Not exactly what I’d envisioned. I’m sat in one of only three new £96,600 Lexus LC 500 Cabriolets in the UK, parked in the Toyota GB press car park in a not-so-salubrious part of Crawley … and it’s tipping down. At the moment, any thoughts I’ve had of swanning round the south coast with the roof down, enjoying the continuing sunshine of the past few days, have been washed away.
Pity, because I’d been looking forward to getting the roof down on Lexus’s head-turning “concept car made real” as it takes the battle to the likes of the Mercedes S-Class cabrio and, to a lesser extent, the Porsche 911 Cabrio. The latter overtly more sporty compared to the “long-distance touring” nature of the sumptuous Lexus.
So, still sat in the car park, let’s deal with the raw facts of the LC 500 cabrio. Squeezed under the long, sweeping bonnet is a big, titanium-valved V8. Enjoy it while you can, because given the march towards electrification and hybrids, big V8s are likely to go the same way as the dinosaurs.
The 5.0-litre Atkinson-cycle engine delivers 457bhp and 391lb ft of torque, all of which is transmitted to the rear wheels via a super-smooth 10-speed automatic transmission. Performance? You’ll cover 0-62mph in exactly five seconds (the same as the LC 500 coupe), and — where legal — you can continue on to a top speed of 167mph.
Okay, quoted fuel consumption is 24.1mpg, but if you’re going to enjoy this car the way it should be driven, I’d suspect in the real world you’re looking at low-20s, very high teens. But that’s a price well worth paying. CO2 emissions are also an eye-watering 275g/km. Hey-ho!
The 2+2 layout is the same as that of the coupe introduced in 2017. Ok, there are two seats in the rear, but their use is restricted to essentially being extensions to the bootspace for internal storage. It’s definitely a no-go area for adult rear-seat passengers, though you might squeeze a child seat in. But let’s be honest … it’s not exactly a family car, so let’s be sensible.
The cabin? Wow! The red interior of my F Sport White model is really fetching, and simply enhances every hard angle, curve and plane which makes the interior feel as though it’s been scuttled from some single solid form, rather than individual pieces put together. It’s definitely not your standard European interior.
You’ll find yourself running your fingertips down the edges of the interior, as you would a piece of art. The build quality and materials are peerless. As for the dashboard. Forgot the strait-laced Teutonic lines of the 911 Cabrio; the Lexus boasts a sweeping, stacked centre console topped by the infotainment screen. Operated by a touchpad rather than a touchscreen, the pin-sharp central display now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
And the quilted leather makes sitting in the bolstered front sports seats watching the rain batter down onto the windscreen a more than comfortable experience. The roof controls are cleverly hidden away underneath the palm-rest, though at the moment it’s unlikely I’ll get the opportunity to use them.
Right: let’s drive. Push the Start button and … that big V8 burble tempts you to open the window just tad to let the gloriously smooth sound seep into the cabin. Nothing beats the sounds of a V8.
Interestingly, immediately on setting off it’s clear Lexus has done a remarkable job of soundproofing the fabric roof; with the windows closed, you can barely hear the engine. After an hour’s drive, heading west through Petworth and towards the South Downs National Park, it’s clear the LC 500 Cabrio is conspicuously well balanced and changes direction neatly. There is an overt softness to the suspension which enhances its potential for long-distance cruising. And that’s certainly no bad thing.
Suddenly the rain stops. Determined to experience the roof-down experience — albeit under leaden grey skies — I flick the toggle switch which operates the roof mechanism at road speeds of up to 30mph. Roof down. Brilliant! Two corners later, the torrential rain sweeps in again from the south: roof back up.
But we all know the vagaries of the British weather. Half an hour later the rain stopped again, and within 10 minutes the skies had cleared and the sun was shining. Now, with the roof safely tucked away behind me, I could enjoy the cabrio at its best.
If it turns heads with the roof up, with it down it’s simply gorgeous. Then, to cap the day off, rather than stick to the pre-programmed route, I found the most stunning single-track road somewhere in deepest south England. Oh joy.
Here the car really came alive. With the roof down, not another car in sight for miles, it was fun time. At first there’s the enjoyable growl from the V8 at low revs; then comes the pops and bangs as the car relishes being clicked into its sportier modes; and finally, around 4,000rpm, the full roar. Heaven.
It’s a big car — plus it tips the scales at 2,035kg (100kg up on the coupe) — but boy its steering is razor sharp. And while it’s capable of gobbling up the motorway and A-road miles, the LC 500 Cabrio is equally happy blasting cross country. There’s a bit of air movement in the cabin at speed, but not enough to dishevel coiffured hair. Plus of course, you can enjoy the warmth from the neck heater integrated into the front seats.
Okay, the neck warmers are part of the Sport+ spec as driven here. Costing an extra £5,850 over the £90,775 base price of the V8, the Sport+ adds a Torsen rear differential to aid the Michelin Super Sport tyres wrapped around the unmissable 21-inch forged alloys. These replace the old run-flats. The ‘standard’ car doesn’t get the LSD and sits on 20-inch alloys.
There’s no denying the Lexus LC 500 Cabriolet is an eye-catching piece of kit. I had people overtake me on the dual-carriageway, then wait for me to overtake them while they took photos, then overtook me again to get another look. (I’m sure it was the Lexus they were photographing and not me!).
Unlike the likes of the 911 Cabrio, the Lexus will remain pretty exclusive. With its jaw-dropping styling and super-smooth V8, it’s simply a wonderful, esoteric car.
Lexus LC 500 Cabriolet
Price: £90,775-£96,625; Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, petrol; Power: 457bhp; Torque: 391lb ft; Transmission: 10-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive; Top speed: 168mph; 0-62mph: 5.0 seconds; Economy: 24.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 275g/km