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Lexus LC 500 Convertible Review: First impression

We've got a soft spot for a soft top.

How do you make an already cool car cooler?

Simple: Chop the roof off.

Lexus has unveiled its fourth flagship vehicle in the form of the LC 500 Convertible. It starts at $214,000, which is $18,000 more than the LC 500 Coupé. If you want one of the exclusive Limited Edition LCs, of which there are only 10 allocated for Australia, you’ll have to pay $234,000. To keep performance as close to the LC Coupé as possible, Lexus engineers have made a raft of changes to the convertible’s underpinnings.

We’ve just spent the day driving both variants and, in true Lexus “experience amazing” style, we got to experience Lexus on-demand at the bookends of our test.

It's also worth mentioning that the new LC Convertible comes with Lexus Encore Platinum, as standard. You can learn more about Encore Platinum here.

What’s the LC 500 Convertible like inside?

Inside the Convertible is largely the same as the Coupé. You get the same basic layout, with a few subtle differences and most obviously, a button to retract the roof. However, even the switchgear for that is hidden away under the padded area before the trackpad where you rest your hand, which is also a standard feature of the Coupé.

The similarities between both body styles isn’t a bad thing at all. I like the cabin, with its low-slung driving position and grab handles for the passenger – it's a captivating place to sit.

For the interior trim, customers can choose between black trim with a black roof, flare red trim with a black roof, ochre trim with a beige roof and ochre trim with a black roof.

If you opt for the limited edition, you’ll get a nautical white and blue Semi-Aniline leather-accented interior and unique Limited Edition scuff plates.

When you’re on the go and the temperature dips, there are neck heaters inset into the front two seats, which blow warm air onto the neck and shoulders. In fact, as your speed changes, and the temperature of the air fluctuates around your neck, the system will adjust both the temperature and fan speed to keep you comfortable.

In my stint with the Convertible, you could feel the system working away. It did still get a bit chilly (not an issue you will encounter in summer), but that is more reflective of the weather on the day – jackets were needed. That said, it was never to the point where I needed to put the roof up.

While we're talking about the roof, it's quite a unique set-up. The material itself has zero wrinkles (such is the attention to detail) and it can raise or retract in no more than 15 seconds, at speeds of up to 50 km/h. It's made from lightweight aluminium and magnesium for strength and rigidity.

Beneath the outer material is a sound-proofing layer, which ensures a quiet ride with the roof up. Interestingly, Lexus says that the rear decklid's opening and closing motion was “inspired by the soft ink brush movement of Japanese calligraphy”.

It certainly moves in a smooth and fluid manner.

As with the Coupé, the backseats are merely for storage, not for people, as there’s no leg room to speak of.

Another impressive feat of the LC Convertible is that even with its twin-layer, four-panel, sound-proofed soft-top, headroom measures just millimetres less than the hard-top. To quantify, front and rear headroom drop just 11mm and 4mm less respectively.

In terms of boot space, there are 149 litres available, 48 litres fewer than the Coupé. On paper, the boot volume should be even lower, except for the fact that the brilliant engineers added a fourth fold to that crease-free roof – meaning that they needed less space to make the whole system work.

Prominently positioned centrally just below the upper dash brow is a 10.3-inch infotainment screen that houses Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth® connectivity and more. Unfortunately, the clunky trackpad interface remains. Even so, there are no fewer than 13 of Mark Levinson's finest speakers for high-fidelity, crystal clear sound.

These got a workout on our test drive from Shoalhaven Heads to Berrima and back up to Sutherland, believe me.

What’s the Lexus LC 500 Convertible like to drive?

When it comes to creating a convertible, more often than not, the open top doesn’t always hit the mark that the manufacturers intended.

That’s because convertibles are often heavier, thanks to additional bracing that’s required to offset structural integrity usually given by the roof. Then you have all the extra weight added by the folding roof mechanism.

Add to that the fact that the LC Convertible retains the 5.0-litre, naturally-aspirated V8 from the Coupé, meaning that it has the same 351kW and 540Nm, despite the car weighing an extra 125kgs.

So to say that it drives almost identically to the Coupé is high praise and a testament to the development work that went into the vehicle.

With no stone unturned, the engineers have made a range of revisions to the setup of the LC 500. Without going into too much detail, some of these changes include altering the shock-absorber length, creating new control-software parameters for the active variable suspension, optimising the stabiliser bar, installing stronger coil springs, adjusting the spring rates upfront, applying 22 extra weld points and designing a lightweight aluminium panel that goes across the front floor.

What does all this mean? They are basically tweaks to ensure that the Convertible and the Coupé perform as closely to one and other as possible. They make the Convertible more rigid, which is going to help in a number of areas, but namely going through bends.

It all works, with the car practically begging us to drive it hard as we twisted and turned through our pre-set course.

Then there is the sound produced by the magnificent V8. The Convertible benefits from additional valves in the exhaust system (which has been tweaked in length and diameter itself) to produce a more satisfying note.

How anyone could think the throaty burble from the ordinary LC 500 wasn’t satisfying enough is beyond me, but I’m grateful for the work they did. The result is glorious!

The speakers in the cabin enhance your enjoyment by evaluating driver inputs and car set-up to adjust the volume and ferocity of the engine note and then augment the vehicle sounds through the sound system.

However, all of this probably shouldn’t be that surprising to you considering that the Lexus LC Coupe is manufactured at the same plant and by the same craftsmen as the LFA Supercar. We’re talking rooms with white walls and floors to limit distractions – and what that means is that each car is thoroughly tested by several Takumi craftsmen before it's shipped off to its soon-to-be happy owner.

How safe is the Lexus LC 500 Convertible?

The new LC 500 Convertible comes with Lexus Safety System+ as standard. This means you get a good suite of safety features, including:

  • 8 airbags
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Autonomous Cruise Control with stop-start functionality
  • Lane Departure Alert
  • Automatic High Beam
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Active Cornering Assist
  • Pop-up pedestrian-sensing bonnet

There are some impressive inclusions above, but there's even more built-in to keep you safe. Take for instance the Autonomous Cruise Control. If the system in the LC Convertible senses an imminent impact, it will make adjustments to the adjustable dampers to put the vehicle in the best possible position to absorb the hit.

Not only this, but the system can detect the size of the vehicle in front if a vehicle is cutting in in front of you (not to nudge them out of the way, but to adjust the braking) and it has stop-start functionality, to help you in congested traffic situations.

The verdict

Our first drive of the LC 500 Convertible saw us tackle some absolutely awesome roads and it gave us the ability to see just how good the LC Convertible truly is. The fact that it performs like a near replica of the LC 500 Coupé, I think, says it all.

The LC 500 Convertible is very much still the real deal, but it gives you the privilege of preference on those long coastal road trips or scorching summer days and it makes you feel viscerally connected to your environment in a way that only convertibles can.

If you are keen to know how it is to live with, stay tuned.

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