Perceived wisdom says that owning a convertible sports car in Britain is an act of, at best, naïve optimism, at worst, clinical madness and yet, when you’re behind the wheel of one, the world in panorama overhead, it’s all the other hunched and grimacing drivers in their sealed up tin cans that come across as crazy.
The weight of this realisation hit me when I was sitting in the Lexus LC 500, fabric roof down despite the grey clouds, waiting at temporary traffic lights that seemed stuck on red which normally would have caused a significant blood pressure spike. I barely noticed. I was lost in the bluebells.
You often see old boys driving around in convertibles, their silver hair buffeting in the wind, chortling with their co-driver or just to themselves. It’s an annoying sight when it’s not you, but what they’ve realised, alongside sizable baby boomer pensions, is that life is short and the time to smell the roses is right now. Which you literally can on some streets. Exhaust fumes too, admittedly. I chugged them down with gratitude.
Yes, it’s hard not to feel self-conscious in one. Vulnerable even. By definition, you are telling the world that you are prioritising your own pleasure and to some that’s bordering on confrontational. You need to wear sunglasses, too, just to keep the car from hitting things, upping the pose status to Pitti Uomo levels. Tackling these cultural shackles head-on feels refreshing though, like some kind of exposure therapy.
And exposure is certainly the name of the game here. It’s a myth that the weather needs to be perfect. My only criterion for putting up the roof was, “is it actually raining?” Drizzle was fine. If the answer was yes, I’d reluctantly reach for the up/down/abort button, which is housed under a secret leather flap that initially took a while to find and, if cars had weapons, isn’t far off how you imagine a bespoke missile launcher might be integrated. Lexus clearly understands the significance of this car’s central ceremony.
The roof can be switched on the go as long as you’re not doing more than 31mph, a rarity in most UK towns anyway. Apparently, the LC’s mechanism which takes around 15 seconds to fold itself up or down, was tested 18,000 times before there was a problem.
On a frankly silly spring day when hail followed bright sunshine, it felt like I came quite close to this number myself. In one serendipitous moment, “Riders on the Storm” came on the Mark Levinson sound system as one rain cloud dispersed. I prodded the
accelerator for a run down a perfect B-road to a village called Peckham.
While supercar drivers feel handcuffed by speed cameras, traffic and police patrols, in a convertible you don’t even need to drive fast. With the roof down, a minor jolt of acceleration is magnified, and you can actually hear the engine note change, all without fear of blue lights in the rear-view mirror.
It helps when the engine is as likable and capable as this 471bhp naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. The grand touring experience is amplified by a leathery interior somewhere between sumptuous and minimalist, delivered with trademark precision and quality from the Lexus engineers in Nagoya.
The LC has rarity value on its side, with only a smattering likely to drive down a British road. It feels a bit like a stealthy, even low-key, Bentley Continental GTC — if you could ever call a car with a price tag pushing £100,000 low-key. Most passers-by might well walk past without placing it in such a category. Again, perceived wisdom can’t always be trusted. ○
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