2012 Lexus LX570 Review: King Of The Louis Vuitton Hill

Aging, but still one of the toughest trucks money can buy

by Imthishan Giado

“Isn’t that just a Land Cruiser in a fancy suit?” The charge has been leveled at the LX570, the top dog of the Lexus range practically since its inception. Now it’s time to find out, once and for all, if that charge is true.

What defines luxury? For some, it’s experiencing the finest materials possible, put together by the most skilled craftsmen. For others, it’s about having the most advanced technology possible. Only rarely do the two unite in a harmonious fashion – the original iPhone comes to mind – and in most cases, one comes at the expense of the other.

With the LX570, Lexus is taking the kitchen sink approach. Yes, this is obviously a Land Cruiser, but the company has gone to extreme lengths to disguise that fact, covering every interior surface with their usual buttery soft leather, and equipping it with every trick in its considerably large book.
What’s new for 2012? Obviously, the biggest change is that signature ‘spindle grille’ up front, which brings Lexus’s new corporate persona to its biggest SUV. Does it fit? Unusually, Lexus hasn’t gone as big on this version of the grille as it has on its new GS or the upcoming ES, so the weird cyborg face is hardly indistinguishable from the old one. Xenons are now available for both high and low beams, while the taillamps are now comprised of multi-element LEDs.

Inside, there are some minor changes to the dash, the addition of paddles to the steering column and updated software for the main dash display. That last part is important; the old system was getting long in the tooth and starting to fall behind its luxury rivals like iDrive and MMI. Just to take a basic feature – on our long term LS600h (which hasn’t been refreshed this year) you can only use the Bluetooth for telephone calls, not streaming audio. Want to plug in an iPod or another MP3 player? You’ll have to find yourself a USB cable or an el-cheapo AUX jack. Not a problem in the LX, which sports a slightly modified version of the GS software and dutifully played whatever track I threw at it, although it has to be said that this Mark Levinson Reference audio system isn’t the best high end one around. Thin in the midrange and lacking bass definition, it’s adequate and workmanlike, rather than exceptional.

In fact, there’s a lack of ‘exceptional’ throughout the LX’s cabin and quite a lot of Japanese quirks that hobble its quest for true luxury status. Yes, everything is beautifully put together, but there’s a positively alarming number of buttons scattered shotgun-style over the dash and steering wheel, all of which replicate controls on the touchscreen. Then there’s the centre console, which features a bewildering array of toggles, switches and buttons to control the myriad offroad functions. Intimidating for a novice, even experienced drivers might struggle to apply the right setting for the right situation.

The drive experience is still big SUV-coddling, rather than crossover-nimble. This is a big truck with a massive footprint and it dislikes being manhandled through the curves, especially in the softest ‘Comfort’ setting, and Normal hardly differs. This is one of very few cars I’ve driven where the best solution is to leave it in Sport – the air suspension firms up just enough to cut out the worst of the bodyroll, and the slightly stiffer is hardly noticeable on these 275-cross section tyres.

The 5.7-litre V8 engine remains a powerful means of motivation for the big LX, although it never feels quite as powerful as 362bhp would suggest. Blame it on the 2721 kg weight. Off the line, the LX570 takes while to build speed and feels no quicker than your average hot hatch, although I’d be curious to see how it performs with the new 4.6-litre unit that’s just debuted in the 2012 Land Cruiser. No complaints from the six-speed auto, which slurs through the gears effortlessly.

Drop your pressures too low and this is what happens. Not easy to fix in the summer heat.

Off road, how does the LX570 fare? Since it’s a Land Cruiser underneath, this is a foregone conclusion right? Not so fast, sunshine. On a short trip to the Hatta dunes, the LX570 proved that it had plenty of power for anything involving a climb straight up or down. For going over dunes, you can lift the suspension an additional two inches with the flick of a toggle which is helpful; and then the car immediately drops the suspension back down when you go over 40kph, which is not.

Air compressors are essential kit when offroading.

In fact, ‘not helpful’ became the refrain of the day, the chief culprit being that air suspension. With regular coil springs you can develop a seat-of-your-pants sense of how much traction the car has in soft sand. Air springs and their constant corrective efforts rob you of that crucial input…and disconnection is the last sensation you want to feel when teetering on top of a four storey dune.

Big wheels don’t help either. Keep in mind, these are still relatively small at 18-inches – you can go all the way up to 20s in the top-spec car – but combined with low tyre pressure, it was enough to pop the rubber off the rim while attempting a particularly tricky side slope. Thirty sweaty minutes in 40 degree heat later, the LX570 was back in its feet and performed well for the rest of the day, although understandably, I took it easier to avoid any further expensive lessons.

No such luck, as it turns out. Next morning, the LX’s tyre was completely flat.

One trip to the nearest petrol station and I discovered that the tyre stem has been damaged by the dislocation. Only Dh40 to replace, but it’s just something that wouldn’t happen on a smaller 17-inch rim. Otherwise, if you do plan to take your LX570 offroad, it’s best to let the pressures drop no lower than 15psi.

Verdict

Back to the opening question; is this simply a posh Land Cruiser? Sadly for the most part, yes. A peerless long distance cruiser and supremely comfortable, but then, so is the regular car on which it’s based. Offroad, it’s capable for those who understand when to correctly apply its considerable hardware, but there’s a steep unforgiving learning curve for everyone else.

All of these flaws, minor as they may seem, come into sharp focus when you consider that this Lexus has a starting price of AED340,000. That’s the exact same starting price you’d pay for a Range Rover HSE which excels at every situation you can imagine, on road and off. It may not be as flawlessly built or have quite the same resale value, but for now, it’s still the daddy.

Lexus LX570
Price: AED340,000 ($92,565)
Engine: 5700c eight-cylinder, 362bhp @ 5600rpm, 390lb ft
Performance: 0-100kph 7.4 seconds, 223kph (limited), 16.8L/100km
Transmission: six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Weight: 2721kg

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