Car reviews - Lexus - LX
Ultra-smooth turbo petrol, peerless offroad capability, excellent refinement
Room for improvement
No five-seat base model, no seven-seat high-grade models, tight supply
After 14 years, a new LX is here, building on the strengths of Toyota’s LC300
21 Apr 2022
By TONY O'KANE
After 14 long years, there’s now an all-new Lexus LX. That’s a long time between drinks – more than double the lifespan of your typical SUV – but body-on-frame 4WDs do tend to run a tad longer than their unibody brethren after all.
However, with attitudes towards SUVs and buyer tastes having dramatically evolved over the past decade and a half, the previous LX was definitely looking more than a little long in the tooth by the time it shuffled into retirement.
Hence the wholesale changes brought in with the new-generation LX. It’s not just different in the mechanical sense, courtesy of brand-new underpinnings borrowed from the 300-series Toyota LandCruiser, but it differs markedly in the product offering as well with the greatly expanded range structure and diversity of choice that’s now being presented to the customer.
Previously the main choice was whether you wanted a petrol V8 or a turbo diesel V8 (and even then, the latter was only available since the 2018 model year), but now Lexus customers can select from a total of nine different specification levels.
Diesel (LX500d) and petrol (LX600) options are still there, with the former being shared with the LandCruiser but the latter being all-new to the platform, however both are downsized to six cylinders apiece and augmented by twin turbo technology.
The 10-speed automatic and offroad hardware are the same as that used by the LandCruiser, though the LX rides on 20-inch alloys at a minimum (the majority of the range rolls on 22-inch wheels) and it features its own unique suspension tune that is designed to preference on-road driving rather than bush-bashing.
Four specification grades are offered – base, F Sport, Sports Luxury and Ultra Luxury – with the base LX500d ($148,800) and LX600 ($152,300) models also available with a $5500 optional enhancement pack that adds 22-inch alloys, a glass moonroof and hands-free tailgate.
As for seating, the number of seats is inversely proportional to price, with the base grade only available in a seven-seat config, the mid-spec F Sport and Sports Luxury being strictly five-seaters, and the flagship Ultra Luxury offering just four individual – but highly luxurious – seating positions.
That last one, the Ultra Luxury, is a curious thing. Lexus has never played in that upper-echelon SUV space before, and four-seat high-luxury SUVs have traditionally been the preserve of brands like Bentley, Range Rover, Rolls Royce and Maybach. Intended to be owned by very-high net worth individuals and driven by chauffeurs, not owners, the LX600 Ultra Luxury (it’s not available as a diesel) is the most affordable SUV of its type despite its $210,800 asking price.
Astonishingly, it’s also accounted for around ten per cent of LX uptake so far, indicating Lexus Australia’s product planners either have their finger on the pulse of consumers, or they made an adept roll of the dice on the Ultra Luxury.
The F Sport ($171,800 in diesel form, $175,300 for petrol) is another gamble, being a melding of on-road performance virtues with a platform that’s designed with off-roading in mind. With its own unique suspension tune as well as a traction-enhancing Torsen rear differential and thicker side bolsters for the front seats (not to mention more aggressive F Sport-specific body plastics and 22-inch alloy designs), the F Sport seems like an odd mix of ingredients.
Nevertheless, it too has proved popular, snaring 25 per cent of the order bank – though that may be more a function of its generous standard equipment list that brings ventilated front and rear seats, heated second-row seats, a centre console fridge, a fingerprint reader for the starter button, soft-closing doors, a digital rear-view mirror and the option of an eye-catching red leather interior.
The Sports Luxury occupies the midpoint of the price spectrum and is arguably the sweet spot. With premium leather, upmarket ‘Takanoha’ cabin trim, front and rear ventilated/heated seats, a heated steering wheel, fridge, power-folding second-row seats, soft-close doors, dual rear-seat entertainment screens and a hands-free tailgate, it’s not wanting for kit.
It’s also the most affordable model to offer a full 110-litre fuel capacity when in LX500d diesel trim, as the seven-seat diesel base model is only able to tote an 80-litre tank. At $165,800 for the LX500d Sports Luxury and $169,300 for the LX600 Sports Luxury, it’s this spec which seems to offer the best balance of price and features.
With the LX’s diesel engine already being a known quantity via the LandCruiser, we’ll largely be focusing on the LX600 petrol here.
