LA Auto Show 2019

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible heading to dealerships in time for summer

Lexus is adding a convertible variant of its flagship sports coupe to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

Summer is waiting. Lexus has debuted the 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible in Los Angeles, signaling the realization of a model that first debuted as a concept nearly a year ago.

This isn't just a topless LC 500. With the LC 500 convertible, engineers wanted to improve the car's chassis rigidity while adding and relocating key structural braces that would allow for the top to be off. At the same time, the company wanted to ensure that the car didn't lose its superb handling or balance, which was a careful equation to get right as the car's weight changed.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible On the outside, the 2021 LC 500 Convertible looks nearly identical to the LC 500, except for its soft top.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The result is a car with a die-cast aluminum suspension brace, performance dampener, and an un-sprung weight reduction in the front. Lexus says that the changes give the rear-wheel drive car the desired effect.

Each LC 500 Convertible has a 5.0-liter V8 engine under the hood that is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and achieves 471 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque.

The convertible features a four-layer soft top that includes a tonneau covering for when it is retracted, allowing the cabin to appear completely open front to rear. The roof can be opened or closed at speeds up to 31 mph. It takes just 15 seconds to open and 16 seconds to close. Lexus will sell the LC 500 Convertible with either a black or beige roof.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Lexus will offer the LC 500 Convertible with a black or beige roof.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The car's spoiler has been broadened over the LC 500 hard top design and the car's center is integrated into the trunk lid. On the LC 500 the brake light is in the rear windshield. A wind screen is available. Active noise control is standard.

Lexus will sell the car in the buyer's choice of 10 paint jobs: Ultra White, Smoky Granite, Liquid Platinum, Atomic Silver, Obsidian, Caviar, Infrared, Cadmium Orange, Flare Yellow, and Nightfall Mica. A black, Circuit Red, or Toasted Caramel interior is available depending on paint choice.

Each LC 500 Convertible comes with automatic climate control that works to keep the cabin temperature stable whether the top is up or down. Lexus Climate Concierge and Upper Body Heating work in sync to manage the air conditioner, seat heaters, neck heaters and steering-wheel heater to ensure the cabin is at the ideal temperature. Lexus says that the HVAC system has been optimized to send warm or cold air to the back of the driver's hands when gripping the steering wheel.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible The car's interior contains the same modern design as the LC 500.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Lexus is equipping the model with the same 10.3-inch infotainment screen that's in the LC 500. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard, as are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration.

Each new Lexus LC 500 Convertible will come standard with Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+). This suite of safety and driver assistance technology includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with active lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and high beam assist. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are also standard. Lexus Enform Safety Connect is complementary for the first 10 years of ownership.

2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Lexus has made the car more rigid, allowing for the cabin's sight lines to be uninterrupted front to rear.Photo courtesy of Lexus

The 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible Inspiration Series show at the Los Angeles Auto Show is a limited edition offering. Just 100 will be made of the unique model with a Structural Blue paint job, white semi-aniline leather interior trim, unique blue top, gray headlamp garnishes, side intake garnishes, and taillamp garnishes. It comes standard with 21-inch wheels. Pricing is not yet available.

Pricing for the special edition and more traditional variants has yet to be released. The 2020 Lexus LC 500 starts at $92,950 and it's likely that the convertible variant will be priced higher to start.

The stance and fascia of the model make it more crossover-like and harkens back to original RX design.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

There is no shortage of SUVs for buyers to choose from. When it comes to luxury vehicles the market is split between sport-centric engaging models and more typical family haulers. As mass market SUVs become more premium and offer advanced technology and high-quality interiors, the cost of going all-in on a luxury model might make buyers question if it's worth it.

The revisions to the 2020 Lexus RX 350 are made to persuade customers that a $50,000 luxury model is still the right way to go. But are the changes enough?

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Revisions to the car's front end have helped with its much-derided looks.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The exterior of the RX has gotten refreshed to make it less hand vacuum-y and more crossover. That's not a bad thing. It's now more attractive than before though that's not really saying much. This isn't exactly the sales segment for sexy design.

Lexus has improved the model's stability on the road, steering responsiveness, and ride quality. The SUV is a better drive than before though still not in the same room as the conversation being had by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz models. Its all-wheel drive helped the all-season shoes stick to dry roads with ease.

The RX 350 continues to prove easy to steer and a breeze to park though its A-pillar hampers visibility during turns. That's not an uncommon complaint of SUV drivers regarding a number of models.

