ensure the LC Convertible is suitably hushed on a cruise and with the top down, the steeply raked windscreen and a small glass deflector aft of the rear seats do a fine job of ensuring only the mildest of breezes makes its way into the open passenger compartment, even when you're travelling at a decent lick. So the LC 500 Convertible is both assured and yet big fun to drive on twisting back roads, just as much as it is effortlessly serene on faster A-roads and motorways.

Which leaves the best until last and it's that 2UR-GSE 5.0-litre V8. By crikey, what a glittering jewel of an engine this thing is. There are plenty of solid reasons to adore it but we'll offer you three salient facts: one, it comes from the Toyota/Lexus conglomerate, a group intent on prioritising planet-saving hybrids as the motoring of the future and yet one which is, conversely, making one of the last normally aspirated V8s on the planet; two, it might not have the greatest outputs in the history of eight-pot engines, and it also seems to have lost a few horses and Newton metres since its first outing in the LC 500 Coupe and other fabulous Lexus performance motors as it now stands at 464hp (-13hp) and 530Nm (-10Nm), presumably as a result of trying to meet tighter emissions regs, but it remains blessed with refreshingly crisp, impeccably linear throttle response from idle to redline that forced induction engines just cannot match and it sounds utterly tremendous too; and three, the speed it bestows upon the LC Convertible is more than adequate. In fact, its charismatic performance is just about perfect.

While we generally like the slick ten-speed automatic Lexus has given the LC and also the brilliant metallic paddles on the wheel with which to operate it, it's a bit long-legged as some quick mental arithmetic suggests the 500 Convertible will pull more than 100mph... in fourth. However, it's not the first time we've encountered a nat-asp V8 Lexus with a too-tall final drive, as the eight-speed unit in the RC F was similarly afflicted - and you can still thoroughly enjoy the way the LC 500 delivers its power using only third and fourth. When it comes to the sonic treats on offer, the Lexus relies more heavily on induction than any exhaust histrionics - in fact, to the point that the tailpipes do nothing more than the occasional discreet thud on some faster upshifts in the sportier driving modes - so what you're listening to as the V8 spools out in its divine fashion is one of the purest soundtracks we can think of in modern motoring. And yes (sound the cliché klaxon!), you can hear it all the clearer because the hood is down (groan...) so that's why we are convinced, in this instance, that the beguiling LC has got even better as a result of losing its top, rather than worse.

Verdict

It cannot be ignored, when summing up the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, that you're going to get a sharper driving experience from something like an open-topped Porsche 911 and you're certainly going to get a better human-machine interface from the infotainment controller in any other marque of car you care to choose. That the soft-top LC is also not the most practical of grand tourers, thanks to its small boot and vestigial rear seats, could also be construed as a problem.

But you also cannot overlook the fact that this is a magnificent thing to look at, it has a sumptuous cabin ambience, it boasts one of the all-time great production-car NA engines and it sounds the absolute nuts. That it drives sweetly for daily duties and yet is suitably adept come the corners only makes this one of the greatest GTs of the lot, especially when you consider it's about half the price of a specced-up Bentley Continental GTC, it's two-thirds the asking money of a Vantage Roadster and (despite its V8 power) it undercuts the six-cylinder 911 by a significant margin as well. Press those rear seats into service by stuffing a couple of suitcases back there, bypass the awkward infotainment touchpad by employing voice control and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay as much as you can, and you will not have any more enjoyable a motoring experience behind the wheel of any of the competitors as you will in the LC 500 Convertible. Comfortably, aside from the hyper-rare and mega-expensive LFA, the finest thing that Lexus has ever put in one of its showrooms, this.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 29 Sep 2020









  www.lexus.co.uk    - Lexus road tests
- Lexus videos
- Lexus news
- LC images

2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.

2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.2020 Lexus LC 500 Convertible UK test. Image by Lexus.








 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2020 ©