As the weather warms, it’s time to start taking advantage of convertible season. And nothing beats a high-end luxury open-top ride like the BMW M850i xDrive cabriolet or the Lexus LC 500 convertible. Here’s how the two stack up against each other.
Top up or down, the Lexus LC convertible is stylish, sophisticated and elegant. With its massive spindle grille, beefy 21-inch forged alloy wheels, sexy curves, pronounced angles and long sleek lines, it has street presence. A new exterior colour called Cadmium Orange is definitely worth the $650 splurge. Be mindful opening the doors; they’re long and open wide, so it’s easy to ding vehicles parked in close proximity.
By contrast, the BMW M850i is bolder, flashier and more aggressive in its design. For 2023, the M8 gets a facelifted front-end with a sportier look and new features to commemorate the 50th anniversary of BMW’s iconic M high-performance brand. You won’t find a traditional BMW roundel badge on the front hood. But for an extra $300, you can have an M 50-year emblem on the hood, rear and on the 20-inch two-colour alloy wheels. An updated grille with wider slots and massive air vents, LED headlights with “BMW Laser” etched in the corner and large rear quad exhaust tips all mean business.
Both vehicles have easy-to-use soft tops – push a button and the roof opens in roughly 15 seconds; it can even open or close at speeds up to 50 kilometres an hour. Both have useful wind deflectors, which sit over the rear seats to reduce turbulence in the cabin when the roof is down.
The Lexus LC 500′s interior is refined with rich materials and high-quality craftsmanship. But it feels outdated with a CD player. I’m not a fan of the awkward touchpad controller, which controls everything from the navigation to the audio. It’s fickle, frustrating and distracting to use. At least the voice command system is excellent; it understands natural language and simplifies many tasks so you don’t have to fiddle with the controller. The cabin could use a few more small storage compartments for items such as keys and wallets.
While the M850i’s cabin is busy with dials, buttons and knobs everywhere, it’s modern and edgy. The touch screen has grown to 12.3 inches from 10.3 and is easier to read. Nice touches include handmade glass accents on the gear shifter, a neck warmer on the front-seat headrests and a chunky steering wheel, which isn’t flat-bottomed or adorned with the special M badging, but still feels nice in the hands. The optional Ivory White with Night Blue Merino leather looks and feels attractive, but it’s too light for my tastes and expensive at $4,500.
Both vehicles seat four, but the two rear seats are mainly for show. There’s little legroom in both. Those seats are better used for extra storage space.
Performance-wise, the BMW excels over the Lexus. Its sheer raw power is exhilarating. Powering the BMW is a 523-horsepower twin-turbo V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel usability. It’s fast off the line and responsive with precise steering and a firm brake pedal feel. When cornering, it’s secure and stable. And the exhaust note, when the engine is pushed, is music to the ears.
The Lexus LC 500 gets a 471-horsepower five-litre V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic, with quick-shifting gears. Compared with the BMW, the steering feels vague and it’s not the fastest out of the gate, but it’s not meant to be. The V8 is smooth and competent. It feels balanced and composed when taking corners quickly. Over all, it’s a beautiful, refined cruiser that soaks up flaws in the road perfectly. And the deep exhaust note is equally impressive.
Both vehicles have a number of convenience and safety technology features. But the Lexus comes out ahead because it has more standard safety features, such as all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, auto high beams and lane-departure alert with steering assist. The BMW has them, too, but it bundles some safety items into expensive packages. For example, the Premium Package, which adds traffic jam assistant, active cruise control with stop and go, and steering and lane control, costs $4,750.
Surprisingly, with 350 litres of cargo space, the BMW’s trunk space is more than you’d expect. It’s actually more than twice the trunk size of the Lexus. The trunk layout in the Lexus is also shallow, so you can’t fit much into it.
While the Lexus LC 500 excels in terms of its exterior design and styling, the BMW M850i pulls ahead owing to its extra power and sportier driving dynamics.
2023 BMW M850i xDrive Cabriolet
- Base price/as tested: $128,900 (plus pre-delivery inspection charge of $2,480); $149,130
- Engine: 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 with 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic transmission/all-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 13.9 city, 9.6 highway, 12 combined
- Alternatives: Lexus LC 500 Convertible, Audi S5 Cabriolet, Mercedes-AMG E-Class Cabriolet
2022 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
- Base price/as tested: $124,300 (plus pre-delivery inspection charge of $2,145); $127,222
- Engine: Five-litre V8 with 471 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque
- Transmission/drive: 10-speed automatic/rear-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 16 city, 9.5 highway, 13 combined
- Alternatives: BMW 8-Series Cabriolet, Audi S5 Cabriolet, Mercedes-AMG E-Class Cabriolet