Beauty is an enormously subjective emotion, giving truth to the expression ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, so it is a brave statement to call something the most beautiful in the world – but that is exactly what the designers of the Lexus LC Convertible are saying.
So, what does it take to make “the world’s most beautiful convertible?”
For the team behind the new Lexus LC Convertible, achieving that dream called for much more than simply swapping the LC Coupe’s fixed roof with a soft-top. There are clearly strong family ties between the two Lexus LC models, but it’s actually the details under the skin that count the most, according to Chief Designer Tadao Mori and Chief Engineer Yasushi Muto.
The LC Convertible will launch mid-year for the South African market.
“Our biggest challenge was always how we would keep the trunk line low, while still allowing room for load space and stowing the roof,” says Mori. “With other car makers, you’ll often see a high rear line, but we wanted to make this the most beautiful convertible, keeping the best lines whether the roof is up or down. We’re really proud of how we have kept the top of the rear wings so low, keeping the feeling of a low centre of gravity.”
Achieving this was no simple task. It meant the roof had to be folded into what seemed an impossibly small space behind the rear seats.
“To make this possible, every bend in the roof had to be a different size, so we had to engineer a complex and unique mechanism,” Muto explains. It’s the first soft-top Lexus has made and the team worked in close collaboration with specialist supplier Magna in Austria to achieve the perfect results.
“When you operate the roof, one will notice that there’s a pause at the beginning and end of the sequence, with faster movement in between. This is intentional, it’s a way of communicating elegance in moving parts that has been part of the Lexus DNA right from the start with the first-generation LS sedan.”
There is no value in a car that looks great but is impossible to live with, so beauty had to be balanced with practicality.
“The balance itself isn’t difficult to understand – we call it functional beauty – but achieving it was very difficult,” says Muto. “For example, we had to add bracing to keep the body rigid, but also needed to keep space to stow the roof. So we developed a new rear suspension brace made of aluminum that gives good rigidity but is also compact. It’s design also helped us keep the car’s beautiful silhouette.”
Both Mori and Muto profess a love of top-down driving (Mori drove a classic MG sports car for more than a decade) and they enthuse about the special sense of freedom it gives and a connection with the natural world around you.
Asked about his favourite aspect of the new car, Muto responds: “When I’m on a winding road and I press the accelerator or the brake so the car downshifts, I love the sound of the engine – it’s direct and exciting and unique to a naturally aspirated V8. I also love the view from the rear of the car. You can see just how the interior design merges with the exterior to make a very beautiful thing.”
The LC 500 Convertible boasts a naturally-aspirated 5,0-litre V8 engine producing 351 kW and 540 Nm of torque at 4 800 r/min. Mated to the DirectShift-10 automatic transmission, this engine gives the LC linear, yet invigorating acceleration.