LAS VEGAS — There’s something special about an early morning road trip departure. The air is cool, there isn’t much traffic about, and the day is full of possibility.
This is even more the case when you’re about to rip across 333 miles of desert to get from San Diego to the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas in a 471-horsepower convertible. With the top down and the temperature in the low–60s at departure, one of my favorite features of the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible came into play early on: Lexus Climate Concierge.
Climate Concierge is a feature that every car should have. It connects the seat heating and cooling functions to the climate control system and it puts the extensive abilities of the car to keep your body at the appropriate temperature into play with a single button press. It’s especially important in a convertible because when the roof is open — this may be obvious — it’s difficult to maintain a particular temperature in the cabin.
Lexus engineers have attacked this problem in a few ways. First, there are heated and ventilated seats, which are typical in luxury cars. But Climate Concierge adds in something called “upper body heating” which is like a butt warmer but for your neck, and automatically adjusts the heated steering wheel and the regular heating and air conditioning system to maximize your thermal comfort. The vents are also specially placed to aim warm or cold air at the back of the driver’s hands to help keep you warm or cool.
It might seem absurd to blast heat or air conditioning in a convertible, but the LC 500 is more than up to the task. Even when the temperature climbed above 90 degrees during our blast across the desert, the air conditioning kept it comfortable — an impressive feat. When it comes to comfort, minimizing wind noise is also a high priority in a convertible with the LC 500 combining clever body design and a modest plastic wind deflector between the rear “seats” to keep air from swirling back into the cabin at highway speeds with the windows up or down.
Windows up keeps things much quieter of course, but I was astounded at how quiet it was in the car with the roof down, even at 80 miles per hour. I could converse normally with my co-pilot, and the radio didn’t have to be cranked to enjoy it. Of course, with the optional 13-speaker Mark Levinson “reference surround sound audio system” (part of the $5,290 touring package along with nicer seats with upper body heating, a fancier steering wheel, and some other stuff) you can crank it up if you want to, just don’t expect a whole lot of bass with the roof down. Physics can only be bashed so far into submission.
As a highway cruiser then, the LC 500 Convertible is a gem. It has the same 5-liter naturally aspirated V8 as the coupe that I reviewed a few weeks ago, and it’s phenomenal. For the average user, there’s basically no difference between the convertible and coupe as far as performance goes.
OK, yes, there is all manner of design and engineering wizardry that Lexus used to improve performance but honestly none of it matters to most buyers. Do you want a roof that goes down or do you want a coupe? Well, there’s your answer.
This car also draws attention and thumbs up and people who want to talk about it. I spoke with one potential buyer who asked if he should buy the drop- or hard-top — I said it basically depended on where he lived and when he wanted to drive it. I live in New Hampshire most of the time, but I’ve been staying in San Diego for the past few months. If I lived in San Diego, where the weather is nice pretty much all of the time, I’d get the convertible. If I lived in New Hampshire, I’d probably opt for the coupe.
Of course, I once knew a guy who drove his BMW M3 convertible with the top down always unless it was actively raining, even in the snow, so you do you.
My test unit, complete with a $595 “Infrared” paint scheme and the $2,650 21-inch forged wheels priced out at $111,920 which is just about five grand more than the similarly equipped coupe I drove earlier this summer.
Regardless of which you pick, the Lexus LC 500 is an amazing grand tourer sans roof or not. But we both know you really want the 93 million miles of blue sky, right?