Lexus

Lexus LC Convertible [UK] Review (2021)

The Lexus LC series has all the qualities befitting a flagship range, representing the best in Lexus design, engineering and craftsmanship. Established with the introduction of the LC Coupe in 2017, it has now been extended to include an all-new soft-top model of equal status, the Lexus LC 500 Convertible.

The Convertible shares the Coupe’s beautiful design and exhilarating dynamic performance, while adding the specific rewards associated with top-down driving. Where the Coupe’s focus is an “ultimate beauty” design and performance imbued with the heritage of the Lexus LFA supercar, the Convertible enriches the sensory experience. Driving with the top down makes the driver feel even more closely connected to their car, the road and the world around them.

Even sharper, more refined driving feel

Lexus pursues linear operation that is faithful to driver’s intentions, such as in the seamless transition from deceleration to steering and acceleration during cornering, in all types of driving situations. In a further evolution of the “even sharper, more refined” philosophy of the LC, the new “Lexus Driving Signature” was born. This is the new development standard every Lexus model will reflect going forward.

This aspect of driving performance was a particular focus in the rigorous vehicle testing programme, resulting in numerous, incremental dynamic improvements. It’s this uncompromising attention to detail that has given the new LC models – Convertible and Coupe alike – the kind of special performance quality that drivers will enjoy, even in everyday driving situations.

The Lexus LC Convertible’s design preserves all the principal lines of the Coupe, while introducing an all-new retracting soft top. Lexus ingenuity has produced a folding mechanism that stows the roof within a very small space without intruding on the load compartment or compromising the car’s elegant styling to the rear of the cabin.

Comfort is assured, roof up or down, with specific adjustment of the air conditioning system, aerodynamic details and the effective suppression of wind flow and noise. Strategic strengthening of the body structure preserves the car’s poise and agility, while also providing robust impact protection performance.

DESIGN

The mission for the team designing the LC Convertible was simple: create the world’s most beautiful open-top car. The statement was straightforward, but the task was a considerable challenge, as Lexus was determined that the new model should preserve the essential styling motifs of the LC coupe, the winner of multiple international awards for its striking and advanced design. Moreover, the convertible had to look equally impressive with its roof up, or down.

In February 2019, their work was revealed in public for the first time with the unveiling of the Lexus LC Convertible Concept, a car created on the theme of “ultimate beauty.” Thanks to the determination and skill of the Lexus designers, the production car has kept faithful to the concept’s promise.

Creating the coupe roof line

The line of the roof was key to the designers achieving their goal, as Chief Designer Tadao Mori explained: “Although there are many convertible models out there, few of them are stylish and elegant both when the roof is open and closed. Particularly when the roof is raised, ridge lines in the uneven surface tend to give an unrefined impression. That’s why for the LC Convertible, we put maximum effort into realising the same beautiful roof line as the coupe.”

To produce the desired silhouette, the point where the soft top meets the car’s rear quarters was moved as far towards the rear of the car as possible, to create a fastback look when the roof is raised. Particular attention was paid to the tensioning of the soft top to ensure a smooth surface, and the frame and other elements are perfectly concealed, so the roof has a clean and elegant, tapered form.

When viewed from the rear, the line of the soft top emphasises the compact proportions of the cabin, contrasting with the wide-flaring under-body and projecting a dynamic look.

Perfecting the tonneau cover and silhouette

The designers took advantage of the LC’s platform specifications and the soft top’s folding mechanism to set the tonneau cover as low as possible. They also avoided the familiar flat, platform look seen on many other convertibles by adding fairing-shaped accents that echo the curves of the rear headrests.

It is another common feature of convertibles that the design can seem stretched out from the tonneau cover to the boot lid, particularly when the roof is down. This was avoided on the LC by profiling the rear end so that it rises in a duck tail, producing a distinctive silhouette that is sleek and dynamic. The beltline also kicks up behind the doors to give a sense of the body wrapping around the cabin, creating a tight and clean profile.

