Big things are happing at Lexus, the Japanese premium marque is on track for a record-setting year. 2018 is the first time in the brand’s local history it has broken through the 3000-mark in total sales before the end of April.
Lexus puts its recent success down to an elevated perception of the brand that has come on the back of new models such as the brilliant LC500 coupe and the flagship LS sedan.
It’s a fair statement to hang your hat on, the arrival of the LC500 gave Lexus a much-needed halo car, something to appeal to car lovers and lovers of beautiful things in general. With the arrival of so much fresh metal, Lexus has reached a new level of desirability across the automotive landscape.
Performance fans have also taken notice with the addition of some Japanese muscle in the form of the V8 powered RC F and GS F, but it’s SUVs that are now the brand’s bread and butter.
Lexus tells us that as of the end of April, sales of their SUVs - the NX, RX and LX - have risen 18.8 per cent to 2,095 vehicles. Sales look set to continue growing with the new UX small SUV due to arrive locally in early 2019, Lexus will then be competing in all the booming SUV segments.
Which brings us to the 2018 Lexus LX570, the brand’s flagship SUV, a luxury off-roader that’s somewhat underappreciated. It sits in an interesting space between the Toyota LandCruiser 200, on which it is based, and the full-size Range Rover.
Not long after collecting the LX570 we were asked why would you buy this over the Toyota? It’s a perfectly legitimate question to ponder, the LX570 is priced at $143,160 plus on-roads which is nearly $22k more than the range-topping LandCruiser Sahara.
Just on the price, value is strong for a large premium SUV, the LX570 is fully-loaded, especially when it comes to safety. In a rarity for the premium segment, Lexus doesn’t charge extra for safety equipment.
Mechanically, the biggest difference between the LX and the LandCruiser is the drivetrain. The Lexus packs a whopping 5.7-litre naturally-aspirated V8 that produces 270kW and 530Nm. It’s a wonderfully creamy engine that is a beacon of refinement. It doesn’t offer the same feel or grunt low in the rev range as a big diesel engine, but the unique sound it makes and its responsiveness when the pedal is pressed won't disappoint.
The LX570 gets a more sophisticated automatic transmission with eight-gears that offers seamless shifting. The extra two ratios also help to get the Lexus off the line promptly.
Regardless of the driving situation or conditions, the refinement is sublime. It’s quiet and comfortable on a long highway run, while at city speeds it’s virtually silent. There is a Drive Mode selector to customise the car to the circumstance, however, just leave it in Comfort, it’s easily the best of the presets for the vast majority of driving applications.
When in Comfort mode, it’s a cosseting ride, even on poor country roads. The suspension is plush despite riding on 21-inch alloy wheels.
Around town, the LX570’s size can’t be disguised, it casts an enormous shadow that makes even the simple task of parking a challenge. The lightly weighted steering is a good thing for city drivers, but tighter turns and trying to make a quick lane change in traffic isn't always simple.
While it’s almost a crime to get the LX570 dirty, it is a proper off-road SUV that’s loaded with technology to take you as far as any vehicle can go. Multi-terrain Select can adjust a variety of the car’s systems to negotiate the array of surfaces that one might encounter in the bush.
Crawl Control is a great bit of tech that assists with difficult off-road conditions. At low speeds, the system controls the throttle and the braking operation freeing up the driver to focus on steering.
There’s also 4-Wheel Active Height Control (AHC) that can cleverly adjust the clearance of each wheel, a locking centre differential and a Multi-Terrain monitor that lets the driver know of potential hazards. Of course, the LX570 also has low-range gearing.
One of the benefits of all this electronic mastery is the confidence it offers to inexperienced off-road drivers. While learning the subtleties of dealing with tricky conditions, the electronic wicketkeeper gives a greater sense of freedom when attempting new things.
Now a large SUV with a large engine is never going to deliver much in the way of fuel economy. We covered nearly 500 kilometres of mixed driving and returned a figure of 14.1L/100km. If your driving is predominantly done in town, expect a figure north of 16L/100km. A more frugal option is now available, Lexus has recently added a diesel variant, the LX450d.
When any buyer spends this sort of coin and wants a premium experience, generally design is important. The Lexus looks considerably sharper than the Toyota. The grille and LED headlamps have a far more decisive look. Speaking of the headlamps, they are some of the best we have sampled.
The interior is where Lexus well and truly leaves the Sahara for dead. It’s an epic interior in terms of layout, space and finishes. The levels of quality in the fit and finish of absolutely every detail is stunning.
Every surface is decorated with premium materials that provide a great look and feel to deliver a truly luxurious experience. Lexus has put on a tactile exhibition that few would even attempt to match. Every control offers that crisp, positive feel buyers at this price point should expect.
Importantly, the LX doesn’t have the same command centre layout found in the Toyota, it’s a bespoke dash that leaves a quality impression.
There are a few foibles such as the combination of wood and leather on the steering wheel, the wood section isn’t as nice to touch, meaning an all leather option would be preferable.
Lexus continues to stick with an overly fiddly joystick operated infotainment system that just isn't intuitive enough for a premium car in 2018. The large high-definition screen displays lovely vibrant colours, but it can’t compensate for the awkward operation processes.
The stowing of the third-row seats looks a bit outdated, each seat just hangs there like meat in a butcher’s freezer, it detracts from the luxury vibe when the tailgate is opened.
Unfortunately, Lexus still hasn’t adopted a capped-price service program which in this case is compounded by ridiculously short service intervals set at 6 month/10,000km. Lexus does stump up a four-year warranty when most competitors remain anchored at three.
Fastidious buyers chasing a premium off-road SUV will have no problems justifying the step up from the Sahara. The cabin experience is remarkably supple and provides an atmosphere well above that of its cousin.
The drivetrain is thirsty, but it’s a beauty and in the context of the car’s size and capability all the numbers are reasonable. There’s also very little competition, the Mercedes GLS V8 has a similar list price, but requires additional cash to match the specification of the LX. A Range Rover packing a V8 requires an extra $86,440 – to say it’s a big jump is an understatement.
The LX570 is another Lexus model that’s unique, the brand is making a habit out of offering models that can’t really be cross-shopped in any meaningful way.
As a package, the LX570 has plenty of showroom bait, it offers performance, comfort and capability in a premium package. It’s an SUV that’s likely to take you anywhere, but it’s the Lexus build quality that will bring you back.
2018 Lexus LX570 Specifications
Price from $143,160 plus on-road costs Engine 5.7-litre naturally-aspirated V8 petrol Power 270kW @ 5,600rpm Torque 530Nm @ 3,200rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 14.4L/100km Tank Capacity 93L main tank + 45L auxiliary tank Length 5,080mm Width 1,980mm Height 1,865mm Wheelbase 2,850mm Kerb Weight 2,740kg Ground Clearance 235mm Turning Circle 11.8m Wading Depth 700mm Service Intervals 6-months/10,000km Warranty four year/100,000 kilometre
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