Does anyone really need a 5.7-litre V8-powered SUV that has serious off-road capability and more angles than a Year 10 maths textbook? Apparently so. That's why the 2016 Lexus LX570 exists.
Thoroughly pimped primped for 2016, the new-look Lexus LX570 has been significantly revised, with only the doors and roof carrying over unchanged compared with the model it replaces. Say what you will about the styling, which includes the biggest iteration of the brand’s 'Spindle Grille' we’ve seen to date, this thing has a lot of presence.
That’s partly due to the sheer size of it: at 5080 millimetres long, 1865mm tall and 1980mm wide, this is a very large SUV. It’s even bigger than the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, and the LX570 could be considered the well-heeled fraternal twin of that model.
Over that car, the Lexus has – aside from more outlandish styling – a considerably higher price tag, starting at $140,500 (plus on-road costs). The flagship LC200 Sahara starts at $113,500. Further to that, the V8 petrol-powered LC200 has a smaller engine (4.7-litre versus 5.7-litre) with less power and torque than the Lexus (227kW and 439Nm versus 270kW and 530Nm, respectively).
It does have a few more luxury features, though. Well, truth be told, the standard equipment list is almost ludicrous.
It includes: keyless entry and push-button start, quad-zone climate control with ventilation for all three rows, easy entry air suspension that drops the car for better access, leather trim, heated front seats with driver’s side memory function, electric steering column adjustment, a fridge between the front seats, LED headlights with auto high beam, auto lights and wipers, electric sliding second row seats, electric folding third row seats, power tailgate, 20-inch wheels, and a 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system that is controlled via a 12.0-inch media screen with satellite navigation and traffic updates.
Safety kit is a strong point, too, with a surround-view camera (with configurable forward-view monitor for off-roading), front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, forward collision warning and auto braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and radar cruise control. Further, the LX has dual front, dual front knee, front side, rear side, and full-length curtain airbags (10 in total). Oh, and it has eight seats, all with lap-sash belts.
Yet, there's still more standard gear: read the full pricing and specifications story here.
Furthermore, Lexus still has an 'enhancement pack', as fitted to our car, which includes 21-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and heated and ventilated second-row outboard seats. This adds $16,500 to the price.
So as you see it here, it costs $157,000 (plus on-roads), which isn’t cheap. But while that may seem dear for a Toyota-based SUV, it is a damn sight cheaper than a petrol V8 Range Rover (from $253,110) and even more affordable than the Mercedes-Benz GL500 Edition S ($159,510). It is a lot pricier than the Nissan Patrol V8 (Ti-L now $86,990) and the Patrol's sibling, the Infiniti QX80 ($110,900).
To say you get a lot of car for your money with this Lexus is probably an understatement.
Having such a big petrol engine under the bonnet also makes something of a statement – there’s no diesel available here due to the Australian specification requirements.
The engine is certainly adequate at hauling this much heft (2645 kilograms), and when you plant your right foot it is actually pretty quick. Though that kind of behaviour is not advisable, as the fuel use is pretty epic. The claimed consumption for the LX570 is 14.4 litres per 100 kilometres, and we saw 19.2L/100km over our week of testing which included 400km of highway driving.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and more refined than the existing six-speeder, though the additional high gears means the ‘box has a tendency to shuffle quickly to the highest possible ratio. That’s good for saving fuel, but can be a bit annoying around town, as the car is almost constantly hunting for the correct gear as you accelerate and brake in traffic. When actually on the highway, the gearbox works commendably, with the big bus virtually idling at highway speeds in eighth.
There are multiple drive modes – Normal, Comfort, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom. Each of these modes changes the reactions of the steering, suspension, engine, transmission, with "Custom" allowing you to choose your own preferences.
We’re probably not alone in thinking it’s a laugh to have two sport modes in a vehicle like this, but the fact is they’re the best modes this car has.
Only in the sportier modes does it offer levels of suspension stability that can match its competitors. In Comfort and Normal modes it falls short, as it wallows, wobbles and fumbles over bumps. To that end there’s no hiding the fact that the LX570 rides on a rugged ladder-frame chassis.
But in those sports driving modes, the LX570 is a more convincing beast. The body control is better, with less pitching front to rear under brakes and less side-to-side sway. The ride firms up nicely, and while the wheels can fall into potholes somewhat abruptly, there’s no shuddering through the cabin as is the case in the other modes.
The Lexus maintains a rack and pinion steering system with power assistance in lieu of an electric system, and the result is actually pretty positive. It proves easy to manoeuvre the car at low speeds (important, given the size of the thing) and the reaction of the steering is consistent, if slow, at higher speeds.
With such mass to move, the braking performance is somewhat compromised. The feel of the pedal is terrible, initially feeling squishy and not actually biting until partway through the travel of the pedal. There’s a squishy sound from the pedal, too, and the body of the vehicle pitches forward when you apply heavy brakes. Also featured is an autonomous braking system, which manhandles the big SUV to a complete halt, albeit somewhat jerkily.
While hardly any buyers of such a blinged-up SUV will likely venture off-road, at the launch of the LX570 in Canberra last week there was an all-terrain component of the drive loop that showed how effortless it was for the big Lexus.
With the "Crawl Control" function borrowed from the Toyota LandCruiser, as well as a proper low-range gear set and the 'Active Height Control' air suspension, the Lexus is more than adept at scrambling down steep rocky slopes or scrabbling up slippery hillsides with ease.
The multi-view camera system allows you to see over crests at speeds below 20km/h, and there’s a brilliant 'Turn Assist' system that can be activated in low-range. It works kind of like a skid-steer, in that it locks the inside wheels and powers outside wheels to assist with tight turning moves.
That feature makes the Lexus feel a lot smaller than it is, which is important when you’re off-roading down tight tracks. And the level of comfort at which the Lexus rides over rough terrain means it’s kind of like driving a loungeroom to your favourite camping spot.
Speaking of accommodation, the inside of the updated LX570 has seen a major revamp, including the addition of that new 12.3-inch central media screen which is sharp and clear. It is controlled by Lexus’s frustrating toggle system, which is hard to use when you’re parked, let alone at speed.
Along with that controller there is a raft of buttons to the side of the centre console, and to be honest, you need to dedicate a little part of your brain to try and remember where everything is. Ah well, there goes my memory of calculus.
Being such a huge vehicle there’s no shortage of space inside, with brilliant levels of room in the second row, though toe room can be hampered depending upon the front seat position.
The second-row can be slid fore and aft electronically, though folding the seats up to allow third-row access is achieved through manual labour – and it’s a fairly hefty seat shift, particularly on the 60 side of the 60:40 split. Part of that could be due to the fold-down armrest with media controls for the 11.6-inch twin screens, and there are also heating and ventilation controls for the rear seats (part of that Enhancement Pack).
Climbing into the back row is a job for the agile only, though third-row space is decent for headroom and shoulder room for two, but three would be a challenge.
All occupants will be kept cool and comfortable, though, with air conditioning vents everywhere you need them, and cup/bottle holders being plentiful, too.
So, does this V8 SUV with off-road cred and sharp styling have a spot in the market? Definitely – but even Lexus admits the demand will only be about 20 units per month. The 2016 Lexus LX570 isn’t for everyone – if you’re after a high-powered performance SUV, look elsewhere – but there’s certainly a lot of value to be had and plenty of practicality, too.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Lexus LX570 images by Mitchell Oke.