Soft top design and engineering

The LC Convertible is Lexus’ first soft-top model, and every effort was made to ensure the roof meets its requirements for a sleek and smart appearance, quiet and quick operation and compact stowing that doesn’t diminish space in the load compartment.

One of the principal design challenges was to minimise bulkiness in the bodywork in the shoulder area immediately behind the rear seats. This was achieved by creating an extra fold in the soft top so that it can be stowed in the area behind the rear seats, between the left and right-hand rear suspension towers. The hydraulic motor system is also located in this space.

As a result, the luggage compartment is similar in size to that of the Coupe – 149 litres. This clever design also allowed for a sharp and fine character line to be created, running from the front to the rear of the car. To produce this line and achieve a high-quality finish, Lexus applied an incremental forming process, in addition to the conventional press used to mould the aluminium tonneau cover.

A folding roof mechanism is usually expected to last around 10 years before it needs mechanical attention. To meet Lexus’ exceptional quality and reliability requirements, the LC Convertible’s roof was tested to breaking point. It went through around 18,000 open and closing cycles – the equivalent of 24 years’ use – before a problem occurred, even then only a minor one that was not hazardous. The test programme also verified that the system works just as well in freezing temperatures and snow.

The roof can be raised or lowered in 15 seconds. The task can be done even when the car is on the move, at speeds up to 31mph (50 km/h). Once again, thorough testing was undertaken, using a wind tunnel to ensure the system can cope with different speeds and driving conditions, including headwinds.

A quiet cabin free from outside noise and vibration is an important part of Lexus’ omotenashi principles of ultimate customer care. The Lexus LC Convertible’s multi-layered canvas roof is effective in blocking out unwanted noise and its hydraulic motor works quietly and efficiently.

Continuity between exterior and interior

In a convertible the cabin is more open to view and closely connected to the car’s exterior design. Lexus sought to bring a perfect sense of continuity to the exterior and interior of the LC Convertible by using innovative colour co-ordination.

Three soft top colours are available: Marine Blue (Regatta Edition exclusive), Ochre and Black, the latter two suitable for use with any of the standard bodywork paint options, with specific trim combinations. With these choices and further options for interior colours, owners have the freedom to specify a car that captures their personal style.

At launch, the Lexus LC Convertible was also presented in a Regatta Edition model with a colour scheme that matches Structural Blue bodywork with a white and blue interior and a Marine soft top – a combination inspired by the colours found at a luxury marina. White is used extensively in the cabin, including Lexus’ first all-white steering wheel and carpeting. This contrasts with the door trim which is finished with blue synthetic leather. Rather than a printed pattern, this material has a grain that gives a three-dimensional effect with texture and shading. The ultra-limited edition was an immediate sell-out in the UK.

Co-ordinating the interior A-pillar trim with the colour of the roof lining is a rare quality design feature but one that Lexus applies throughout the LC range. The effect is all the more stylish in the LC Convertible, as the pillars are in clear view whenever the roof is lowered. The colour co-ordination catches the eye and accentuates the luxurious quality of the interior.

Special attention has also been paid to the detailing on the seat upholstery, with a unique quilting pattern applied to the shoulder section of the front seats, adding both elegance and tactile quality. Perforations with three different hole diameters are organised in a graduated pattern in which they appear to progressively fade away.

Unmistakeably an LC

In other respects, the exterior design of the LC Convertible preserves all the powerful, muscular styling and detail that helped earn the Coupe two prestigious EyesOn Design awards.

This “avant-garde elegance” can be seen in the large spindle grille – a hallmark of Lexus design – which is finished in chrome and has a mesh design with a visual tension that changes as it spreads across the front of the car. A distinctive lighting signature is created by independent daytime running lights in an arrowhead configuration and ultra-compact triple LED headlamp units. Achieving this remarkably slim headlight design played an important role in helping the designers achieve a low bonnet line and short front overhang.

The prominent front and rear wings flare away from the centre of the car and house wide, large-diameter wheels. The effect is heightened by the door panels being pulled inwards, generating a strong, three-dimensional form that mirrors the spindle shape of the grille.

