The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Is The Last Gasp Of Japanese V8 Fury
Who could have predicted that the last automaker left standing with a naturally-aspirated V8 in its stable would be Lexus? For a company not particularly associated with muscle machines, the Japanese brand is the only one out of the BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac crowd to keep a large-displacement, torque-monster motor in its line-up unencumbered by forced induction, and this 5.0lLunit is best experienced in one of the most beautiful cars on the road today: the 2021 Lexus LC 500 convertible.
Photo: Benjamin Hunting
As gorgeous as the LC 500 is, and as sweet as the song of its eight-cylinder symphony emanating from its twin tail-pipes might sound, there's a cloud handing over the horizon every time you drop the top. It's very likely that the Lexus 5.0 is the very last V8 to be built by the automaker, and once it's gone the luxury world will have permanently traded high-revving cubic inches for muffled turbo whomps and supercharger whines. The last and best of its breed, the Lexus LC 500 convertible is running out its final lap in a slice of the market that will never be the same once it's gone.
The 2UR-GSE V8 engine found under the hood of the Lexus LC 500 has enjoyed more than a decade of service in some of Lexus' most exciting, and prestigious cars. The unit was first deployed in the Lexus IS-F, a would-be BMW-fighter designed to take on the likes of the M3 high performance sedan, before eventually finding its way into the GS-F mid-sizer, the RC-F coupe, and finally the LC coupe a few short years ago.
The engine was developed from the 1UR-FSE V8, a 4.6-liter unit that Lexus had previous installed in the LS full-size sedan, as well as off-roaders like the GX 460, the Toyota Land Cruiser, and even the Sequoia SUV and the Tundra full-size truck. Key differences between the motors include the additional displacement, Yamaha-tuned cylinder heads, and of course direct fuel injection.
In the LC 500 convertible the engine is good for a healthy 471 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. These numbers aren't overwhelming in the context of similarly-priced six-figure sleds, but that's because Lexus has chosen excitement over excess when it comes to the car's driving experience. While a 4.6 second 0-60 mph time the two-door grand tourer is respectably quick, I found myself equally intoxicated by the guttural howl of the 5.0 as it reached towards its 7,300 rpm redline, mid-range and bass bouncing off of the concrete lane dividers or tunnel walls to be reflected back into the open cockpit for a second round of enjoyment.
It's an entirely different battle-cry as compared to the more muted sounds of the turbos that have come to dominate the luxury world, and combined with its instant throttle response it adds a direct, visceral connection to the drive that more than makes up for the Lexus' more casual approach out on the road. Rather than go for the throat and cosplay racecar with its full-size convertible, the LC simply delivers comfortable, well-balanced handling interspersed with bursts of straight-line thrills thanks to a smooth-shifting (and paddle-equipped) 10-speed automatic transmission.
Gorgeous Sheet Metal
The LC 500 convertible's vociferous mechanical character meshes well with a visual personality that is without match among its high end peers. Peeling the top off of the elegantly angular coupe has only served to enhance the Lexus' street presence, as it's impossible to escape notice out on the road. This was especially true of my tester's deep red paint job, which combined with the natural tan leather of its exquisitely-detailed cabin underscored just how much separation the LC has put between itself and the more homogenous and bulky designs typically seen from the two-door set.
Photo: Benjamin Hunting
Would I have liked an infotainment system that didn't rely on impossibly jumpy touchpad mounted on the center console for nearly every interaction with the vehicle's systems? Definitely, and it's a shame that Lexus continues to field the most difficult-to-use interface in the entire industry.
Still, I could easily ignore the (still impressive) stereo and lose myself in the well-padded, and wind-insulated interior of the LC 500 indefinitely. Who needs tunes when you've got 471 horses braying at the bit.
(Nearly) Perfect And (Definitely) Peerless
Standing out is often more important than fitting in at the upper echelons of the auto industry, especially for a company like Lexus that has been routinely dismissed for building less-than-exciting automobiles that trade build quality and comfort for a boring drive. The 2021 Lexus LC 500 is the antithesis of this image, scoring much higher eye-sear than rivals like the BMW M850i or the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class while delivering a rip-roaring rear-wheel drive ride that easily separates itself from the sea of clinically-quick all-wheel drive boost machines.
Photo: Benjamin Hunting
It also happens to feature the only Japanese-built V8 engine currently offered in a sports car. It's very likely that the LC 500 represents the last hurrah for the brand's 5.0 as the market continues its march toward software-heavy, benchmark-focused, and ultimately over-insulated premium models. It's hard to think of a more gorgeous, fun-to-drive send-off for one of the best drivetrains money can currently buy.