I’m not a fan of drop-tops for two reasons: sunburn and floppy bodies.
The sunburn is always mine and the floppy body usually belongs to a coupe that has been excessively filleted for open-air driving.
Thankfully, 100 per cent UV protection is available in just 15 seconds with the new Lexus LC500 convertible and the its chassis is coupe-style stiff.
With summer almost here, the drop-top Lexus is a bruiser cruiser for someone with 200 kay in their kick who doesn’t want a BMW.
The LC is the latest in a series of open-air flagships that tracks back to the unlovely SC400 convertible from 1991 that had only its Mark Levinson sound system and folding clamshell composite roof to recommend it.
Since then, Lexus has advanced in every way and the latest folding roof is traditional canvas, with four layers including soundproofing, while the Levinson connection continues in the LC500.
The convertible was always going to follow the Lexus LC 500 Coupe. It was just a question of timing and the quality of the open-air conversion.
Now it’s here and it’s not cheap, priced from $214,000 – or $235,000 if you want a Limited Edition car with bold blue bodywork and a white leather interior – and Lexus is confident that the convertible will outsell the coupe.
Despite the price it easily undercuts one of its key rivals, the BMW 8 Series, and is cheap compared with a Bentley or Maserati drop-top. Then again, it is ‘only’ a Lexus.
The engineering work on the Convertible is first class and so is the equipment and final finishing. It even has Apple CarPlay.
The key to the car is the folding canvas roof. It does its origami folding in 15 seconds at up to 50km/h, with a slight pause – for entertainment effect – at each end of the cycle.
It ticks all the luxury boxes from icebox aircon to upgraded heating, in the seats and the airflow around the passengers’ necks, as well as top-drawer leather. It still has the awful haptic controller for the infotainment that flaws the Lexus family, but compensates with everything from a colour head-up display to 21-inch alloys, and satnav with live traffic updates.
Buying into the LC Convertible experience also includes three years of the new Encore Platinum Owner Benefits scheme at Lexus, which includes a pick-up-and-deliver program for servicing and Lexus on Demand that allows owners to swap to another Lexus model at local or interstate dealerships and major airports.
The Convertible looks almost identical to the LC Coupe, which shows the early engineering that went into the car. Only three panels are changed – front pillar, rear guards and boot-lid – and Lexus says the overall dimensions stay within millimetres and the boot only loses a 48 litres of carrying capacity, rating it at 149 litres.
There is extra strengthening steel and additional spot-welds in the Convertible’s body structure, which is very close to the rigidity of the Coupe. The roof structure skeleton is made from aluminium and magnesium.
The LC Convertible mirrors the Coupe in its V8 engine, 10-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
It’s a cruiser, not remotely a sports car, which means the suspension settings are quite plush while still retaining good grip and braking power.
The headline numbers for the creamy-smooth engine are 351 kiloWatts with 540 Newton-metres of torque and there are predictable driving modes and flappy paddles – with a slightly vague feel – for manual control.
It can easily sprint to 100km/h in less than five seconds, but the best thing about the V8 is the crushing overtaking pace. It sounds good, too.
The body strengthening efforts and the relatively small roof, unlike some other big-and-bulky efforts, mean there is minimal loss of structural strength and Lexus puts it almost on-par with the coupe.
Any trip in the LC Convertible is going to be cosseting and relaxing, although the drop-top can also lift and separate from the traffic if the driver gets enthused.
The driving experience is near-identical to the Coupe, although there is a slightly squidgy feel from the rear end in a few bumpy corners on a country NSW test run, and the open-air experience is excellent with absolutely minimal buffeting and a great heat-cool package.
So the LC is more like a multi-purpose 2+2 coupe, with the added benefit of sunburn on demand.
Transmission: 10-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Position: luxury convertible
THE TICK: set for summer