PERFORMANCE

The body structure of the Lexus LC Convertible has been strengthened to further improve safety performance in the event of a collision and to maintain a comfortable drive free from vibration or flexing.

In the upper body, reinforcements have been introduced to disperse impact forces and suppress body deformation around the cabin, using high-tensile and hot-stamped materials that are both strong and lightweight. Gussets have been added at the bottom of the front and centre pillars and the installation of an aluminium alloy torsion box, rear suspension tower brace and V-brace ensures a robust connection between the left and right upper body and the under body, with strong torsional rigidity.

Panel rigidity has been increased with more extensive use of body adhesive and additional spot weld points, minimising vibration and improving handling.

Safety performance

The LC Convertible is fitted with an active roll bar system comprising two individual bars that automatically deploy from beneath the rear parcel shelf if a high risk of a roll-over accident is detected.

Further protection in top-down driving is provided by the addition of an impact-absorbing structure in the garnish on the front pillars and the windscreen header trim, reducing impact force to the head in the event of a collision.

Speed and balance

The new body shape has not compromised the car’s speed. To verify performance was equal to that of the Coupe, the Convertible was tested both in the wind tunnel and on the test track.

The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine and 10-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission have the same specifications as in the LC 500 Coupe (details in the powertrain chapter below). In the Convertible they enable nought to 62mph acceleration in 5.0 seconds and a top speed (electronically limited) of 168mph.

When it comes to handling, the new roof actually makes a positive contribution to the car’s dynamics. With its lightweight structure, it weighs less than the hard top, which helps give the Convertible a lower centre of gravity than the Coupe. This, and the fact that all the roof’s components are located within the car’s wheelbase, is a key factor in the Convertible’s dynamic balance and driving character. The roof’s frame is made from a rare combination of magnesium and aluminium to keep its weight to a minimum without compromising quality or performance.

COMFORT AND AERODYNAMICS

A wind-in-the-hair feeling that gives you a closer connection to the world around you is one of the traditional pleasures of driving a convertible. Combine this with the stirring note of a powerful engine and you have an even more special experience.

Lexus has gone to exceptional lengths in creating the LC Convertible to ensure comfort and quality are never compromised when the roof is lowered. Its aim was to prevent cold air chilling the lower body, while managing temperature and airflow around the upper body so that occupants can enjoy a refreshing breeze without feeling cold or buffeted.

Air conditioning

The LC’s air conditioning system was reconfigured and recalibrated for the Convertible to take into account the change in cabin environment when the roof is stowed.

An open-air control uses a sensor in the roof to detect whether the top is up or down, and adjusts air conditioning performance accordingly. With the top down, the temperature and airflow volume are automatically regulated according to factors such as the amount of sunlight, the outside temperature and the vehicle’s speed.

Adjustable heaters built into the headrests direct air onto the occupant’s neck, so they feel warm straight away. It is designed to suit people of different heights and works automatically or with manual control, with three heat settings.

Lexus’s intelligent Climate Concierge has been adapted specifically for the convertible so that it still delivers optimum performance, co-ordinating control of the automatic air-conditioning, the seat and neck heaters and the heated steering wheel. It recognises when the front passenger seat is unoccupied, automatically switching off the neck and seat heaters to save power. Attention to detail includes a slight increase in the air conditioning’s airflow volume, to address issues such as helping keep the back of the driver’s hands warm.

Aerodynamic details

Lexus sought the perfect balance between the car’s aerodynamic styling and the performance of the cabin’s air conditioning. The engineering team took a human-centred approach, true to Lexus’s omotenashi principles of providing seamless comfort and hospitality.

Researching airflow over the car when the roof is down, they produced a belt line along the side of the car that kicks up at the rear edge of the doors to meet the surface of the boot lid – which itself was set at an optimum height. This detail makes for a smoother airflow that does not buffet the car’s occupants.

