There are faster and sportier six-figure convertibles, but the sculptural LC500 is a beautiful Lexus.
Until this May, lexus’s mainstay was a literal ship. The Lexus LY650 yacht measured more than 65 feet long, made up to 2700 horsepower, and cost nearly $4 million-until economic uncertainty torpedoed the project.
The $102,025 LC500 conversion isn’t a cruise ship, but the top of the fabric folds in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31 mph, and it’s the same thing. The sun on your face and the wind in your hair feels just as fresh whether you’re a billionaire sunbathing on the French Riviera or just a billionaire who goes to the lake house for the weekend.
Although it must weigh 4,500 pounds, we wouldn’t call the LC500 a barge. It’s more like a classic Chris-Craft for a walk with a tight two-plus-two cockpit overlooking a long, graceful bow. Pin the right pedal, and the LC500 moves like a boat riding on a plane. The naturally sucked 471-hp V-8 shows a brief pause when the tach ends; it feels like a feature that adds to the play, not a drawback. The 5.0-litre engine emits a slow growling sound that produces a loud sound above 6000 rpm, sounding just as suggestive as an F-type Jaguar but without bursts and tacky creoles.
The image is on a zero-to-60-mph run in a mid-four-second range and the handle is shaded closer to 0.90 g rather than 1.00 g. It’s fast enough and sticky enough for a car that’s best enjoyed at high speed, not an aggressive one. This is the kind of car you can drive when wearing Crocs and you don’t feel like you should take it more seriously. It’s easy to install through a quick sweeper and shows awesome body control on rough pavements. Unlike the $93,975 coupe version, there are some vibrations and quakes in the lc500 softtop steering wheel that are borne out of structural flexibility rather than road feel, but this Lexus instead feels sturdy. The ride perfectly crosses the line between sturdy and soft, with only the biggest bumps and cracks on the road causing the LC to hit an optional 21-inch wheel for $2650 (standard 20s).
There are better options in this arena for driving fast. The Porsche 911 and F-type top the list. The LC500 lands right at the sweet spot where you’re expecting a two-door Lexus. There’s a clear connection with the brand’s comfortable sedans and SUVs in chewy leather, neat details, and large sizes. But the LC500 is also a celebration of the feeling and naturally aspirational engine and the joy of open-air driving. It evokes emotion in a way that BMW’s figure-generating engines don’t, and that’s how it should be.
The only thing that makes this experience easier is Lexus’s unexpected infotainment system. It uses a trackpad, which is a bad starting place, and gets worse by burying some key functions deep inside the menu structure, such as heated seat control. On some screens in a 10.3-inch view, you navigate between virtual controls with left and right swipes while the top and bottom flicks switch to whatever settings you happen to be hovering over. You might think you’ve felt angry before, but have you accidentally turned on the ventilated passenger seat while trying to turn on the heated driver’s seat — for the third time in two days?
If you can get past the small details that are this big distraction, the LC500 convertible is a refreshing alternative to a six-figure car wrapped in performance figures. LC places emphasis on experience: open eight-cylinder sound, lush skin flavor and aroma, and a sculptural body scene that looks as if it’s printed in one print. We want more of this, please, across the Lexus lineup and the larger industry.