Cruise glamorously in Lexus’ 2021 LC500 convertible
Every now and then an automaker introduces a car that is simply stunning. The new Lexus LC500 convertible fits that description well. Lexus revealed the car publicly for the first time at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, though this particular “Inspiration Series” spec (designated by Structural Blue paint with a white and blue interior) will be limited to just 100 examples. The convertible takes the already attractive LC500 coupe and turns the styling wick up a notch, while retaining most of the coupe’s impressive driving dynamics.
The price may go up as the top goes down, as the saying goes, but as desirable as convertibles may be, they typically come with some compromises due to removing the roof. Those compromises often include poorer handling due to less structural rigidity, and less speed due to the heavy reinforcements needed to make up for that loss. However, for the new convertible version of Lexus’ LC500, Toyota has gone to great lengths to make sure that the droptop LC500’s dynamics are comparable to the hardtop’s performance.
Chassis rigidity has been retained by adding some structural members, like the rear suspension tower brace, and revising or relocating others, with extensive use of die-cast aluminum in those reinforcements to keep their weight down. While adding just 217 pounds to the coupe’s total weight, unsprung weight of suspension components has been reduced. Additionally, a “unique dampener” was added to reduce body flex and keep ride quality equal to that of the coupe. Lexus likes to tout its technological prowess, but it should be noted that using harmonic dampeners to counter body flex in convertibles goes back at least to the 1961 Lincoln Continental, which had a 50-pound damper weight at each corner.
Convertibles are also typically noisier than closed cars. To keep the interior quiet, the LC500’s new soft roof is a four-layer affair that incorporates both thermal and noise insulation; but if that is not quiet enough, the LC500 convertible also features Active Noise Control, regardless of whether the top is up or down. Lowering that roof takes just 15 seconds and raising it just a tick more at 16, and the roof can be opened or closed at speeds of up to 31 mph. When the roof is down, it is covered by a hardshell tonneau cover. To minimize wind noise when the roof is lowered, a transparent plastic air deflector deploys behind the rear seat. The soft roof is available in three colors, black, red, and “Toasted Caramel,” while there are 10 choices for exterior colors, in addition to the numbers-limited Structural Blue.
The basic shape of the LC500 coupe has been retained, but there have been some small styling changes including a wider and taller rear deck lip that incorporates the normally high-mounted center brake light, and a revised belt line said to help suppress wind noise.
Speaking of noise, if you’re offended by those automakers who pump artificial mechanical noises into the cabin, you’ll be pleased to note that the LC500 convertible has a diaphragm and sound pipe that carries the actual engine note and exhaust tone into the car.
The LC500 convertible’s “Climate Concierge” system includes a special neck heater on the front seats, a feature that’s been on convertibles from Lexus’ German competitors for some time now, as well as automatic climate control, seating HVAC, and a heated steering wheel with pre-set conditions that starts to blow warm or cooled air (as needed) onto the driver’s hands.
The Remote Touch infotainment system now includes Android Auto in addition to Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay connectivity. You also get three free years of Lexus Enform Remote service that lets you remotely start the engine, lock or unlock the doors, check the fuel level, and perform other tasks via your smartphone, smartwatch, or other Google Assistant- or Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.
Mechanically, the LC500 convertible is identical to the coupe, with the same 471-horsepower, 398 lb-ft, 5.0-liter V-8 gasoline combustion engine, and 10-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
As close to the coupe in performance as the convertible will be, there were still two compromises that Lexus could not work around. When the roof is retracted, it has to go someplace. That means there isn’t enough room for a battery pack, so there won’t be a hybrid version of the LC500 convertible, and with the roof down, there is just 4.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. Not quite as limited as what you’d find on a ’57 Ford Fairlane Retractable Hardtop, but if you’re going golfing with a friend, you might have to leave the top up to have enough room in the trunk for both golf bags.
The 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible will go on sale next summer, in mid-2020. No price or performance data has been released yet. However, we do know that just 99 of those 100 LC500 convertibles in Structural Blue will be offered by Lexus dealers. A special, one-of-a-kind LC500 convertible, finished in Structural Blue, with a number of unique features, will be auctioned off to benefit an as-yet-unnamed charity at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in mid-January.