There is also a transparent wind deflector – fitted as standard – behind the rear seats which suppresses unwelcome airflow and keeps things quiet enough in the cabin to hold a conversation without the need to raise one’s voice when travelling at speeds up to around 37mph (60km/h). Although small, it can reduce airflow around the occupants’ faces by about 20 per cent.

For a comfortable ride when travelling at high speed, a wind screen accessory is available, which can reduce airflow around the head by about 67 per cent at 62mph. This mesh unit sits neatly behind the rear seats and can remain in place when the roof is raised.

Many different mesh patterns were tested before the best-performing option was selected, and attention was paid to the screen’s appearance as well as its performance, so that it blends perfectly with the convertible’s design.

NOISE MANAGEMENT

The powerful sound produced by the engine and exhaust is a key part of the driving experience in the new Lexus LC Convertible. Great aural quality was an important goal for the car’s development team, and one that required precise engineering techniques to achieve.

The ultra-exclusive LFA supercar marks the origin of Lexus’ focus on the importance of the engine sound and it was the specialists who worked on its V10 power unit who first identified the separate qualities that come together to create the ideal Lexus sound “atmosphere.”

Where the LC Convertible is concerned, the power of the V8 engine’s note had to be balanced by a level of cabin quietness that overturns preconceptions about driving in a convertible – an equation Lexus calls a “harmony of opposites.” To achieve the right effect, the sound of the engine changes in line with the rise and fall in its rpm, becoming more powerful and urgent in tune with the driver’s use of the accelerator and the sequence of shifts through the rapid-action 10-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission. The exhaust note, too, heightens the sensation. By contrast, in gentle cruising, the sound is subdued, so conversation is easy when the roof is down.

Creating the ideal engine note

A continuous, pulsating sound is characteristic of a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 engine like the five-litre unit which powers the LC 500 Convertible. Lexus has applied acoustic technologies to combine this with spectral harmony (perfect sound intervals that are pleasing to the ear), stereophonic sound, to create a depth of sound, and formants – acoustic qualities that stir the senses and generate a feel-good factor.

Active Noise Control is used to “clean” the sound frequencies experienced in the car. This emits anti-pulse sounds through the audio speakers which counteract any unwelcome low frequency booming sound from the engine and drivetrain.

In the LC Coupe, noise inside the cabin is monitored by a microphone in the roof, but for the Convertible, this had to be relocated inside the driver’s headrest. Being closer to the driver’s ear means it can pick up a wider range of frequencies, but a complex algorithm had to be calculated to make sure it works accurately in any seat position.

Cabin quietness

Even though the LC Convertible has a soft top, Lexus wanted to secure the same kind of cabin quietness as in the Coupe when the roof is raised. Acoustic simulations were produced to determine where dominant noises were entering the space, so that the amount and location of soundproofing and sound-absorbing material could be calculated.

The storage area behind the rear seats for the folding roof presented a particular challenge as it was a route for tyre and exhaust noise to enter the cabin. There was not enough room for soundproofing material to be added, so the team looked instead at adapting the trim material itself. By allowing air to pass through the structure and using sound-absorbing material on the reverse, the entire surface of the storage space soaks up noise.

As the area is visible and part of the car’s interior, it also had to look good. Lexus assessed many different materials before choosing one usually used for lining the wings around the wheels. This meets safety standards and, being applied with extra density, has just the right appearance.

UK RANGE AND PRICING

The V8-powered Lexus LC Convertible is available in two versions – standard and Sport+ Pack.

The Sport+ Pack specification includes 21-inch forged alloy wheels, semi-aniline leather seat upholstery and integrated neck heaters. These are also available as options (leather and neck heaters combined in a single package) for the standard LC 500 Convertible.

Further options for both Convertible models include a full colour head-up display with Lexus card key, 13-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System and special metallic paint finishes (Sonic Silver, Sonic Titanium, Sonic Red and Naples Yellow).

  • Lexus LC 500 Convertible: £90,775
  • Lexus LC 500 Convertible Sport Pack: £96,625

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