Conventional wisdom says that the best engine for a 2600kg 4WD is one that drinks diesel, but after threading the LX600 through the tight grid of inner-city Hobart, it’s clear that this 3.5-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 isn’t just up to the task – if anything, it’s the preferable option.
Heavily based on the LS500 sedan’s V6, this 305kW/650Nm engine has a slightly lower compression ratio and power output than its passenger-car relative, but 50Nm more peak torque. That torque is delivered between 2000-3600rpm as well, giving it an almost diesel-like low-to-mid range that doesn’t sweat the task of motivating the LX’s considerable mass one bit.
It sounds pretty good too, with a muted V6 note that’s easy on the eardrums – though electronically enhanced to bypass all the additional sound deadening that the LX wears.
As the roads open up to more winding, constant-speed cruising, the engine settles down to an almost inaudible background sound, only making itself heard when a highway appears and we need to accelerate uphill to triple-digit speeds – which it does so with eye-widening ease.
The official 0-100km/h stat is seven seconds flat for the petrol (8.0 seconds for the LX 500d), and while that’s certainly a believable number the more impressive attribute is its in-gear acceleration when rolling at, say 60km/h or 80km/h and boosting up to 110km/h. The LX600 will give you some of the most effortless overtakes you’ve ever experienced.
The tradeoff? Fuel consumption. The official claim is 12.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but our launch route delivered an average of over 14.5L/100km.
Hopping from the LX600 to an LX500d provides some useful contrast. In the same driving, the diesel is ever-present, its grumble is appealingly truck-like and conveys a sense of unburstable tractability, but the sound is at odds with the LX’s luxurious fit-out and otherwise excellent noise suppression (enhanced as it were by active noise cancelling via the sound system). That said, the extra NVH insulation does give the LX500d a quieter cabin than the LandCruiser.
Both models do exhibit some body-on-frame shimmy, particularly when driving at speed over small-amplitude, high-frequency bumps, and while it’s more noticeable than in a Nissan Patrol it’s by no means something that impinges greatly on ride comfort.
Handling is good for such a heavy, high-riding vehicle too. The hydraulically-linked dampers do their best to contain big roll and pitch movements, with strong initial damping that eventually tapers off as physics takes over. Translation: in a long steady turn you’ll notice plenty of body roll, but a short and sharp steering input will result in an attitude that’s much flatter.
For what it’s worth, the F Sport’s performance-focused suspension doesn’t feel substantially different to that of the regular LX models, and that’s possibly because it rolls on the same Dunlop Grandtrek tyre compound and has the same mechanical grip levels as a result. On the upside, it certainly doesn’t feel too stiff for everyday driving.
Pleasantly, the F Sport still feels completely suited to off-roading too. Though the offroad portion of the launch drive was much shorter than the on-road component, we were impressed by the compliance exhibited on the 22-inch wheels and 265/50R22 Dunlops, easily soaking up sharp-edged hits like deep potholes while gliding nicely over spoon drains and other gentle lumps.
Engaging low-range, the LX has all of the mountain goat characteristics of the LandCruiser thanks to its extremely well-tuned Downhill Assist Control and Crawl Control systems, which operate more like off-road cruise control than a conventional 4x4 drive mode, allowing vehicle speed to be controlled via the drive mode dial instead of the accelerator and brake and ensuring excellent traction at all times.
The only handicap in this environment is reduced approach and departure angles, which measure 22.0 and 22.8 degrees respectively, with a 22.7-degree breakover and 200mm ground clearance (205mm on 22-inch wheels). If you really want to get muddy, however, there’s no capacity to option in the mechanically locking front and rear differentials of the Landcruiser GR Sport, though if that’s your intent, then what are you doing looking at a Lexus anyway?
With a tow capacity of 3500kg, the LX makes a very compelling long-distance tourer. The ultimate caravan-tugger and one that packs a lot of luxury for the asking price. Those who don’t require a seven-seat layout will do well to aim for the Sports Luxury instead (or hell, the Ultra Luxury if you’ve got someone else to drive you around), but in an age where scalpers are still selling barely-used 300-series LandCruisers for similar amounts as a brand-new LX500d or LX600, it’s not hard to see value in the new LX.
If only it wasn’t sold out for the rest of 2022.
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