Packing swoopy styling and exotic powertrains, the Lexus LC is a hyper sports car that's available in limited numbers. Body styles include coupe and, new for 2021, convertible. Both have seating for up front two and offer set of rear seats for occasional use (known in the industry as a 2+2). All come standard with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not offered. Competitors include the Acura NSX, Audi R8, BMW i8, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and Porsche 911.
The LC 500 is offered as a coupe or convertible with a 471-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The LC 500h is only offered as a coupe and gets a hybrid powertrain that consists of an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors. Combined, the gas engine and electric motors make 354 horsepower and drive the rear wheels through a unique transmission that teams a continuously variable automatic with a conventional 4-speed automatic. The LC hybrid can operate in EV mode at slow speeds provided the battery has enough charge.
Coupes start at $92,950 and convertibles start at $101,000. Since the LC is so well-equipped, only a few options and packages are available. Stand-alone options include 20- and 21-inch wheels, a head-up display, a Torsen limited-slip differential and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system. The convertible comes with a power-operated top with glass rear window and automatic wind blocker.
Available only with the lusty V8 engine, the convertible offers quick acceleration off the line and robust passing response. With a 0 to 60 MPH time of about 4.5 seconds, it's a tick slower than most competitors, but the LC's mission as a grand touring car doesn't demand ultimate drag-strip performance. The engine makes all the right sounds and has enough guts to push you into the seat when necessary.
Several different driving modes are offered via a console-mounted knob. ECO is best suited for highway cruising as it races through the gears in mild acceleration and dulls throttle response. There are Comfort and Normal modes for everyday driving and tries to blend the best of the performance mode with the best of the ECO mode. Sport and Sport + offer the best acceleration and all-around performance, but this comes with a fuel economy penalty.
Offering only rear-wheel drive is a detriment in this class, as all but the Chevrolet Corvette offer all-wheel drive. Still, with traction control and an available limited-slip differential, the lack of AWD isn't as big of an issue as you might expect -- considering this car's mission -- but it is noteworthy non-the-less.
The LC 500 is EPA rated at 15 MPG city, 25 MPG highway and 18 MPG overall. Those numbers are unimpressive but not unexpected. Like all the cars in this class, the LC requires premium-grade fuel. In routine suburban driving and with a light throttle foot, the LC 500 can net about 20 MPG overall. Dip a little deeper into the "go pedal" and you'll see that number drop into the mid to high teens, which is what you can expect from competitors.
One area where the LC 500 matches or exceeds its competition is in the ride and handling department. With a stiff structure and adaptive suspension, the LC convertible deftly blends road-holding prowess with luxury-car comfort. Opting for the performance-enhancing 21-inch wheels and tires, variable-ratio steering and limited-slip differential makes a big difference on the handling side, but even without those, the LC holds the road with the tenacious grip of an all-star wrestler. While it is true that a Corvette Z06 or 911 Turbo will run circles around the LC on a race track, the LC, with its grippy tires, accurate steering and powerful brakes, will meet or exceed the roadholding requirements, and likely skill levels, of 99-percent of its owners.
Those looking for a posh and cushiony ride really should not be considering a super car. However, it's very possible that the LC offers the most comfortable ride in the class. The adaptive suspension does an excellent job of filtering out harsh impacts and limiting secondary body motions. In addition, the cabin is very well isolated from road and wind noise. One exception should be noted, put the drive selector in Sport + and the exhaust and engine noise ratchet up to Who-concert levels. Appropriate for the moment, but not likely appreciated on longer highway drives.
The convertible has a very stiff structure that virtually eliminates the cowl shake and rattles that are so common in many convertibles. The power-operated top puts on quite a show when in operation as it goes through its various gyrations. The seal is quite good with the top up and the wind blocker does an excellent job of reducing buffeting at highway speeds with the top down.
On the inside, the LC is pure luxury with a healthy dollop of sport. Every surface is covered in leather, suede or a similar posh material. The switchgear works with the precision of a Swiss watch. Kudos to Lexus designers for giving the LC a top-notch interior design to match the exterior's striking silhouette.
The instrument cluster is mostly conventional display with a twist of tech that allows drivers to configure the layout to best suit their mood -- sport or cruising. In addition, there's a handy head up display. The center stack boasts a large display screen for the infotainment system with just a few ancillary controls. Most in-vehicle systems are controlled by an awkward touch pad located on the center console. This is unfortunate and perhaps a bit dated in today's world or voice and touch-screen command interfaces. In addition, there is no support for Android Auto.
The form fitting front seats are extremely comfortable. Those that are a bit wider in beam might object to the seats intrusive side bolsters, but that's the price of admission in this class. Head and leg room are class leading and entry/exit better than in some smaller sports sedans. Outward visibility is what you might expect, fine to the front and limited to the rear. Still it's better than in all competitors save the 911. Though officially listed as a four-seater, the back seat is essentially useless. There's scant leg room and the deeply scalloped buckets are difficult to access.
As you might expect, the LC doesn't offer an abundance of cargo and storage space -- even less so on the 500h and convertible models. Inside there's a few small open and covered storage bins and the trunk's lift over is quite high.
Bottom Line - Lexus' LC 500 convertible is a grand touring super car if there ever was one. Sexy styling and limited availability make it exclusive. However, the day-to-day roadability of this car is what's amazing. It will tool along all day in rush-hour traffic and doesn't beat you up with a buck-board ride. Crack the whip, and the LC jumps to attention, providing strong acceleration and excellent road manners. If are worried about price, you can get similar performance from Lexus' own RC F and save about $40K, but you don't get the swanky design, the exclusive limited build and posh interior that's offered in the LC.