► Lexus’ new flagship cabriolet
► Rivals the likes of the Porsche 911
► Very Japanese, very Lexus – and very good
The power of a flagship shouldn’t be ignored. Even though the Lexus LC Coupe is somewhat limited in terms of overall sales volumes, its effect on the brand’s profile has been huge. In the year following its debut, search volumes increased by 41 per cent, and many of those who were drawn in by the LC ended up buying a more affordable Lexus – like the RC, NX or RX instead.
By launching the new LC Convertible, the brand will no doubt be hoping to repeat some of this fortune, and the overwhelmingly positive response on social media to its announcement shows there’s a good chance of it doing just that. But it’s no use just turning heads on the street – it’s got to be as impressive a car as its coupe sibling.
Just shut up and let me look for a second…
It’s a bit of a stunner, isn’t it? Unapologetically Lexus, featuring an enormous ‘spindle’ grille and more cuts and slashes than a two-bit crime novel, yet these features that seem somewhat over the top on something like the UX SUV work perfectly on the LC’s long, lean silhouette.
It’s preserved the roofline of its coupe sibling very well, too. The fabric roof is fairly complex but when raised it looks perfectly integrated. When lowered, there’s a distinctive upkick to the window line that raises the rear deck behind the passenger compartment. It’s very effective.
We’re particular fans of the light signatures both front and rear, while even the interior’s fairly stunning – all interesting surfaces and high-end materials.
Where’s the hybrid?
Lexus tells us it 'could' have installed a hybrid powertrain in the LC Convertible, but it decided not to – apparently, the added weight of the batteries on top of the additional reinforcing necessary without a solid roof would have compromised the car’s dynamics too much. Not so much in overall heft – the LC Convertible’s barely heavier than the Coupe – but in balance.
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This gives it the distinction of being Lexus’ only model available in the UK with no hybrid trickery whatsoever.
It also leaves the 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V8 as the sole engine on offer. The things we put up with, eh? Well, in this case, you’ll need to put up with a fuel economy figure of 24.1mpg and CO2 emissions of an eye-watering 275g/km. Par for the course with big V8s, but never pleasant to think about. At least the massive 82-litre fuel tank provides a theoretical 435 miles per tank, making this an appealing long-distance cruiser.
What’s it like?
There’s 457bhp on offer, with peak power coming in at a gloriously raucous 7,100rpm. It’s a pleasure to rev – with the sort of response you only get from a naturally-aspirated powerplant. The noise itself is great, too, and Lexus hasn’t bothered to fit a ‘loud’ button like you’d find on an AMG Mercedes – if you want more volume, you’ll just have to shift down a few ratios on the 10-speed auto and put your foot down.
Do so and the LC will sprint from 0-62mph in five seconds flat – identical to the Coupe – and on to an electronically limited top speed of 168mph. On our slippery test roads there was enough shove to spin the wheels right up to fourth gear…
The gearbox is reassuringly slushy when you’re cruising around gently, but will hang on tenaciously to ratios when you put your foot down – especially if you shift into Sporty S mode – and the rest of the time will happily keep you in the engine’s torque band.
Our only gripe is when you take manual control, with those numerous closely-spaced ratios requiring somewhat frantic paddle-flapping at full chat.
How does it ride and handle?
Very well indeed. The LC Convertibles we drove were all Sport+ models, which feature a limited-slip differential and performance dampers at the rear. Sadly, there’s no room to bring the coupe’s rear-wheel steering in – a shame, as this is a big car and feels like it to drive.
But provided the road’s wide enough the LC steers and corners with real fluency. There’s a ton of grip and though the steering’s a little remote, it’s light and precise. It’s no chore to hustle this car.
When cruising, the fabric roof makes itself known with the barest hint of scuttle shake on pockmarked surfaces as well as a slightly firmer edge to its coupe sibling. These are really minor gripes, though, and the majority of the time you’ll settle into a sumptuously upholstered (and reassuringly low-mounted) sports seat and enjoy a spectacularly good grand touring experience.
All told, it errs more towards comfort than dynamism, versus the 911 Cabriolet which tips the other way – not an unappealing prospect.
What’s it like inside?
Hushed with the roof up – raising or lowering it can be done at speeds of up to 31mph. Roof down, there’s perhaps a little more bluster than we’d like, but this 6’3 tester isn’t the best judge of that, and shorter drivers will find themselves more protected from the elements. That’ll be the case for the Mercedes-aping neck warmers, too, which certainly worked wonders on our upper back.
There are two rear seats in here, theoretically – like any of this car’s rivals they’re intended as extensions of the boot rather than actual places for humans to sit. Though a child seat might fit back there. The boot itself is shallow but practically shaped, and should fit a couple of suitcases or several soft bags.
The LC’s dashboard is the antithesis of the 911 Cabriolet’s strait-laced and Germanic affair – it’s pure Lexus, with a stacked centre console reminding us a little of Renaults from the 1980s. That’s a good comparison, we promise.
Material and build quality is peerless, with not a vibration or rattle to be felt even on poor surfaces, and all the buttons and switches operate with reassuring weight. The roof controls are cleverly hidden away underneath the palmrest, too.
The LFA-style moving binnacle for the digital dash is a lovely party trick, though against the latest super high-res displays on some rivals the LC’s gauge cluster looks a little old-school. The same can finally no longer be said for the infotainment – the pin-sharp central display finally features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you to banish Lexus’ own software for good. It’s a shame you have to operate it through an awkward touchpad rather than a touchscreen, though.
Striking to look at, the Lexus LC Convertible turned heads left and right on our test route – and as it’s likely to remain pretty exclusive, it’ll be doing that for a while to come.
The question of whether it’s better than a Porsche 911 is moot, as despite their similar price tags (that is, when you’ve selected items such as ‘seats’ or ‘windows’ from Porsche’s options list) and status as four-seat sports cabrios, they’re totally different in character and execution.
Taken on its own merits, the LC Convertible is a wonderful achievement. It’s a Lexus worth getting excited about, with a glorious engine, stunning styling and all the hallmarks unique to Lexus ownership.