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Review: 2021 Lexus LC 500

Chris Kaiser

Stunning looks, a growling V8 under the hood, and a new convertible option make the 2021 Lexus LC 500 one of the most compelling luxury 2-doors on the market.

Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

2021 Lexus LC500 coupe and convertible - lexus.com

2021 Lexus LC 500 coupe and convertible – lexus.com  |  Shop Lexus LC 500 on Carsforsale.com

By its fourth year, Lexus’ LC 500 has come into its own as a unique and, yes, awe inspiring offering. It’s gorgeous inside and out and the exhaust note of the naturally aspirated V8 is about as satisfying as it gets. From there, the newly added convertible option further amplifies things. The LC 500 is all about the experience, day-to-day, hour-to-hour, moment-to-moment. Whereas some luxury cars can feel clinical, almost sterile, in their attempts at elegance, LC 500 is never dull, never cold; instead rests poised on that knife’s edge between raucousness and refinement.

Specs – Last of the Naturally Aspirated V8

2021 Lexus LC 500 5.0L V8 engine - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 5.0L V8 engine - lexus.com

Aside from its overall beauty, which we’ll get to in a bit, the biggest attraction for the LC 500 is its 5.0L naturally aspirated V8. This engine produces a symphony of barks and snarls unlike just about any other car on the road. You have to look to cars like the Lamborghini Aventador to find an exhaust note as distinct and exciting. Suffice to say, the LC 500 has personality aplenty.

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

The V8 produces 471hp and 398lb.-ft. of torque and is paired with a newly reworked 10-speed automatic transmission. Given its competition, the LC 500’s 0 to 60 time of 4.7 seconds can feel stately but only by comparison. When combined with that naturally aspirated roar in your ears, the car feels fast all the same. The LC 500 comes in rear-wheel drive, and at just over 4,200lbs. for the coupe, is excellently balanced. Fuel economy is 16 city and 25 highway mpg.

There is also a hybrid option for the LC 500. The LC 500h features a 3.5L V6 paired with two electric motors producing a combined 354hp. Fuel economy here is 27 city and 35 highway mpg. However, losing the character of the V8 seems untenable to us. Plus, because of the hybrid battery, the LC 500h also loses the convertible option.

Driving – A Very Special Sound

2021 Lexus LC 500 coupe and convertible - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 coupe and convertible - lexus.com

Reading luxury car reviews might give you the false impression that 0 to 60 and quarter mile times, horsepower ratings and skid pad numbers can reveal all you need to know about how a particular car performs on the road. If the Mazda Miata wasn’t enough of a counter to this line of thought, there’s the Lexus LC 500 to put this misperception to bed.

The LC 500 is no Miata, however, nor is it a 911. This Lexus isn’t as communicative or visceral as those cars. Steering is on the vague side and its straight-line speed won’t knock you back in your seat like some competitors. But what the LC 500 does best is drama, and it’s got a flair for the theatrical.

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

The naturally aspirated V8 roars and crackles like few others on the market. Meanwhile, the suspension is as smooth as you’ll find, even in the most aggressively tuned Sport+ mode. This combination of aural fury and stately placidity is what the LC 500 is all about. Because it isn’t as unruly as a Mercedes GT or BMW M8, you’re free to push the LC 500 in ways you can’t with those other cars. The paddle shifters add to the fun, and bouncing the tack off the rev limiter as the engine growls is supremely satisfying.

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

The convertible loses the rear wheel steering and variable gear ratio steering of the coupe, but that also means it’s less squirrely around corners. And you might be wondering about the loss in rigidity that comes with the addition of a drop top. Lexus boasts that its reinforcements recouped up to 80% of that loss in stiffness. This seemed about right to us, as there’s surprisingly little daylight between the two in this regard.

Comfort and Interior – Setting the Bar

2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com

As we noted above, the LC 500 rides like a cloud, courtesy of a suspension revision for 2021. Comfort is the main theme in the LC 500. From the ride to the copious soft touch materials to the nifty neck heater built into the convertible’s seats, the experience in the LC 500 is as pampering as you find in any Mercedes or Bentley. And it looks better doing it, too.

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2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com

The interior of the LC 500 exceeds expectations, even for a car starting at just under $93,000. Leather and soft touch materials cover every surface, and the design of the cabin is frankly stunning. A favorite of ours were the doors which sport distinctive swooping lines and elegant door handles (something I don’t think I’ve ever written about any door handle, ever). Another favorite is the weighty volume knob for the stereo, reminiscent of old-school Hi-Fis. There is also zero piano black in the LC 500, and we don’t miss it one bit. Overall, the interior of the LC 500 is as well wrought as you can find in any two-door on the market.

2021 Lexus LC 500 seat - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 seat - lexus.com

The uber-comfortable seats are heated and cooled and pair perfectly with the smooth riding suspension. The convertible LC 500 gets an additional trick, as we hinted above. There’s a “Climate Concierge” vent in the head rest that breathes warm air on your neck for those cool evenings cruising with the top down.

2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 interior - lexus.com

Speaking of which, another impressive trick from the LC 500 convertible is how quiet it is. With the top up, it’s as quiet as most non-convertible cars on the road. Put the top down and the LC 500 is still quiet (for a convertible with the top down). For all their difficulties with buffeting in the new Supra, Toyota engineers have wind noise figured out in LC 500 convertible to an impressive extent.

The only sour note in the LC 500’s interior is the infotainment interface which is controlled via a clumsy touchpad (think cheap laptop) rather than a touchscreen. Turing on your heated seats and many other functions are needlessly laborious.

Features and Trims – Package Deals

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

The Lexus LC 500 offers a lot right out of the box, and given its initial price tag of $92,950, it should. Standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, emergency braking, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control and more. Other standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, navigation, and heated and ventilated front seats.

There are no official trims for the LC 500 and 500h, only options packages. They break down as follows:

2021 Lexus LC 500h - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500h - lexus.com

Touring Package – $2,540

Alcantara headliner, Mark Levinson 13-speaker stereo system (highly recommended), heated leather steering wheel, windshield wiper de-icer, front and rear parking sensors.

Sport Package – Varies

Sport seats, performance brakes, limited-slip rear differential, front and rear parking sensors, and either a carbon fiber or glass roof. The glass roof in the V8 coupe runs $2,360 or $1,900 in the hybrid. The carbon fiber roof is $3,920 in the non-hybrid or $3,460 in the hybrid.

Dynamic – $9570 non-hybrid / $8,290 hybrid

All the Sport Package features plus a Torsen limited-slip rear differential and Yamaha Performance Dampers, Alcantara headliner, speed-activate rear wing, and 21-inch alloy wheels.

Conclusion – Personality Counts

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com
2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

Whether it’s romantic partners, friends, co-workers, or distant relatives, a winning personality counts for a lot. And the same goes for cars. Ours is an automotive era plagued by a lack of originality. As much as we all love the new Bronco, you’ve got to wonder how close we are to jumping the revived nameplate shark. The LC 500, however, is a breath of fresh, naturally aspirated air.

2021 Lexus LC 500 - lexus.com

2021 Lexus LC 500 – lexus.com  |  Shop Lexus LC 500 on Carsforsale.com

This car feels great, looks truly gorgeous, and sounds like a burlap sack full of wolverines when you hit the throttle. It’s got personality to spare. While buyers might look to more performance-oriented options like the 911 or to the swanky and sensuous S-Classes of the world, the Lexus LC 500 remains a uniquely bold and boisterous choice.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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