I’m staring at a rapidly-approaching weekend for the final road rally of our year and realizing that I haven’t yet written about the car I drove at the last road rally in September. Oops. Blame a non-stop calendar of events and fun cars, of which my “Six Red Flags” convertible was absolutely a part. By a stroke of scheduling luck, my time in a 2022 Lexus LC 500 convertible aligned to a weekend of back roads in central New Jersey and some truly perfect weather for top-down cruising.
First launched as a coupe, Lexus announced the LC 500 convertible at the Los Angeles auto show in late 2019. It was supposed to go on sale in summer 2020, and then uh, you know, the world shut down for a while. Nevertheless, Lexus persisted and from what I can tell, the LC 500 convertible finally went on sale in 2021.
In any case, my Smoky Granite Mica LC 500 convertible showed up on a gorgeous fall day with the roof already down, the fleet driver having had a bit of fun on the drive over. Despite my familiarity with newer Lexus interiors, I pulled the convertible into my parking garage and could not figure out how to put the roof back up. The LC 500 convertible is indeed “just a Lexus” in many ways, and tremendously special in others.
What Is It?
This is the 2022 Lexus LC 500 convertible. It’s platform-mates with the Lexus LS sedan and Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan. Here, though, Lexus ditches the sedans’ big back seats in favor of a long hood and short rear deck. Up front is a 471 horsepower naturally-aspirated V8, out back is an open differential and your driven wheels. Lexus offers a limited-slip diff but my test car didn’t have it.
Compared to the LC 500 coupe, the convertible is meant to be a bit softer. While an active exhaust and adaptive dampers are standard, Lexus’ $9,570 Sport package is not offered on the droptop. You’ll lose out on rear-wheel steering, a rear wing, and performance brake pads – among other things – but the convertible is a cruiser. It doesn’t matter.
The two things that do matter, and were equipped on my particular car, are the gorgeous 21-inch wheels and fantastic Mark Levinson sound system. Those two options make the car and add to its cruisey vibe. MSRP as tested? $106,045.
Road-Tripping the 2022 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
Having figured out where the soft top controls were (hint: check the little panel just ahead of the armrest), I walked out to the LC 500 convertible the following afternoon. The retractable door handles extended as I unlocked the car, I tucked my weekend bag in the itty-bitty trunk, and prepared for my slog through Friday-at-4-PM D.C. traffic. I crawled out of the city with seemingly everyone else, all of us doing fifteen miles per hour. The huge V8 was unbothered, of course, content to blub along in third or fourth or seventh gear.
People stared, though. How can you not? The LC 500 is a stunner as a coupe, with its big hips, gorgeous tail lights, and perhaps the best interpretation of the Lexus “predator” grille. As a convertible, though, the “car as rolling art” vibe intensifies, made even better by those gigantic wheels. One man hung half of his body out of his Chevy Equinox in traffic to tell me how much he liked my car and ask questions.
Traffic finally cleared, I cranked up the tunes and wound out the five liter. Aurally it was all just so great. Every on ramp was an event, every pass of a slower car a special moment to send the V8 to redline with my foot tickling the carpet fibers. That tunnel as you pass through Baltimore? Second gear and let it sing, honey. I was absolutely “that guy” that RAV4 Hybrid drivers tsk-tsk’d about. I didn’t much care.
At highway speeds, the ride quality was excellent and well-damped, supported by a comfortable driver’s seat. Though I’d left the wind blocker in the trunk, my top-down trip from DC to Jersey wasn’t too blustery. I alternated between letting the V8 play me the music of its people and letting my iPhone play me the music of mine. Eighty-some miles per hour was no challenge for the Mark Levinson system, with ample volume and clarity.
As traffic spread out, I could take stock of the rest of the cabin, and it’s easily one of the nicest that Lexus has ever done. Everything inside is covered in leather and feels high-quality. The frustrating touchpad-based infotainment system was the only downfall of the car, most notably as I tried to activate the ventilated seat, located several sub-menus down and impossible to manage until traffic had cleared entirely.
I arrived in New Jersey feeling like a million bucks and ready for a bunch of back roads the following morning. We met up with 50-some LGBT driving enthusiasts, organized into groups, and set off behind our lead cars.
With the drive mode setting clicked over to Sport S+, I found the LC 500 convertible to handle reasonably well. Body roll was there, to a point, but the car was predictable on turn-in and corner exit, with enough steering feel to satisfy most drivers doing most things. Lexus has the transmission’s manual shift mode programmed well, and it’ll let you smack the fuel cut instead of automatically upshifting, a boon or a pitfall depending on how much attention you’re paying to the revs.
My only real complaint with the LC 500’s behavior was the brakes. They offered nearly no pedal feel on initial application, and felt as though half the pedal travel was needed before really biting with much stopping power. Once I was in the pedal, the car stopped fine, but it wasn’t confidence-inspiring on our cruise or even in stop-and-go traffic.
Following our day of fun and some Fruity Pebble French toast at brunch the next morning (the preferred breakfast of the discerning Lexus owner), I hopped back in the LC and left the roof up for my highway blast back home. It was a calmer, quieter affair as you’d expect, with rear visibility also reduced as much as you’d expect. No biggie, set your mirrors and you’re fine. The multi-layer soft top is insulated well and kept the oddly-warm Sunday heat out of the cabin as the dual-zone air conditioning did its thing.
I’m pretty indifferent to most new car styling. Much of it is entirely fine and some of it actually appeals to me. The LC 500 convertible made me feel some kinda way every time I walked up to it. It’s a special, emotional car, and yet it’s not shouty all the time. It can absolutely be “just a Lexus” if that’s all you want it to be that day. And I think that’s one of its greatest strengths over some of its more outrageous competition.
And when you’re feeling yourself with Lizzo cranked all the way up, the LC 500 convertible is more than happy to perform alongside your terrible karaoke. Put your foot down, it’ll take the vocals.