What is it?
Lexus’s grand tourer extraordinaire, now freed of its sleek coupe roof and outfitted with a folding soft top. The Inspiration Series seen here is a limited edition version (just 100 will be built) that delivers sexy exclusive Structural Blue paint, a white-and-blue semi-aniline leather interior and a sleek Zero Halliburton luggage set, as well as basically all the options on the list as standard.
Is it new?
Yup. While the LC has been kicking around since 2017, the convertible version just arrived on the scene, hot on the heels of a mild 2020 model year midlife refresh for the coupe.
What makes it special?
Well, it’s the only Lexus on sale today with a six-figure starting price, for one thing. For another, it’s the first convertible Lexus to be found in showrooms since the SC 430 shuffled off this mortal coil a decade ago.
How does it drive?
Delightfully. Lexus struck a wonderful balance between ride and handling with the LC 500, serving up a car that was both comfortable and easy-riding on long hauls and surprisingly sharp and nimble in the turns. That’s still very much true of the convertible, as well. The steering is direct and fluid, and the limited-slip diff and Yamaha-developed performance dampers (standard on the Inspiration Series, a $460 option on other LC500s) holds the car steady and smooth when rounding backroad bends and cloverleafs. It’s not the Lexus you’d take on a track...but seriously, how many people are taking their Lexuses on a track?
In addition, going topless makes it all the easier to appreciate one of the LC500’s underrated attractions: its 5.0-liter V8. 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque may not sound that remarkable in this day and age, but they’re more than enough to help this luxurious droptop out-accelerate most cars on the road — helped in no small part by a 10-speed automatic that does a solid job of always keeping the engine in the right part of the powerband. What does sound remarkable? The engine itself, as it pulls towards its 7,300 redline. At full throttle, the naturally aspirated V8 sound like a distant IndyCar race.
Keep a lighter foot on the throttle, and you’ll find conversation is easy with the top down; you might have to project a little to be heard at 70-plus miles per hour, but no more than any other convertible — indeed, far less than in most. And if you can’t hear your co-occupant anymore, well, you can always crank up the stereo — the 13-speaker, 915-watt Mark Levinson system keeps the music crisp even at high speeds.
What’s it like inside?
Gorgeous. I can’t say how well the Inspiration Series’s mostly-white interior will wear over time, especially if its owners have a proclivity for blue jeans, but it’s certainly nice enough to make me want to find out. (Also, the blue accents might go a long way to disguising denim stains.)
The interior design is delightfully driver-focused, with all the controls canted to the left-front occupant and designed to be easy to find and pleasing to their eyes. (Even the driver's and passenger's side doors are subtly asymmetrical, a subtle move that takes a while to notice.) Special attention should be given to the tachometer; while it may be digital, its frame very much is not, and it can slide aside to create a second view with more tertiary information if so desired. Watching it zip back and forth is a great way to kill time when stuck in traffic.
If there’s one flaw here, it’s a familiar one to Lexus owners and car reviewers alike: the infotainment system. The trackpad-based system remains one of the most distracting on the road; frequent use brings some familiarity, and with a little work — setting radio station presets and the like ahead of time, using the hard buttons as much as possible, etc. — you can avoid using it too often. Still, its combination of a free-floating cursor and a delicate trackpad seem like exactly the wrong sort of user interface for a car designed to be driven at high speed.
What’s it cost?
The LC500 Convertible starts at $102,025, including destination fee; the LC500 Inspiration Edition goes for $120,825 with that same fee factored in. Whether or not it’s worth the extra $18K is, sadly, largely irrelevant; the odds of finding one of the 100 examples seem slim. Still, if you can live without the fancy paint, a well-equipped LC500 with most of the Inspiration Series’s features runs around $109K. That’s well below equivalently-specced examples of its closest competitors, the BMW M850i Cabriolet and Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet.
2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible Inspiration Series
Powertrain: 5.0-liter V8; 10-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Seats: Two, with token seats for two more