2021 Lexus LC

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 29, 2020

Buying tip

Just buy the roadster already—it’s an Aston or newer Benz SL roadster in all but name.

features & specs

LC 500 Convertible
LC 500 Coupe
LC 500h Coupe
MPG
15 city / 25 hwy
MPG
16 city / 25 hwy
MPG
26 city / 34 hwy
MSRP
$101,000
MSRP
$92,950
MSRP
$97,510

The 2021 Lexus LC turns every driveway into a fashion runway.

Lexus has set a few benchmarks in its short life, the first being the original 1990 Lexus LS and the original SC coupe. 

Pardon us if we’ve forgotten those since the Lexus LC came along. 

With the LC, Lexus has wiped the slate. It’s bred a car that has legitimate Aston Martin and Benz SL undertones, though it’s distinctive all on its own. As a plush LC 500 grand tourer, a mildly greener LC 500h hybrid, or as the new-for-2021 LC 500 convertible, the LC has restored the one thing missing from a generation of Lexus vehicles: ambition.

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We rate the 2021 LC at 6.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

It’s canted more toward leisurely grand touring than to apex-snipping precision, but the 2021 LC does a lot of both—whether it’s strapped with a sewing-machine-y V-6 hybrid or a rippling V-8. With as much as 471 horsepower and 10 forward speeds, the LC cracks off 60-mph runs in as little as 4.4 seconds. It’d take less if it weighed less than the convertible’s 4,540 pounds, sure—it’s still a visceral driving experience that trades some raw edge for refinement. Kudos to the steering, the best direction-taking from Lexus yet, and to a controlled ride that doesn’t hammer the highway even when it’s shod with 21-inch wheels and tires.

The LC soars in comfort and quality for the front two passengers, then falls flat for those in the back and for anything you can squeeze into its meager little trunk. Who cares? Not the people who ride in sport buckets, wrapped in organic waves of stitching on the LC’s door panels, seated behind a low wall of leather and wide swaths of high-definition screens. The cockpit apes no other brand’s look—and neither does the LC’s inspiring shape, a sort of greatest-hits of coupe and convertible silhouettes made specifically Lexus with exquisitely pointy LED headlights and taillights and an hourglass grille that reminds us that time is indeed precious.

The LC costs about $100,000, and it lacks very little. It comes with leather upholstery, automatic emergency braking, a 10.3-inch infotainment display (saddled with a terrible user interface, which Apple CarPlay can mitigate), and blind-spot monitors. Whether it’s the convertible, the coupe, or the hybrid coupe, you’d get little argument from us no matter which Lexus LC coupe you drove, so long as you learned how to share in grade school.

10

2021 Lexus LC

Styling

The LC sets a benchmark for all Lexuses not yet born.

We’re still raving over the Lexus LC coupe and roadster, though this is Year Four of seeing it on the road. It’s a 10 for styling.

More LFA than SC, the Lexus LC finds the sweet spot between a familiar two-door silhouette and unfamiliar details that it wears like exquisite jewelry. It’s the kind of shape that will be studied for a generation. It starts with the most believable hourglass grille yet carved into a Lexus nose—the proportions are chef’s-kiss—and the momentum sweeps up and away, down the roofline. Lexus frames the grille with hatpin-style LED headlights and picks up their angularity in hockey-stick inlets at the haunches. The taillights echo the same shapes as the LC body tapers into a Lexus badge that’s sized right, not blown up to ridiculous proportions. This is a car parked perfectly between the sightlines of avant-garde and attainable.

The adventure continues inside, where Lexus cans tradition and cants the dash toward the driver in a wall of leather and high-definition screens. The low-set controls get walled off from the passenger by a vertical rib, but door panels stitched in long waves cocoon the front passengers. Wrapped in semi-aniline nut-brown leather or set ablaze with red hides, the LC cabin finds a way to be both soothing and stunning.

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8

2021 Lexus LC

Performance

The LC has splintered into three different personalities.

With a hybrid, a convertible, and a V-8 ground-pounder in its lineup, the Lexus LC looks good on a depth chart. It delivers numbers and sensations that elevate it into mock-Aston territory, but it could do even better if it didn’t peg the weight needle.

It’s an 8 for performance as an awe-inspiring grand tourer that teases even more.

Tamer tastes should tap the LC 500h. It couples a 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor and a battery pack for a net of 354 hp. What it lacks in distinguished sounds—it’s whistly and weirdly muted—the hybrid makes up for with a trick transmission that ties together a 4-speed automatic and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to deliver pitch-perfect acceleration, no matter which drive mode’s selected. 

