The Lexus LC500 convertible is 187.4 inches of proof that a Lexus can be beautiful. The proportions are staggering. Its hood stretches out from the windshield like a car in a Tex Avery cartoon. Imposing, serious, gorgeous, and adult. The wheelbase spans a lengthy 113.0 inches, and the doors are unfashionably long. All of these attributes used to be the domain of the Mercedes-Benz SL, but the most recent generation lost the plot. Much to the relief of the ascot-wearing folks who can write checks for six-figure convertibles, Lexus worked them all into the 2021 LC500 ragtop.
To properly set expectations, understand that the 471-hp LC500 is a sporty car, not a sports car. It operates with a recognition of what sports cars do and will nod to performance as it holds to the skidpad with 0.92 g and hits 60 mph in an easy 4.6 seconds. But the LC is mature rather than playful, serious rather than silly. This car is at its happiest if you wait the 15 seconds it takes to lower the fully sound-deadened fabric top, work the slightly confusing shifter into drive, and set your driving style to cruise. Be sure to occasionally lean into the accelerator and listen to the naturally aspirated V-8 as it goes from mellow to 90-decibel mean and back, but otherwise just let it all flow.
This is a car built to elicit “ahhs” both from people who see it—all of my neighbors loved it—and the folks riding inside it. Well, no one in the vestigial rear seats will be having a good time. Vents at the top of the front seats blow warm air to keep necks toasty, expanding the temperature range at which you can comfortably tool around with the top down. Cutting off the LC coupe’s top to create a convertible does result in a few minor high-frequency quivers running through the structure whenever the optional 21-inch wheels strike broken pavement. A slightly cushier ride might take the sting out of those impacts, and it also would be in keeping with the rest of the LC’s refined moves. A softer ride doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing sportiness. Just look to the Porsche 911 cabriolet, which rides better than the Lexus yet is far more committed to hunting apexes.
In the spirit of experimentation for which Car and Driver is known, we did hammer the LC convertible around on-ramps and through canyon roads. Steering response is snappy (2.6 turns lock to lock), and the big nose turns into corners with an eagerness that makes this 4476-pound big boy feel smaller than it looks. Lexus fits a 10-speed automatic that works unobtrusively as it slips from gear to gear. The only time you notice the abundance of ratios is when you begin grabbing the column-mounted paddle shifters only to realize that you need to drop about six gears to find the right one for the upcoming corner. Downshifts happen quickly and are accompanied by throttle blips to eliminate any driveline jolts from upsetting the rear end. An added benefit of those engine blips is the sound of the V-8. Preparing for a corner also reveals a brake pedal that doesn’t offer much bite in the first bit of travel. Stops from 70 mph take 168 feet—a figure that’s competitive with family sedans, not high-dollar two-plus-two roadsters.
The solution is to not push the LC500 so hard. Turn up the 918-watt, 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, put on some Frank Sinatra, and just settle into the leather seats. This is the embrace of adulthood. But be sure to tap that maturity when you decide to change radio stations because Lexus’s touchpad that controls the infotainment system and various vehicle settings will test your patience. It’s easy to get flustered, and it’ll be tempting to lash out at it in a childish way. The general advice regarding the LC applies here, too: Take your time and don’t try to do anything quickly. Maturity is understanding that the world we live in is complicated and things that used to be easy, like skipping tracks or changing radio stations, are sometimes made more challenging in the name of progress.
Other than its infotainment interface, the LC500 convertible is an open-air throwback to personal luxury cars. From its impractical and louche proportions to the lovely 5.0-liter V-8 under its hood, the LC500 convertible feels selfish, a treat-yourself reward. It elevates experience, sounds, smells, and design over raw performance numbers. Enthusiasts might long for something sportier, but in much the same way people don’t ask why you have art in your home, no one who sees an LC500 convertible will question the buyer’s motives. Beauty needs no explanation.
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