You don’t even need a road to enjoy the latest updates to Lexus’s rolling palace.
This article was originally published in Wheels magazine on Dec 21, 2015.
WHAT IS IT?
The most expensive Lexus in the line-up that’s also the most opulent, feature-loaded SUV from Japan.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
The Lexus LX570 has been given a raft of changes, with significant styling updates that include the Lexus spindle grille, as well as a new eight-speed auto that should improve economy, smoothness and drivability.
Infiniti QX80, BMW X5 xDrive50i, Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, Mercedes-Benz GLE500.
The LX570 is a spacious, sumptuous, well-made off-road machine that’s as at home in an arid dustbowl as it is in the CBD. Yet it’s let down by its high price, lack of driveline choices, thirst and minimal dynamic ability that shows its utilitarian underpinnings and rugged origins.
PLUS: Eight-seat space, build quality, off-road ability, smooth transmission
MINUS: Expensive, still excessively heavy and thirsty, no hybrid or diesel option
SOME people have to have the best. The Top Dog. A larger house, longest yacht, and regardless of whether it’s actually better. Hence the existence of the V12-engined AMG models that are usually no better than their eight-cylinder stablemates but are there for the customers with the loot who want to out-do those around them. That’s part of the reason why the Lexus LX570 exists.
It’s arguably a relic of industrial scale: a 5.0-metre long, 2.5-tonne eight-seater truck powered by a thumping great V8 that has an official fuel use claim of 14.4L/100km. Oh, and like a despot’s personal steed, it’s swathed in leather, woodgrain and more features than a late-night television fitness apparatus.
Unashamedly a V8 Toyota Landcruiser underneath, the LX570 gains a fresh look for 2016, with the Lexus spindle grille and jagged, tangram styling festooned with LED daytime running lights to look more like the next-of-kin against its younger showroom siblings. Only the doors and roof are unchanged.
The biggest improvements have been saved for when you’re seated in the captain’s chair of the Lexus liner. The revised interior remains as welcoming as before, with acres of space in any of the three leather-lined rows, and loads of room and seat support for the burliest and/or tallest of drivers. There’ll be no problem viewing the 12.3-inch centre display, and a new electronic park brake in place of the Landcrusier’s traditional bar cleans up the revised centre console. There’s a head-up display before you, while standard safety gear at your fingertips now includes pedestrian pre-crash safety, an alert to stop you from backing into an oncoming iceberg, and adaptive cruise control. The smart cruise also incorporates low-speed automated braking, and can bring the 2.5-tonne Lexus to a complete stop from any speed.
The 5.7-litre V8 has been under the bonnet of the LX570 since 2008, and remains at 270kW/530Nm, but the eight-speed transmission brings tangible benefits. It’s the same cog-swapper that’s used in the Lexus GS sedan range, and on paper it reduces the LX’s fuel economy by three percent, even if it’s still an alcoholic 14.4L/100km. The six-speed auto that it replaces was by no means a bad unit – in fact, it was one of the previous model’s strong points – but the new auto is another step up in terms of smoothness and refinement.
There are not only more gears, but a broader spread of ratios, with top much taller than before. You won’t even notice the silken shifts, on or off-road, in the refined and comfortable cabin, and the V8 is also even quieter thanks to operating at lower revs. There’s also a 0.1sec faster 0-100km/h claim, now a handy 7.7sec.
The LX has multiple drive modes that adjust the standard adaptive suspension, as well as the throttle – which remains long, meaning a load of right foot is necessary to get the LX to respond, a legacy of its off-road genesis. (The idea is that a sudden throttle stab doesn’t have you lurching over rocks and into things off-road, where a delicate touch is required).
On road, the adaptive suspension’s comfort setting is perhaps too soft on the standard 20-inch alloys, with a fidgety ride and excessive body roll. The sport mode is much more liveable, as it irons out bumps quickly and confidently, and has the LX responding in a more predictable manner. It’s far less benign than comfort mode, but regardless there’s no forgetting the Lexus’s size and weight whether you’re around town or on the open road. It’s far from sloth-like, but the ladder-chassis underpinnings can’t match the dynamic finesse of similarly price Euro opposition.
For some buyers, the off-road skill of one of the world’s most accomplished machines will be a serious plus, and this update sees the slow-speed crawling drive mode that operates between 2.8 and 5.5km/h recalibrated, with less time between pulses. The result is better rock-hopping and crevice-climbing control.
Yet even Lexus knows that most buyers – around 90 percent – will never risk that paint finish, those ritzy wheels or entertain the possibility of muddying up the LX570’s sumptuous interior, and will use it as rolling point of pride that can carry numerous animals, children and paraphernalia in comfort. In that sense, the LX570 is far better than before, with its improved economy, upgraded road manners and minor fettling proving its changes have been well considered. The major downside – despite the increased spec – is that it costs even more.
Model: 2016 Lexus LX570
Engine: 5663cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v
Max power: 270kW @ 5600rpm
Max torque: 530Nm @ 3200rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 7.7sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 14.4L/100km
On sale: Now