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Lexus LC 500 convertible confirmed: drop-top brings V8 warble closer

 

Lexus this week unveiled a production-ready version of a long-teased convertible variant of the LC 500. Debuting at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, the LC 500 drop-top maintains the graceful and futuristic styling of the concept that debuted in January. With a compact fabric roof, the LC convertible brings an alternative shape to the celebrated coupe edition that sits atop the Lexus range.

Confirmed to be arriving in Australia in the spring of 2020, the LC 500 will be the third convertible in Lexus’s history. A traditional grand tourer, it is the largest and most refined drop-top the Japanese brand has designed, following two smaller cabrios of decades hence: the soft, avantgarde SC 430 of the noughties and the slightly more dynamic IS convertible from the early 2010s.

Bringing the fight to the at-times complacent German luxury brands as Lexus does best, and the LC 500 will take the contest straight to big Euro ‘verts like the BMW 8 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, as well as the Porsche 911 cabriolet.

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There is no word on pricing yet, but with extra structural work and technology in the convertible, expect it to start north of $200,000 before on-road costs.

Absolutely the first thing we noticed about the production ready car is that it looks almost identical to the concept that was teased back in January this year. That approach reflects a similar history for the coupe variant: the fixed-roof LC introduced back in 2016 closely resembled the LF-LC shown in 2012. That coupe was designed by Ian Cartabiano, the forward-thinking chief of Lexus’s European design centre that Chasing Cars recently sat down with: read that interview here.

The swish and futuristic exterior of the LC 500 has translated so well to the convertible form factor, conjuring up images of Riva speedboats on pristine water. The belt-line is consistent and confident, and with the roof up it is still a looker, managing to avoid the awkward look of some cabriolets with their rain-protector up.

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As is to be expected, the LC500 Convertible has changed shape a little – it’s 10mm longer than the 4,760mm coupe and 5mm taller at 1,350mm. The convertible retains the coupe’s four seat layout and luggage space is said to be identical.

For the convertible to match the stiffness of the coupe – which Lexus claims is the case – the weight naturally increases to account for additional bracing. The total figure is up 55kg to tip the two-tonne mark at 2,040kg. To cope with the marginal additional load, Lexus specified higher-quality Yamaha dampers for the drop-top.

Unlike the coupe, which can optionally be had with a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, the convertible is petrol-only and in our view, it will be all the better for it. The sole engine will be the sonorous five-litre V8 Lexus have become famous for, with the naturally aspirated eight producing 351kW/540Nm. The gearbox is likely to be the same ten-speed torque converter found in the LC 500 coupe.

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Lexus claim they selected specific material for the folding roof to retain it’s tautness at all times, it should also have good thermal qualities to provide adequate insulation. Should you wish to unfurl the origami workings, Lexus claims that the LC 500’s roof can fold up or down in 15 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h.

Helping to keep the cold out – and to make this LC 500 more usable year-round – Lexus will join other makers of high-end convertibles in specifying neck-warmers as standard.

Lexus also claims to have worked on aerodynamics extensively, including utilising a polycarbonate wind deflector and deflection from the body itself to keep wind noise to a point where a conversation can be had comfortably.

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To keep the body as stiff as the coupe, the LC 500 convertible uses structural reinforcement around the rear strut towers in the shape of a cast aluminium strut brace, in addition to under-body chassis reinforcement. 

In tandem with stiffness increase, there will be technologies such as active cornering assist and active anti-roll-bars to maintain comfort and keep the car sitting flat in the corners.

The LC 500 convertible is locked in for Australian arrival for late 2020. When precise specifications and pricing are announced, we’ll have the full details.