Top-line Lexus luxury behemoth given a fresh – if controversial – face

Road Test

Essentially a blinged-up Toyota LandCruiser since its inception, the Lexus LX 570’s recent update has given it a larger design point of difference than ever. It’s almost $6000 more expensive than its predecessor (from $140,500 plus on-road costs) and carries-over the 5.7-litre petrol V8, though mated to an eight-speed automatic offering two more gears and around 0.5L/100km better economy. There’s a lot of tech and a lot of kit, but it is hard to justify its increased expense over the LandCruiser Sahara.

Since the new IS medium sedan came on-stream back in 2013, Lexus’s spindle grille design has divided opinion. Some have applauded its brave individuality, particularly on the sportier models; others have seen it as a turn-off.

Now featuring on the updated LX 570 flagship, the spindle grille is brasher and bolder than ever. It certainly creates presence…

Beneath the fresh face is of course the ladder frame chassis seen in the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. This gives the Lexus a rugged ability underneath its tech-heavy, high-spec bent… but how do the two meld on the street?

It’s a curious dichotomy. The driving experience can at times feel agricultural, but with the rear DVD screens in operation to keep second-row occupants at bay as well as supple, expansive and commandingly-positioned leather seats there’s a wafting sense of luxury inside.

Add-in the massive 12.3-inch central screen controlling a seriously strong climate control system and high-level Mark Levinson audio, and it’s almost too good to be true… at least until you try to change infotainment menus with that overly-sensitive remote touch control system, the frustrations of which have been well documented in Lexus reviews of the past. In short, it’s no better here.

There is some important safety tech, however, with items such as adaptive high-beam, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, head-up display, rear cross-traffic alert and tyre pressure monitoring featuring on the standard equipment list.

Where the eight-seat LX 570 scores well is in its driveline refinement. The large-capacity V8 and new (to LX) eight-speed automatic (with a shorter first, yet longer top gear than the old unit) combination provides a sense of serenity, though there’s a gentle V8 throb available at larger throttle openings.

At highway speeds the 5.7-litre, 270kW/530Nm donk sits just over 1000rpm with barely an impulse into the cabin. Just don’t expect to match 14.4L/100km (we experienced an average in the high 17s).

Left to its own devices the eight-speeder likes to work near-seamlessly through the gears for maximum economy, though a heavier throttle input has the software searching for a second before slipping the right kick-down ratio. Shift paddles, though nice to the touch, may be seen as irrelevant in this near-2700kg beast, but they do add a layer of control for engine braking, and also prove handy in off-road situations or when towing up to the 3500kg braked limit.

Sticking with the blacktop (for the time being; and honestly, this is where the LX 570 will spend the vast majority of its time with owners) the combination of size and the adjustable-height air suspension makes for eye-catching dynamics… and not always for the right reasons.

In Eco or Normal modes, there is evident pitch and roll even at moderate cornering speeds, though curiously the steering weight and accuracy is reasonable. The movements do make the LX 570 feel even bigger than it is, with nothing like the composure of a Range Rover. Run it without cornering, or harsh braking/acceleration loads however, and the LX 570’s ride is serene.

In addition the brake pedal does little to inspire confidence, with a dead initial feel leading to a sticky pedal that makes small modulations difficult. The progression from not a lot to way too much retardation is hard to judge, and can provide a heart in mouth moment. It’s a lesson in using your own anticipation and vision to compensate.

Moving to Sport S+ on the newly-adopted Drive Select system (via a simple – for Lexus – console-mounted rotary dial) tightens responses to steering (variable-ratio and powered, though not via an electric system) and suspension reaction and offers keener throttle response too. We’d suggest fiddling with the custom drive mode to firm suspension and steering on-road, but keep the normal engine and transmission mapping to maximise efficiency.

Also available on the centre console is another rotary dial, this time to engage the off-road programs that take maximum advantage of the full-time, dual-range four-wheel drive system with its variable Torsen centre differential.

A new crawl control program enables the vehicle to take care of the speed control while the driver only need steer and the anti-lock braking system has been tuned to alter its engagement depending on the available grip on a given surface.

The adoption of four external cameras, including a new wide-view for front and side angles, helps the driver ascertain if the massive LX 570 will actually manoeuvre around a given obstacle. This is particularly vital for a vehicle of this size (and – let’s face it – expense) as there’s a few fire tracks I know of that would simply scrape the sides off this vehicle.

Driving the LX 570 on gravel, its suspension seems to relax into the gravel corrugations at speed while offering enough travel across slower sections to retain near-complete traction. A brief foray onto loose sand also revealed why this machine – and the LandCruiser on which is it based – will work well in Dubai. Maintaining speed is a cinch and the steering proves accurate.

Beyond these abilities, the LX 570 does have a road presence, whether you like or loathe the looks. It’s also a unique driving experience with that blend of opulent luxury, smooth driveline, spongey on-road dynamics and true ruggedness.

It may be more expensive and less efficient than a top-flight LandCruiser diesel, but it’s less than an entry-spec Range Rover, and arguably as capable off-road.

They won’t sell many, but those that buy it will no doubt love it’s all-round abilities