For touring, the LC 500 Convertible latches on to Lexus’ Detroit-sound-alike 5.0-liter V-8. With 471 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque shipped to the rear wheels through a 10-speed automatic—and especially when coupled to a sport exhaust system—it crackles with aural energy, most of which translates right to the pavement. Cut a little weight and stick with the hardtop coupe, and the powertrain works even hard to move the LC quicker: coupes hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds; convertibles take 4.6 seconds; the hybrid lags just by a few tenths, at 4.7 seconds. Shave a few hundred pounds—convertibles lug around 4,540 pounds—and the LC could easily be a three-second car.

That would electrify handling that already delivers a sublime ride and terrific steering. The latter’s some of Toyota’s best work as of late, better than the turbo-6 Supra, even. Even without the trick rear-steer setup available on the coupe, the LC knits together wide tires and a strut-and-multilink suspension (and available adaptive dampers) to defy its heft. It slithers through corners, where it could waddle, especially in hardtops fitted with the traction-enhancing Torsen limited-slip rear. It singles out apexes for stalking. There’s not much of a need for the 21-inch staggered wheel-and-tire package, nor for the rear-steer option; there’s not really a need for a higher-performance LC F either.

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4

2021 Lexus LC

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 LC doesn’t have time for things like “luggage” and “storage.”

With bonus points for excellent front seats and a ravishing interior, the Lexus LC still finishes below average in comfort and quality. How so? The trunk’s inexcusably small; the back seats are tiny; and its four-passenger rating is a bit of spec-sheet fudging. It’s a 4 on our scale.

We’ve driven convertibles with base seats, and LC 500 coupes with sport buckets, and we’d take either for an all-day drive, thanks to a wide range of adjustment. It’s the back seat that poses a big problem: it’s way too small even for children, sometimes too small for a fully stuffed backpack. 

The trunk’s not much better, at 5.4 cubic feet on coupes, 4.7 cubic feet on hybrids (batteries eat space), and a skimpy 3.4 cubic feet in the roadster. Skip the LC for the airport reunion pickup.

Practical? Well, no, but the LC has a cockpit slathered in leather and wood or metal trim, gleaming digital displays, and striking stitching in its door panels. It reeks of substance—none of those plastic knobs passed off as cool-touch metal.

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2021 Lexus LC

Safety

The LC’s been spared the wall.

The IIHS hasn’t had the heart to do it, and the NHTSA hasn’t scheduled a crash-test for the LC either. So we can’t give the Lexus coupe and convertible a safety rating.

All LCs have automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, and blind-spot monitors.

On the options list, Lexus sells a head-up display, as well as an automatic parking system that helps new drivers keep its pretty wheels off the curb. Convertibles get the self-park system for free.

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7

2021 Lexus LC

Features

Time to break that McMansion-sized piggy bank, finally.

A Lexus coupe or convertible might be the best way to take a hammer to that ginormous change jug or piggy bank you’ve had going since elementary school. An 84-month loan would be OK, too, we guess.

For less than $100,000, the 2021 Lexus LC has all the standard touches expected from a car that so clearly wants to be an Aston or Benz SL, and the infotainment is a mild positive despite a fidgety input channel. We give it a 7 for features.

Every version has a 10-speaker audio system, 10-way power front seats, 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, blind-spot monitors, and a 10.3-inch display with Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, and Amazon Alexa integration—but no Android Auto. Hybrids add almost $5,000 to the price, while the convertible costs at least $102,025. 

Coupes can be fitted with a glass roof; convertibles have a fabric folding top that raises or lowers within about 15 seconds.

Options include an impressive 915-watt Mark Levinson audio system, 21-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, and a Touring package with semi-aniline leather. Coupes also can come with the handling package, which bundles the Torsen differential, rear-wheel steering, 21-inch wheels, and sport seats.

Apple CarPlay saves the LC infotainment system from its messy self. The touchpad interface pairs with clunky menu structures, and CarPlay resolves enough of that to shine a light on its wide, crisp screen. 

Lexus sells the LC with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that doesn’t include maintenance as many rivals do.

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5

2021 Lexus LC

Fuel Economy

The Lexus LC goes semi-green with semi-electric power.

The gas-only Lexus LC coupe and roadster aren’t blessed with great fuel economy, but they are blessed with a cousin that does better by the planet.

We give the LC lineup a 5 for gas mileage, based on the EPA ratings garnered by the LC 500h hybrid: 26 mpg city, 34 highway, 29 combined.

Those numbers are impressive, especially in light of the standard LC 500’s ratings of 16/25/19 mpg. The roadster? It’s 15/25/18 mpg.

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$92,950
MSRP based on LC 500 Coupe
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6.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 10
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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