What Car? says...
With its swoops and slashes, the Lexus LC 500 Convertible is like nothing else on the road – well, except the Lexus LC it's on based on, that is.
And while you might think that the LC 500 Convertible's concept-car looks must translate into something that’s as modern as a two-week holiday on Mars, in engine terms, it's actually quite traditional.
There's a thundering naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet – and we can't think of a better way to appreciate the full potential of that than in a convertible with the roof down. It's a winning combination in other ways too: the model triumphed in the Best High-end Convertible category at our 2022 Car of the Year awards.
So, if you have a six-figure sum to spend on a droptop sports car, why wouldn't you just go out and buy one? Well here are three good reasons for starters: the BMW 8 Series Convertible, the Bentley Continental GT Convertible and the Porsche 911 Cabriolet.
So, should you stick with one of those more high-profile – and very accomplished – cars instead? Well, that's what we'll help you decide over the next few pages of this review of the Lexus LC 500 Convertible.
We’ll tell you whether it's just for the left-field and adventurous, or whether it should be on everyone’s convertible shopping list. We'll also tell you everything you need to know about its performance, handling, practicality and so on, and let you know how it compares with the best convertibles you might be considering.
Plus, we could help you get a big discount off the price of your next new car – all you need to do is search our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It's a good place to find many of the best new convertible deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
While the hardtop Lexus LC is available with a 295bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol hybrid engine (the 500h) or a 5.0-litre V8 one (the 500), the LC Convertible just gets the V8 option. That’s hardly a bitter pill to swallow, though, because if you enjoy the sound of a big-capacity petrol engine, you’ll love it.
It’s smooth and woofly when you’re boulevarding, but when you hit the accelerator hard and rev it out towards 7000rpm, it takes on a highly tuned racing timbre.
It sounds sensational compared with most, if not all, of its rivals, including the BMW 8 Series Convertible and Mercedes-AMG SL. It's more responsive too, because there are no turbochargers to elasticise the connection between its accelerator pedal and the engine.
You don’t get the forceful hammer blow of shove from low revs that a turbocharged Porsche 911 Cabriolet or SL 55 wallops you with. Instead, you’re treated to an instantaneous but gentler pull the second your foot goes down, before it builds into a striking and exciting frenzy towards the rev limiter. The 911 is slightly quicker sprinting from 0-62mph, but the LC’s time of 5.0sec is suitably quick.
The 10-speed automatic gearbox occasionally gets confused and hesitates when left to its own devices, but more often than not, it’s slick and quick with the changes, especially on the downshifts in manual mode.
If you want a real driver’s car, our advice is to aim for the more nimble 911 or the smaller BMW M4 Competition Convertible but the LC feels spry next to the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, the 8 Series and the SL and the 8 Series. The steering has a natural weighting and predictable rate of response as you wind on the lock.
If you pop the driving mode to Sport, it stiffens the adaptive suspension just the right amount for bumpy UK roads and removes the loose body float. The LC turns into corners keenly and feels light and grippy enough to throw around gamely.
Compared with its four-wheel-drive rivals – including the Continental GT Convertible, V8 versions of the SL and the 8 Series – it's not as locked down on the traction side as you power out of bends, but if you enjoy something more playful, we think you’ll enjoy the rear-wheel-drive LC’s liveliness.
In Comfort mode, the ride has a slightly fidgety feel on rippled sections of motorway – a bit like in a 911 Cabriolet – but it's not jarring. Occupants might also notice the body flexing as it shudders over bumps, but any really nasty callouses, on faster roads or around town, are dealt with cleanly, so overall it’s a comfortable car.
What’s really impressive for a car with a canvas roof is the lack of hullabaloo. Even the engine settles into the background at 70mph, and there’s next to no road or wind noise compared with the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and 911 Cabriolet.
The interior layout, fit and finish
As you get into the Lexus LC Convertible, you drop down low into an electrically adjustable driver’s seat that scoops you like a sculpted baseball glove. It supports you through fast corners and during prolonged stretches of motorway driving.
The low seating position and blindspot-inducing drop-top roof mean this isn't the easiest car to see out of, but that’s true of all the rival convertibles too.