The wheel feels good in-hand, but the wheel itself is a bit fat. The car's heated steering wheel feature only warms small sections of the wheel at three- and six o'clock, which is disappointing.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport The steering wheel of the model is fatter than what one may expect from the SUV.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Lexus did not update the powertrain of the model as part of the refresh. It still has a 3.5-liter V6 under the hood that delivers a competent 295 horsepower in the 350 F-Sport grade and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain feels more responsive in this edition than it did in the last. The SUV gets 23 mpg combined, which isn't ideal, but not terrible.

The interior of the RX 350 F-Sport tester featured the new Circuit Red color throughout that garnered several compliments by passengers and passersby during the week-long test drive. The red-covered seats were comfortable, even on extended trips. Four adults easily fit in the two-row SUV.

Still, the overall Lexus drive and ride experience is hampered by the SUV's infotainment system. Lexus wins points for moving its available 12.3-inch screen 5.5 inches closer to front seat occupants. Despite spending a week behind the wheel, it was just easier to not deal with the infotainment system rather than use the awkward touch pad to plug in addresses for navigation and change the radio system.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Some design elements of the RX are outdated, like the cell phone holder.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The Lexus now comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa compatibility but during the test drive, despite several attempts with different cords and a variety of iPhones, the system never worked with the phones.

There are some design elements that are outdated. Its heated/ventilated seat controls appear from a lower-class parts bin while the slot cell-phone holder is from a small period of design history that is best left behind.

As tested, the RX came with a number of safety technologies that are part of the Lexus Safety Suite. None of the included features of the Safety Suite are obtrusive or annoying in their employment.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport This car has the new Circuit Red upholstery throughout the cabin.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The tested 2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport has a starting price tag of $47,950.

The Lexus RX 350's closest competition is the Infiniti QX50. Its bests that model by a large margin. With the Nissan Murano getting a bit long in the tooth and Chevrolet Blazer coming in around the same price as the RX with less premium appointments, it's easy to make the argument that the RX is the right model for many buyers.

Still, it faces stiff competition from the spunkier and more agile Acura RDX, which easily earns top accolades for SUVs at this price point and size.

The 2020 Lexus ES F-Sport is the flashiest ES model.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

There is only one Lexus ES 350 you should consider buying unless the prospect of mundane drivability excites you – the 2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport.

The ES sits in the Lexus lineup between the IS and LS. It's a midsize sedan that is made in America and available in three models – ES 350, ES 350 Hybrid, and ES 350 F-Sport. There are a variety of trim levels for buyers to choose from for 350 and 350 Hybrid models.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport The ES 350 F-Sport has a different grille than other ES models.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

On the outside, it's immediately apparent that the 350 F-Sport has the better grille and wheels (19-inchers) than the other ES models. There's also black finish mesh on the front fascia and available triple beam headlights. Those enhancements make the ES appear more sophisticated and sassier.

As the saying goes, it's not the size, it's how you use it. All ES 350s are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain achieves 302 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. The oomph is enough for the ES, but not anything that will excite.

ES 350 models have Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. The ES 350 F-Sport replaces Sport mode with Sport+ and Custom. The Sport+ mode lengthens the amount of time between shifts and allows the driver to achieve a torquier behind-the-wheel experience, adjusts the throttle response, and changes the steering parameters. This is one of the keys to the 350 F-Sport's success.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport Lexus has given the ES 350 F-Sport spotter seats than what are other ES 350 models.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Combine the engine engagement with an adaptive variable suspension that is similar to the system in the Lexus LC and LS, and the ES's drive experience shines (for an ES). Don't mistake the enthusiasm for quickness. The ES still takes 6.6 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph and it only comes in front-wheel drive.

The ES serves valiantly as a daily driver in any model. Its trunk is spacious and there's a good amount of passenger space for four adult occupants.

While the materials in most of the cabin of this particular model are right with its price point, the entire interior experience is clouded by the Lexus track pad way of navigating the infotainment system. Thankfully, the ES is one of the few Lexus vehicles that has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so use of the track pad is not often needed.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport The ES 350 F-Sport is available with a red leather interior.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Other high points of the model include the available 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and the good amount of unobtrusive safety technology that works well including blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist.

The 2020 Lexus ES F-Sport starts at $44,635. With the options boxes checked, it can get near $50,000 including destination and delivery charges. That price seems fair for the model. It's pricier than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry but less costly than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The ES is priced most similarly to the Infiniti Q50's midgrade models. Top-tier models of the Q50 have significantly more horsepower befitting the higher rate.

Sure, the ES F-Sport isn't as