If there's one thing the first half of 2020 taught us, it's to expect the unexpected. Deadly viruses, bushfires, riots in the streets, mandated social isolation – you've got to be prepared for anything.
And anyone familiar with apocalypse movies will know the hero (or heroine) always needs a giant, all-black, 4x4 truck to drive around amid the chaos.
Enter, the 2020 Lexus LX570.
Because while buying an eight-seater car with inbuilt fridge, back-seat media screens, off-road capabilities and a massive fuel tank may seem excessive, you never know when it may come in handy.
Price and competitors
The LX570 sits as the middle step of three grades in the LX range, sitting between the diesel LX450d and higher-spec LX570 S. The regular 570 is $146,636 before on-road costs, while the LX570 S is $168,767, or opt for the 450d and you'll lose three seats but pay $137,636.
I’m not sure how much more equipment you could squeeze into the S to justify the $25,300 price jump, given the entry spec is as kitted out as they come.
The specific LX570 I drove was equipped with an $18,800 Enhancement Pack that added steering wheel heating front and middle row (outboard) seat and heating and cooling, softer semi-Aniline leather trim and 21-inch wheels (up from 20-inch), bringing the total price as tested to $165,436 plus on-road costs.
In terms of competitors, this big boy is almost in a league of its own given it's one of very few proper eight-seater 4WD SUVs in Australia.
Similar options include the Infiniti QX80, which starts at $110,900 plus on-road-costs, but is bailing out of Australia (along with the entire Infiniti brand) in late 2020. Alternatively, you could leave your luxury badge at the door and saddle up in a Toyota LandCruiser Sahara, upon which the LX is based, from $124,396 but seats seven, not eight.
Otherwise, the starting point for 'full-size' seven-seater luxury options opens the door to a BMW X7 (from $133,900 plus ORCs), Mercedes-Benz GLS (from $146,135 plus ORCs) or Audi Q7 (from $101,900 plus ORCs). Price-wise, the LX570 I drove outstrips all of them (bar the GLS).
But do these Euro alternatives have armrest fridges in the inside and a V8 under the bonnet? I think not – certainly not without spending much, much more.
|Engine configuration||Eight-cylinder petrol|
|Power to weight ratio||102kW/tonne|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||14.4L/100km|
|Fuel tank size (main/sub)||93L/45L|
|Options as tested||$18,800|
I won't dwell too long on the fact this car has a face only a mother could love. If you hate it, you already agree with me, and if you love it, you don't care. I do think the exterior has the kind of 'Texas oil money' extravagance I tend to appreciate. It reminds me of something a Matthew McConaughey movie character might drive. And I reckon it looks pretty spiffy in Classic Black, which thankfully is the only paint option that doesn't cost extra.
I love the more utilitarian touches like the mudflaps and the wipe-me-down leather upholstery. The trademark analogue Lexus clock looks a little out of place sitting above the spaceship-like infotainment set-up, while the wood and leather dashboard elevates the interior styling.
In case you needed the cabin to feel more spacious, the giant moon roof provides you with that head-in-the-clouds feeling. One menial gripe: the combo of leather and glossy black plastic on the wheel looks great, but made it slightly less easy to manoeuvre – my hands either got stuck or lost grip moving between one texture to another.
Space and practicality
Getting into the LX570 is like slipping on your ugg boots – it requires very little effort. A solid step gives you a leg up and oversized grab handles inside the doors allow you to swing yourself into the seat, Tarzan-style. While I was quick to criticise the car's doors for feeling cheap and tinny, I ended up loving them because they were so light and easy to swing open.
While you'll happily get eight people in this thing, leg room in the rear row is tight, plus the seats feel a little less substantial than their middle-row counterparts. Head room, however, is ample throughout. Middle-row residents score sun blinds on the windows and, of course, those two media screens, which third-row occupants can see if they strain their neck. Fair to note too that both screens will play the same input, so unless there is a clear amount of unity for the film chosen for this flight, your passengers will probably stay buried in their iPads.
