The luxury brand’s design team received a daunting challenge: to create the world’s most beautiful open-top car. Looks like they’ve nailed it.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, my two peepers have definitely relished the Lexus LC 500 Convertible, which has just launched locally. Without sounding too much like a gushing fool, I think I’ve just found my most beautiful car of 2021 – and there have been some stunners in this, the second year of the pandemic. Think the Audi RS4, Audi RSQ8, the Merc E300… the Porsche 718 Spyder.
But suffice it to say, no other aesthetic metal contender has touched the way I felt after spending a day in the naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 new Lexus LC Convertible. (LC stands for luxury coupé.)
My gush is not based on looks alone – and damn is she a looker – it’s her sonorous growl and bad-ass visage that really got to me. For a while we’ve seen the decline of old-school naturally aspirated revvers. For example, in the entire Audi line-up, the R8 is the only one still on offer. With turbo-charged and direct injections everywhere, along with the sharp rise of hybrids and electrics in the quest for reduced carbon emissions – to experience a drive in the idiosyncratic LC Convertible, with its sonorous revs and taunting growls, is something memorable. Methinks that in the not-too-distant future a drive like the LC will be a thing of the past as naturally aspirated engines will in all likelihood become relics, or at the very least, collectors’ pieces.
While the LC may struggle to draw guns with the likes of its competitors – the BMW 850i convertible, the Porsche 911 cab and the Mercedes-Benz SL – all of which will in all likelihood beat the Japanese Grand Tourer in a drag race, the LC is not about being the fastest off the finish line. It’s a classic sporty car, a design and engineering masterpiece that deserves to be savoured in its entirety, putting all those German superior kilowatt beasts, (which are also stunningly beautiful cars), in the shade.
The proportions are close to perfection: the hood stretches from the windshield, the wheelbase is lengthy thanks to its GA-L architecture, while the doors are unusually long, which all work together to create an imposingly ferocious yet aesthetic and classy stance. The cabin smells of luxury from a bygone era, coupled with its sharp and futuristic exterior styling.
Based on the 2012 LF-LC Concept, the straight LC 500 (which I first drove in 2018), was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in 2016. It was the first Lexus to use the GA-L platform that’s offered in both rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive variants and paired with a longitudinal engine, which in simple speak is an internal combustion engine where the crankshaft is placed along the long axis, front to back.
If you’re a Marvel fan, you may have noticed a deep-midnight-blue LC 500 in the movie Black Panther, shot in the streets of Busan, South Korea, during one of Hollywood’s most memorable acrobatic car chase scenes. The hero, Black Panther, surfs on the roof of the futuristic-looking LC, controlled remotely from BP’s hideout somewhere in Africa.
Featuring the Lexus LC 500 in this blockbuster was a genius feat of marketing – the Black Panther trailer, which debuted in June 2017 during the NBA Finals, received 89 million views within its first 24 hours of release.
The LC Convertible, the derivative I got to savour last week, was unveiled at the LA Auto Show in November, 2019, one of the few international motor shows to make it out of the stalls before the pandemic forced global lockdown.
Producing 351kW of horsepower and 540Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm, the LC’s engine is mated to a DirectShift-10 automatic transmission, allowing for invigorating acceleration. There are six drive modes to choose from: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport S and Sport S+. Needless to say, I spent much of my time behind the wheel savouring the highest speed option, reaching some scary figures along Mpumalanga mountain passes. Because of its superior suspension and world-class chassis, never once did my drive partner or I feel out of control, however hard that old-school V8 rumble, howl and snarl tried to entice us.
The cabin, with its luxurious cockpit, evokes a gentleman’s smoking lounge from a bygone era. Perfection in finishes and details, scrutinised by highly trained Lexus Takumi master artisans, is the order of the day.
While the two front 10-way, electrically adjustable, heated seats embrace driver and passenger in a cloak of comfort, I am not so sure how comfy back-seat passengers would be as space is tight, but the LC surely can’t be regarded as a family car.
Along with all the luxurious details, there’s a kick-ass 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, a quaint analogue clock on the dashboard, and the infotainment system is naturally Apple Carplay/Android Auto compatible.
My only gripe is that this generation LC still houses the annoying touchpad, connected to a somewhat dated infotainment set-up – when you look at its hi-tech competition – which slightly mars an otherwise close-to-perfect product.
The folding four-layer, soft-top roof must surely be the convertible’s pièce de résistance, which can be operated while in motion at speeds of up to 50km/h. And there’s no way you’re going to let cold weather or road noise hinder your pleasure when the top’s down as it features a hi-tech transparent polycarbonate wind deflector, neck heaters as well as ANC (Active Noise Control) technology.
It frustrates me that the Lexus brand has not achieved the sales figures or popular status it deserves in South Africa. The LC 500 is in all likelihood not going to sell like hot cakes if you think that in the North American Lexus-crazy market only 400-600 LC Convertibles are expected to sell per year – but this is part of the LC’s highly exclusive appeal.
The LC Convertible is a one-of-a-kind Grand Tourer that can easily adapt from being a growling, speedy howler into a sedate premium sweetheart that’s perfect for everyday use – one that most of us plebs are sadly never going to come close to affording.
Pricing: Lexus LC Convertible – R2,345,500. DM