It may be a little unkind to call the stunning Lexus LC 500 Convertible a beast, but it certainly snarls and pounces like one, writes Steve Berry. But how is it under less than favourable weather conditions?
With the ‘Beast From The East 2’ sweeping into the Peak District it seemed like the ideal time to find out if a substantial amount of snow could tame the V8-powered Lexus and turn it into a timid, tip-toeing kitten . . .
Now, anyone with common sense will know that 5-litres, 8-cylinders, 457 bhp and rear-wheel drive cannot be expected to play nicely with Mr. Frosty.
In ideal conditions the LC 500 convertible is a well-balanced, grippy animal that will lap up the laps and eat through the miles without so much of a twitch – and even if the weather turns nasty the LC 500 convertible has enough in its arsenal to keep everyone toasty and safe.
But snow and ice? Really? Surely that is the domain of all-wheel-drive, preferably on winter tyres. (Thinks: Hmm, a suitably-clad GR Yaris could be a lot of fun. . .)
However, the LC Convertible isn’t just a fair-weather, top-down, attention-grabbing way to arrive at the Opera House. It’s also well equipped for colder weather with powerful climate-control, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
And because you’ll want to go topless at every opportunity, it even has neck-warmers in the headrests.
Which is all well and good, but none of those things are going to prevent you from ending up in a field with a drystone wall in your lap if you don’t have some sort of traction control for when the white stuff comes down.
Well, the good news is that the Lexus LC 500 – including the Convertible – has its very own “Snow” setting which is activated from a rotary dial jutting out from the right-hand side of the instrument binnacle.
With a twist of this dial, the vehicle changes traction and stability control settings to make sure the power comes in much more gradually and gear-changes happen at lower revs.
So, with the torque-reducing Snow setting selected I set out on a 5-mile trip over the hills to visit the town of Buxton, in the heart of the Peak District.
With about two inches of snow covering large patches of the roads I anticipated some hairy moments but the LC 500 Convertible was mostly well-behaved, although caution was needed just as in any other car.
With the soft-top iced up, I didn’t dare attempt to take the roof down, although Lexus assures me it wouldn’t have been a problem for the sophisticated mechanism – which is designed to work all year round.
At the highest point of the Goyt Valley, I pulled into a snowy lay-by and switched off snow assistance. I then tried to leave the lay-by. It wasn’t easy. The rear end scrabbled and fish-tailed with even gentle presses of the accelerator.
With snow mode engaged once more it was a different story with the Lexus pulling away without drama. Could I still invoke a tantrum from the rear-end? Absolutely, but it took a heavy right foot.
Sweeping corners were taken at reasonable speed with no sudden lightness to the steering and the 10-speed, direct-shift auto gearbox didn’t once get confused with what was expected.
Once in Buxton, I lowered the thawed roof and got out to take some photos – which took a while as I spent some time answering questions (at a distance) from curious locals about the Lexus.
No one had ever seen a LC 500 before, let alone the convertible. It was unanimous though; the LC 500 Convertible is stunning inside and out.
It would be foolish to think this powerful, rear-wheel-drive convertible is an ideal winter vehicle as it’s simply not what it was designed for. I found a couple of steep ascents invoked some wheelspin despite the clever electronics, but overall, the LC Convertible performed much better than expected with the snow setting proving to be a useful tool.