The enhancement pack on my car added seat heating and cooling to the middle row, while all occupants get air vents and cupholders. The rear row can be stowed or released with the push of a button, but I could have used some power support on the middle row, which was heavier and hard to move by myself (I have the upper-body strength of a weak 11-year-old boy).
The split power boot reminds me of the saloon doors you see in Wild West movies and, space-wise, it's definitely more usable with the third row stowed and 710L of available space. With the third row in action, you'd have to line your groceries up in a neat row to get them to fit the 259L of storage that remains.
|Boot volume (min/max)||259L/1267L|
|Towing capacity (braked/unbraked)||3500kg/750kg|
|Wheels/tyres||20-inch / 285/50 R20|
Safety and technology
On the topic of safety and technology, it's honestly probably easier to list what the Lexus LX570 doesn't have. That list is far shorter and includes a speed limiter, live speed-limit information, active lane-departure assist (it just vibrates the steering wheel if you leave the lane, but doesn't steer you back in), a self-park function (because parallel parking such a hefty car is challenging), idle-stop, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Lexus luxury feel is destroyed somewhat by the car's blue-hued infotainment display, which feels downmarket in the context of the rest of the car, although the 12.3-inch-wide screen has a premium edge.
Annoyingly, however, it's not a touchscreen, and is instead controlled by an incredibly fiddly and imprecise control to the left of the gearstick. It feels far away from the driver, is difficult to use, and studies have found it's directly linked to the rise in swear words you utter in front of your children.
Other gripes: the keyless entry can be temperamental, and the entire infotainment system could do with updating given the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the market.
Highlights, meanwhile, include the drinks cooler between the front seats, the comprehensive colour head-up display, the bird's-eye view camera and the middle-row media screens. The latter can be connected to Bluetooth, game consoles, DVDs and more, can be independently controlled via remote by back-seat patrons, and come with three Lexus-branded headphone sets.
There's a full list of safety systems, too, with rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive high beam, all-speed adaptive cruise control, pre-collision safety system (Lexus's term for AEB) that includes pedestrian detection, tyre pressure monitoring, and the protection of 10 airbags within the interior.
Under the bonnet
A luxury monster truck deserves an engine to match. Thus, the LX570 is powered by a 5.7-litre V8 petrol engine capable of up to 270kW and 530Nm, and drives all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It certainly won't leave you wanting for power, torque peaks at 3200rpm, and it's capable of making a racket, although not the satisfying kind you get from a high-performance sports car – more like the dull drone delivered by those trucks you see in supermarket loading bays.
The constant 4WD system is up for any challenge, and for those wanting to take this picnic truck off-road to reach their personal vineyard, there's advanced traction, braking, stability and suspension systems in play to keep you firmly planted on rougher terrain. Plus, there's a low-range transfer case for when the going gets really tough.
Behind the wheel
I must admit, commandeering an imposing 4WD SUV gave me the oddly comforting sensation of feeling untouchable – I was so high off the ground, I felt like I was driving a tank (the LX570 is 1.86m tall, to be precise).
The illusion of safety was somewhat destroyed when I realised how light the brakes on this thing were. At one point I was stopped (or so I thought) at a red light before realising the car was still moving. Keeping that sucker still took some serious calf strength –you need to apply quite a lot of pedal pressure to prevent it from creeping forward while stopped.
Additionally, the 11.8m turning circle certainly felt even bigger than it sounds. For context, a Hyundai Santa Fe has a 11.42m turning circle, so the LX570's isn't inconsiderably huge, but the heavy steering added to the overall cumbersome feel of the car, especially in small city streets.
The Lexus also has a whopping kerb weight of 2740kg, which is essentially like driving around a RAV4 with a Toyota Corolla strapped to the roof racks. You don't need to be a physics whiz to know that's a hell of a lot of car to speed up, stop, steer and manoeuvre. That's great for towing and touring, sure, but while the steering does a reasonably good job of hauling it into line, around town this car feels heavy – because it is.
