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2021 LC500 is the unexpected Lexus

The 2021 Lexus LC500 remains much the same as it did in 2018. It’s not like other Lexus models; that can have its positive side and its negative side.

The 2021 Lexus LC500 has not changed much since its 2018 introduction, yet it felt like a whole different car. A newly available convertible could add to the fun.
The 2021 Lexus LC500 has not changed much since its 2018 introduction, yet it felt like a whole different car. A newly available convertible could add to the fun.Read moreLexus

2021 Lexus LC500: The Lexus of sports cars?

Price: $105,940 as tested. All Weather Package, $250; head-up display, $900; more below.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “concept-car styling, sonorous standard V-8 engine, high-luxe cabin,” but notes that it “lacks sports-car nimbleness, low cornering grip, neutered with optional hybrid power train.”

Marketer’s pitch: “…” I guess Lexus sells itself.

Reality: Not as Lexus-y as most Lexi, and that has plusses and minuses.

What’s new: To judge by the press materials, there’s not much new to say about the LC500. A convertible is added for 2021, but this isn’t that. Active cornering assist is added, as are suspension updates. The one bright spot is the price is the same as the 2018 model Mr. Driver’s Seat tested.

I expected the unchanging nature of the LC500 would be a challenge when it came time to write the review. How wrong I can be sometimes.

» READ MORE: The 2018 Lexus LC500 Coupe trips banks account at over $100K

Up to speed: The LC500′s 5.0-liter V-8 boasts an astounding 471 horsepower and races to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, according to Lexus.

There’s a hybrid version of LC500, but with just 354 horses, exactly what are those buyers thinking — “I’ll squeeze two more miles from a gallon of premium”?

Listen to the roar: It’s pretend, but who cares? The exhaust note is terrific.

Shifty: We still have the 10-speed transmission, with a funky lever for shifting into Drive or Reverse, and paddles for shiftability. But this baby is so fast, I’m almost over shifting. Try clicking something nine times in 4.5 seconds. It’s not easy. In the LC500, I only used the shift capability to make a lot of noise while I was stuck in traffic or otherwise trying to slow down. Yeah, that was me.

On the road: Sometimes I wonder if I’m in a cranky mood when I test cars. (“SOMETIMES?” Mrs. Passenger Seat asks incredulously.) Because I’d given the LC500 just an OK rating before, but this was so much more.

I actually was in a cranky mood this time and purposely took the LC500 out for a late-night spin to maybe knock myself out of it. It more than did the trick. Around the curves, over the peaks and dips, on the straightaways, everywhere.

I spent a lot of time giving LC500 rides to family members, and each one was more fun than the last. That new suspension and cornering assist must really be the bomb. Presumably the active rear steering, variable gear-ratio steering, and other features of the $9,570 Dynamic Handling Package added a bit of fun as well.

Driver’s Seat: As Sturgis Kid 1.0 noted, the seats up front really hug you. I describe Lexus as offering cuddles throughout its lineup, but the Alcantara sports seats (part of the $9,570 bonus) really are next level. The bolsters are not cramped at all, but they have a definite squeeze.

The driving position is race car-like. The dashboard sits up close and forms a long runway from the windshield and down the long hood to the road. The lower dash curls outward like the side view of a turbine, and matte chrome covers the controls.

Friends and stuff: Former friends and no stuff? Anyone you put in the back seat will hate you. The seat itself is actually comfortable and well appointed, but there is negative space around it. Feet cannot fit behind a normally placed Mr. Driver’s Seat seat, and my head needed to be canted to one side to be pressed awkwardly against the rear window. The seat belts in the back cleverly emerge from the center of the seat rather than the corners, because maybe it’ll wow you into forgetting you now need a chiropractor?

We planned a Valley Forge walking afternoon with the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat’s brother and his wife — first get-together in 18 months, thanks, pandemic! — but, being us, we did not plan it well. Sturgis Kid 4.0 was not getting back there, so it was up to my Sweetie to take one for the team, although we were the ones with her feet on our armrest.

As for stuff, I later tried to bring along a couple gas cans for the mower, but the trunk was not tall enough for them. No, that is not a misprint. It’s that small. (I did belt in the gas cans for my trip to the Wawa, though. They’re just the right size.)

At least the shotgun passenger will love it. And there are built-in grab bars that Sturgis Kid 1.0 made good use of on our ride.

Play some tunes: The LC500 has the dreaded Lexus touch pad. I don’t actively despise it anymore, but it does make things harder than they have to be.

The sound from the Mark Levinson 13-speaker sound system ($1,220) is a lot like the 2018 model, very good but not great, which is disappointing, considering the price. And the maker.

Keeping warm and cool: Heater controls are a simple row of matte silver buttons.

Fuel economy: I averaged 16 mpg in a tire-burning, rage-burning week of driving.

Where it’s built: Aichi, Japan

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability to be a 3 out of 5.

In the end: It’s way fun but way expensive. I could offer far more practical rides that are cheaper and still fun, and with better stereo sound, including the Audi A6 Allroad and even some other Lexus models.

Maybe the convertible would help make us forget the negatives.