One of our favourites, if slightly left-field, prestige grand tourers has just been given slightly different suspension settings, improved infotainment, a folding fabric roof and a glorious V8 petrol engine. There are one or two minor drawbacks to the new Lexus LC Convertible, then, but that doesn't detract from what a wonderfully spectacular machine this thing is. And it'll have you wondering why you'd splash out more cash on a Bentley, Aston or Porsche alternative.
In the Metal:
What makes the gorgeous Lexus LC stand out in its field is that it does not try to ape European brands with its styling, instead proudly wearing its Japanese heritage on its, er, wings. But if you think lopping the tin roof off the supermodel LC Coupe would result in an ugly car for the Convertible, think again. If anything, this is even better to behold - roof up, the fabric lid's lines do not spoil the sensual shape of the LC and with the top stashed away, it looks worth a million dollars, never mind the likely €150,000 it'll probably end up costing. Any paint, any wheels, this is a fabulous car in terms of its aesthetics.
That roof can be raised or lowered in 15 seconds, including on the move at speeds of up to 50km/h, and as it is the company's first soft-top (its spiritual predecessor, the not-anything-like-as-nice Lexus SC 430, had a retractable hard-top) it was tested to breaking point by the Japanese outfit; it went through 18,000 opening and closing cycles during development, which is equivalent to about 24 years' worth of use in the real world, and when it did finally fail, it only broke in a minor, unimportant way. It certainly whirrs up and down smoothly and neatly, the rear decking moving neatly out of its way for the fully automated process, but it does somewhat cut into boot space (down 48 litres on the LC Coupe to an overall 149 litres) and it makes the rear seats of the Convertible very, very small indeed. You're better off thinking of those '+2' pews as extra luggage space.
On the inside (and unlike the exterior of the Lexus), there's a little more to pick holes with. The flat-pad infotainment controller remains, although at least the software has been improved with the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, meaning you can plug your smartphone into the LC Convertible and have up-to-date graphics. There are also no physical buttons on the console for any of the heated seats, the heated steering wheel or the neck-heating system, which is incorporated into the sumptuous front chairs of the LC 500 Convertible; this means you still have to deal with that clunking controller to turn these features on, sadly. We've already said rear-seat space is minimal and you could argue that the LC's digital displays aren't the most technologically advanced in the world, but what with the high-quality fixtures and fittings, the perfect driving position, the lovely steering wheel and that sliding-dial instrument cluster, overall the Lexus' cabin is a fabulous place to be.
The Convertible presages some suspension changes that will be incorporated into updated, 2021MY versions of the LC Coupe, but one thing that will not make it across to the Convertible is the V6 petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain of the LC 500h. The chief engineer on the project deemed that the 500h hybrid's battery pack could be incorporated into the rear of the LC, along with the folded roof, but it would have caused too much of a compromise to the car's dynamics so the Convertible gets the 5.0-litre V8 and the 5.0-litre V8 alone.
This is an engine that deserves even more praise than it gets, and it gets plenty as it is. Bearing in mind it comes from a gigantic automotive conglomerate that has centred its philosophy on the green credentials of hybrid drivetrains, the fact that a normally aspirated V8 of such character as this continues in this day and age is surely something that must be celebrated with all due abandon, while we still have the chance. It might not have the show-stopping numbers of its forced induction rivals, certainly if you scrutinise the maximum torque figure and whereabouts in the rev range that is delivered, but merely looking at the boring, black-and-white stats doesn't tell half the story about how charismatic this V8 is, about how beautifully linear its throttle response is across the board, about how sublime it is to listen to it going through the motions.
And don't, for a minute, think that it doesn't make the LC Convertible feel fast enough in this marketplace, because that isn't the case at all. Sure, you give away a few tenths on the 0-100km/h run as a result of around 100 kilos of weight gain in the Convertible, but it still feels properly quick when you want it to, because its normally aspirated engine responds instantly the moment you feather the throttle. Admittedly, the ten-speed automatic, which is perfectly fine in full 'D' mode and which is also controlled by excellent metal paddle shifts mounted on the wheel itself, is nevertheless a bit long-legged - it'll pull more than 160km/h in fourth gear, if you want it to, for example. But this is a drivetrain that is easily the match of anything else in this rarefied segment, and probably the better of most of the rival engine/gearbox combinations, too.
Like any Lexus, refinement is exemplary. The ride comfort in any of Eco, Comfort or Normal settings is magnificent considering the car we tested had the Sport Plus Pack and therefore rolled on 21-inch wheels, while even in Sport and Sport+ the LC 500 Convertible never becomes unduly harsh. Suppression of the mechanical exertions of the drivetrain and the tyres is similarly impressive, while hood down the occupants aren't buffeted too much, thanks to the steeply raked windscreen and a small wind deflector behind the rear seats.
So the Convertible is as accomplished a GT as its Coupe stablemate, only you get the added attraction of wind-in-your-hair motoring on nice days. And you don't sacrifice much, if anything, in terms of dynamics, either. There's maybe a trace amount of additional flex to the shell over rougher surfaces, a background shudder to the frame of the windscreen that reminds you the torsional rigidity is not nearly as good here as it is on the Coupe, but the body control, the sharpness of the turn-in, the delightfulness of the accurate and well-weighted steering... all of them are preserved by the LC 500 Convertible. The flagship Lexus has never been a car about the most involving handling that will satisfy rabid enthusiasts who talk about oversteer and vertical wheel control, but by the same token it's not some wallowing waterbed on glitzy alloys either. There's a pleasing 'oneness' about the way the LC 500 Convertible takes apart a series of challenging bends and rucked-up road surfaces when it's on quieter, smaller and more sinuous routes, and you can get it into a thoroughly engaging and deeply rewarding 'flow' without too much effort. The way it handles is, therefore, supremely well-judged, in the manner of many of the other facets of this wonderful Lexus' character.
What you get for your Money:
Although a price hasn't yet been confirmed for the Lexus LC Convertible, we can extrapolate from its price in other markets to know that the Lexus should come with practically every toy you could possibly want fitted to it as standard, for a price that is less than its key rivals below. All we know for now is that there will be one grade offered here.
It's an unashamedly Japanese, unashamedly feelgood car, the Lexus LC 500 Convertible. Yes, you'll probably find a sharper drive at the wheel of some of its rivals and you'll sure as something-we-cannot-say find better infotainment controls elsewhere than that infuriating track-pad the marque insists on foisting upon all of its cars, and yeah, maybe ten speeds in the gearbox are too many for the V8's relatively modest outputs... but we're picking nits here. The fact is, this machine looks phenomenal, the interior is fabulous, the engine is a masterpiece, the refinement is first-rate, driving roof-down in it is a proper occasion and it has the noise, speed and polished handling prowess to knock the socks off 99 per cent of drivers out there. Frankly, it's the best thing Lexus has ever made by some considerable distance, save for possibly the unicorn-esque LFA supercar.