Somewhere in the multiverse there exists a timeline where Lexus went all-in on design at the turn of the millennium, allowing it to build up to a car as staggeringly beautiful as the 2021 Lexus LC 500 rather than delivering it out of nowhere like a surprise shock to the optic nerve. Hailing from an alternate dimension where the previous decade’s LFA supercar was more leading light than lingering afterthought, the LC 500 is, bar none, the most gorgeous (and underrated) vehicle to ever wear the Lexus badge, regardless of whether it’s found in coupe or convertible form.
Specify the latter at ordering time, and you’ll also snag a front-row seat to the LC 500’s more hidden, but equally impressive talent: a large-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8 engine. In a world where every single one of its grand touring rivals has made the move to turbocharging, the Lexus snarls its way to the front of the pack with a visceral experience that’s simply lacking from more complicated (albeit quicker) luxury fare.
With its startling looks and its throwback drivetrain, the LC 500 convertible can feel a little like an outsider even when idling in its own showroom. Out on the open road, however, there’s little doubt that this isn’t just the best car Lexus has built in the past 20 years — it’s also the most compelling drop-top GT anyone with $110,000 burning a hole in their pocket can currently buy.
We’re Not Worthy
Beauty is often subjective when it comes to automotive design, yet it would be a stretch to call the current crop of six-figure tourers “pretty.” The SUV era has shifted the emphasis from elegant to excess, which means full-size coupes and convertibles more often lean towards high beltlines and bulging fenders and flanks in a bid to out-muscle their sport-utility rivals seeking the same high-dollar customers.
Not so with the Lexus LC 500. At a time when even the default Porsche 911 has become somewhat less than svelte, the LC 500 slices both the air and your eyeballs with the most fully realized version of the brand’s “L-Finesse” design language. Whereas on other Lexus models it may come across as overwrought, on the LC the combination of hard creases, flat surfacing and gentle curves come together like the brush strokes of a calligraphic masterpiece. It legitimately stops traffic; you’re the star of whatever scene you roll into as the light turns red and passersby turn green with envy.
The LC’s emotional design stands in stark contrast to its peers from BMW (the 8 Series), Mercedes-Benz (the SL-Class), and Jaguar (the F-Type). This cohort may project muscle and menace, but intimidation is rarely a passageway to the heart. The Lexus, however, worms its way directly into your left ventricle after entering through the eye, the ear and the skin. The latter’s injection point is an interior that is the very definition of class, inhabiting an organic warmth that is again missing from most other similarly priced two-doors. It even offers a reasonable top-down conversation at speed thanks to the anti-buffeting effects of its pop-up windscreen, which snaps in place of the rear seat passengers you were never going to torture back there anyway.
Snarl and Subtlety
Lexus has also avoided a key stumble that has hamstrung many a modern grand tourer. Rather than pushing the envelope in terms of performance, the LC 500 simply focuses on delivering a delightfully composed, comfortable and respectably quick ride. By declining to participate in the accelerative arms race that has come to define the hefty bolides in this high-end arsenal, the convertible lacks the pretense of lap time potential that has condemned so many other cruisers to stiff-legged suspensions and Gatling gun gear-changes.
To be sure, the 471 horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 that is standard with the open-air LC runs the gamut from purr to projectile depending on whether the car is left in its normal driving mode or bumped up to “Sport+” using the rotary knob to the right of the gauge binnacle. With the latter engaged, the exhaust’s full-throat bellow is a wondrous tumult in a world of baffled turbo whumps-and-dumps, and the car is responsive (but never neck-breaking) to pulls on the paddle shifters. Left to its own devices, the car’s 10-speed automatic is perfectly capable of selecting the right ratio for the task at hand — I really only grabbed a paddle to initiate the corresponding throttle blip that I found so soothing to the soul.
Please don’t mistake the LC 500’s casual attitude towards all-out athleticism for sloth. This is very much a car that wants you to drive, to pick a spot on its nav screen that you’ve never visited and then preferably take the long way there with the top down, sunscreen applied and companion by your side. It simply doesn’t feel the need for either pilot or steed to arrive at your destination covered in sweat and gasping for breath.
A Better Tomorrow
The 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible is an absolute joy. Everything about the experience — from approaching the car’s captivating sheet metal to firing up its gifted V8 to sinking back into the splendor of its well-coddled cabin — suggests a new future for the automaker that tacks away from its reputation as a purveyor of comfortable but otherwise staid vehicles. It’s a persona that’s marred only by perhaps the worst infotainment interface on the modern market, a touchpad-linked setup that was so difficult to use I often handed off climate and music control duties to my passenger so I could remain concentrated on the road ahead.
Lexus has chosen to walk its own path in creating its most memorable automobile to date, and it’s managed to do so without boasting about lap times and launch-control systems, or mimicking supervillain styling cues. It’s hard to imagine a better beacon of things to come for a car company that has finally followed in its own LFA-sized footsteps and reached out across the interdimensional chaos to converge the best possible timelines into one knock-out punch.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.