With big wheels and serious height and height-adjustable suspension on its side, you're unlikely to feel much in the way of lumps and bumps in the LX570. Getting back in my own car after rolling around town in the Lexus was a rude awakening – turns out Melbourne's roads hadn't magically become silky smooth after all.
But it wasn't until I took the LX570 off-road (well, by my standards) that it really made sense. I presume, like me, most owners won't take full advantage of everything this car has to offer, but when tackling dirt roads and uneven terrain, it certainly feels as though it can handle anything, effortlessly maintaining its grip on shifty gravel roads and steeper inclines.
The customisable suspension is also an awesome addition for both off-roading and driver comfort. While you can go to extra-high mode when the car gets stuck, you're more likely to use 'easy access mode' that lowers the car automatically when you turn the engine off for, you guessed it, easy entry and exit.
The flip-side is that the adaptive suspension can feel pillowy, prioritising comfort over sportiness, stiffness and agility. As a result, the car doesn't eliminate body roll and can feel top heavy and floaty when cornering. Let's just say I wasn't tempted to balance any champagne flutes on the bonnet like in those ’90s Lexus ads.
You can probably tell just by looking at it, but the LX570 is a thirsty beast. Lexus suggests it drink 95RON, and while claimed consumption is 14.4L/100km, my personal best was 18.9L/100km. Perhaps this could be helped by an idle-stop system, although I'd imagine that might make for strange bedfellows with the V8.
Thankfully, the LX570 has a 93L main tank and a 45L sub tank, so you'll barely notice a dint in the fuel gauge after a week of driving.
The Lexus LX570 comes with Lexus' standard warranty of four years or 100,000km. In January 2020, Lexus introduced three years of capped-price servicing to vehicles eligible for its Lexus Encore owner benefits program, including the LX.
All new LX models come standard with the top-tier Encore Platinum program and require bi-annual or 10,000km standard logbook services due to their four-wheel-drive components, with the first six services priced at $495 each (Lexus will collect and return your car and wash and vacuum it as part of the deal).
Under the new Encore Platinum program, LX owners will also get a bunch of swanky benefits, including valet parking at certain shopping centres, the ability to swap into other Lexus models at select airports and access to exclusive dinners and events.
They'll also nab a five-cents-per-litre fuel discount off Caltex premium unleaded or diesel, and DriveCare roadside assistance that Lexus claims "goes above and beyond regular roadside assistance".
How? It provides fuel, battery, tyre or wheel replacement, complimentary breakdown towing, a courier service for urgent small parcels or documents, a one-way metropolitan taxi fare up to $150 (including GST) and clothing and personal effects cover up to $250 (including GST).
LX owners will also receive off-road patrols if required. All in all, it's a suitably extensive buffet of benefits for such an ostentatious car – but an extra year on that warranty would be the icing on the cake.
The Lexus LX570 is like the car version of a McMansion – kitted out with all the bells and whistles one will require, but lacking the refinement of its European rivals. It's hard to compare the LX570 to the rest of the market given its size, looks, capabilities and price place it in a league of its own – a space it occupies comfortably and confidently.
I can really see potential owners falling in love with this car. People with kids will love the versatility, space and fun entertainment touches, while those lured by its distinctive looks will find it certainly turns heads. Those with country properties or off-road requirements will find their needs well served.
I'd warn prospective buyers about the high fuel consumption, unnerving top-heavy feel (you'll get used to it), fussy infotainment controller, lack of CarPlay and Android Auto, and weak brakes. I'd also suggest the jump to the S is unnecessary given the sheer amount of standard equipment in the base model. You could probably skip the enhancement pack, too, unless your kids are particularly keen on seat heaters.
All in all, it's a unique proposition, but a refreshingly individual offering for families with cash to splash who won't mind occasionally being told by social media trolls that their car looks like an overweight Storm Trooper.