The LC500’s driving experience is one of many-layered complexity, and engaging with that complexity is a bit like fiddling with a very expensive, gem-encrusted Rubik’s Cube: initially daunting and a bit off-putting, but strangely satisfying once you’re used to the idea.

But in order to develop the kind of relationship you’ll want with what you might expect to be the car’s main attraction – the atmospheric V8 – you need to start peeling those layers away from the get-go; or else you risk getting out of the car somewhat deflated.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Handling balance is very good through the corners. The LC’s attitude can be adjusted on and off the accelerator

If you leave the car’s drive mode controller in its default Normal mode, the powertrain works well enough – so long as you’re in no particular hurry to get anywhere, or much interested in engaging with the process you’re involved with.

On part-throttle, the 10-speed transmission shifts very smoothly, although it often needs to change down several ratios in order to respond to a big change in pedal input, so it pays to be deliberate with the demands made by your right foot.

When given the opportunity for stretched legs, however, the Lexus’s sheer abundance of choice of intermediate ratios, and its tendency to hunt for the perfect one, begins to obstruct your enjoyment.

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At that point, your options are either to move from its Normal driving mode to Sport or Sport+; or, as several testers preferred, to use Custom, by which you can combine a sportier setting for the engine and gearbox with a more balanced one for the suspension.

In any of its sportier settings, the character of the LC500’s powertrain is simplified because the car effectively retires its overdrive ratios at typical UK road speeds.

That 10-speed ’box changes into a seven-speeder-by-proxy and is at once quicker with a downshift and much more likely to be closer to the ratio you want for the bend, gradient or overtaking manoeuvre you’re sizing up. In these modes, the LC500 is fast and responsive on the road, and its gearbox partly covers for the car’s considerable mass and its relative shortage of mid-range torque compared with certain rivals.

The LC is never as effortlessly drivable as the best modern gran turismos, and when long-distance touring is on the menu, you can’t fail to notice it. But for something that looks to split the difference between a GT and a sports car, it certainly has the right kind of soulful engine.

It could be quicker too. The fact that our test car missed Lexus’s 0-62mph claim by fully half a second, and ended up on the wrong side of the 5.0sec mark, costs it as much credit here as that outright shortage of drivability does. And yet the car still emerges with plenty.

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