The LC comes with front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera to help you out, and the LED headlights are very bright. In fact, the automatic main beam assistance on the car we tried seemed intent on blinding other motorists, so we had to switch it to manual.
The digital instrument panel is so clear that it makes the optional head-up display unnecessary. There are a number of simple switches to operate necessities such as the climate control, but if you need any of the more in-depth features – such as the heated seats or neck-warmers, for example – you have to delve into the infotainment system. And that’s the LC’s weakest point.
Firstly, there’s the square touch controller, which should operate along the lines of the trackpad on a laptop. It’s slow to respond and tends to jump to the wrong icon, which is highly frustrating and distracting when travelling at 70mph.
While we always say that touchscreens are distracting to use while driving, the screen in the Porsche 911 Cabriolet is a breeze compared with the LC set-up. The iDrive system in the BMW 8 Series Convertible – with its simple, predictable rotary controller and shortcut buttons – is by far the best in the class, though.
Lexus does give you Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone mirroring as standard, as well as built-in sat-nav and a 12-speaker stereo. Hi-fi buffs should tick the option for the Mark Levinson 13-speaker audio system, which isn't that expensive (relatively speaking) and sounds marvellous.
The rest of the interior is fabulous, with an eye-catching modern design that involves lots of different finishes and soft materials.
The LC Convertible has a plushness that the 8 Series, with its direct bloodline to the BMW 3 Series interior, doesn’t quite pull off, and it’s just as beautifully built. The interiors in the Aston Martin DB11 and Mercedes-AMG SL feel less robust, even though they both cost a lot more. The Bentley Continental GT Convertible has an even more exquisite interior – and a much higher price to match.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s plenty of space for two in the front of the Lexus LC Convertible, and even our 6ft-something testers had more than enough head and leg room. The interior is wide enough to separate you from your passenger without losing the intimacy you want from a sporty car's interior.
That’s all dandy, then, and there’s also plenty of space for your accessories, in and among the various cubbies, but then you hit the practicality buffers. The two rear seats, for example, are there, but only in spirit. They’re so tiny that very few humans could comfortably use them.
Really, they’re just a bit of extra luggage space, which you’ll need to call upon because the boot is tiny too. Two carry-on suitcases will fit with a bit of space to spare, but you can forget about loading in golf clubs.
The 149-litre capacity is about the same as in the Porsche 911 Cabriolet but less than the Aston Martin DB11 Convertible, Bentley Continental GT Convertible and Mercedes-AMG SL offer. The BMW 8 Series Convertible gets twice the volume.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Lexus LC Convertible is not cheap, but everything is relative. Next to the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Bentley Continental GT Convertible, Mercedes-AMG SL and Porsche 911 Cabriolet it’s a bit of a steal. You can buy the BMW 8 Series Convertible for significantly less, though.
As for running costs, the V8 engine swills petrol eagerly when you exercise your right foot, but at a cruise, it's fairly efficient thanks to the 10-speed automatic gearbox. In top gear, the engine bumbles along below 2000rpm at 70mph, and we saw well over 30mpg on a long motorway trip
Considering the size of the engine, it shouldn't be a surprise that the model sits in the top VED band. It's predicted to hold on to its value better than a DB11 Convertible or 8 Series, but the 911 Cabriolet is the winner here in terms of fending off depreciation.
Lexus gives you a lot of equipment for your money, including 20in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, keyless entry and start, heated and cooled leather seats, adaptive suspension and a 12-speaker sound system. It’s our pick of the range, but for a small outlay, the Sport Plus Pack adds some good-to-have features, including a limited-slip differential, 21in alloy wheels, carbon-fibre tread plates and neck heaters built into the headrest.
The car maker has an amazing reliability record, and finished top (again) in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Its rivals are all some way below it in the league table (BMW finished 13th, Mercedes 23rd and Porsche 25th).
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No, it has four seats, but the back two are small (it's more of a two-plus-two format).
|RRP price range||£109,685 - £122,000|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||24.1 - 24.1|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£7,920 / £8,831|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£15,840 / £17,662|