Lexus dazzles L.A with LF-C2 concept, the roofless RC Coupe with attitude

Lexus dazzles L.A with LF-C2 concept, the roofless RC Coupe with attitude

For most of its quarter century existence, Lexus’ cars have been comfortable, reliable, conservative, and introverted; painlessly smooth yet painfully dull. But the last few years have seen Lexus move the design needle further and faster than perhaps any brand in automobiledom. The latest case in point is the gilded LF-C2 cabriolet concept that Lexus just rolled onto its stand at the L.A. auto show.

Officially an “open top luxury GT” concept, the fearsomely style droptop is basically a convertible version of Lexus’ new RC coupe, which itself is basically a two-door expression of the compact IS sedan. Somewhat amusingly, Lexus is referring to the car as a “2+2 roadster,” which isn’t a thing. (Dear Lexus: roadsters are two-seat droptops; convertibles with four seats are cabriolets.) Whatever it is, the LF-C2 more or less accurately predicts the upcoming Lexus RC convertible that we expect to appear by this time next year, with a few of its more extravagant details toned down, of course.

The details, however, are where this concept car really shines, and indeed are examples of how Lexus design is evolving quickly and in rather exciting, if polarizing, ways. Lexus’s official comment on this car is that it “shows what’s in store for our brand’s future design direction,” and while we don’t necessarily expect the RC convertible to get all of the LF-C2’s gorgeous bits and pieces, don’t be surprised to see most of them make it to Lexus’s next batch of cars.

The most brazen and interesting of the LF-C2’s design flourishes is its new interpretation of Lexus’s spindle grille; it’s as huge as ever but contains dual textures that conspire to visually break up the grille’s overbearing height—a “braided” L-shaped mesh on the lower section stretching into a vertical teeth on the upper plane. As with the RC, the LF-C2’s headlamp innards consist of a trio of LEDs, but in this case, the bulbs are pinched into sassy parallelograms. And if this car is indeed an indication of Lexus’s future designs, expect the LED arrow-shaped indicator lamps that visually pinch the grille to get bigger and bolder.

The swoopy body not only shows what an RC would look like as a convertible, but also predicts a decklid treatment with dual fairings reaching back from the rear seatbacks, and a body-color panel that cascades down between the seats—a nice bit of retro done right. We asked if there was a hard top or a soft top under the deck, and were told that in fact there is no top—so, it’s really more of a 2+2 barchetta, which also isn’t a thing, but it’s no less of a thing than a 2+2 roadster. In any case, we hope that when Lexus does see to install a folding top, it is able to keep the trunk low in profile, and is thus able to avoid the porky bustle back look of the former IS convertible.

Out back, the bumper sculpting creates a trapezoidal appearance that we’re told will make it onto future Lexuses, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a stacked exhaust finisher treatment to appear in the future as well. The LF-C2’s three-dimensional taillamps contain stacked L-shaped elements that spear into the decklid, and of all the details on this car, these are possibly the coolest. Either the taillamps or the stunning 20-inch multi-spoke wheels, it’s a tough call. If there’s a weak spot, it’s the vents in the outer bumpers that clutter up a design that might be strikingly clean without them.

Inside, the dashboard is clearly a derivative of the RC and IS, with the donor cars’ lower button-driven controls replaced by an additional lower touchscreen. Combined with an even flatter version of Lexus’ remote touch interface, the revised dashboard conspires to make this the cleanest interior we’ve seen on a recent Lexus. The light color scheme doesn’t hurt, either. We can only hope that Lexus is able to take this car’s lead and begin streamlining its dashboards in this fashion.

The LF-C2 is a runner, utilizing the same 306-hp V-6 as the RC350 we’re told, and any production version will inevitably use the same powerplant. What remains to be seen is whether Lexus drops the top on the rip-snortin’, 467-hp RC-F. We may have to wait until a future auto show to find out.