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LX570 luxury 4x4 driven

2010-04-06 07:56
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Lexus
Model LX570
Engine 5.7l V8
Power 270kW @ 5 600r/min
Torque 530Nm @ 3 600r/min
Transmission Six-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 7.3 sec
Top Speed 220km/h
Fuel Tank 93l
Fuel Consumption 14.8l/100km
Weight 2 645kg
Tyres 285/60 R18
Front Suspension Independent double-wisbone
Rear Suspension Live-axle, coil springs

Lance Branquinho

Toyota’s Land Cruiser 200VX sells rather well in South Africa, especially surprising when you consider its substantial ability is cloaked in a rather unappealing package.

Plainly, the Cruiser 200VX is awesomely capable, yet nearly intolerably ugly. Park one next to its chief low-range enabled luxury SUV rivals (Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GL) and it looks decidedly unappealing.

So, if you are in the market for redoubtable Toyota off-road ability and bullet-proof build quality, perhaps the latest offering from Lexus is worth consideration. As part of an aggressive strategy to broaden its local model portfolio the luxury arm of Toyota has now made its Cruiser 200VX based LX570 SUV available locally.

If you’re after legendary ‘Cruiser off-road ability yet require optimal luxury specification, effortless V8 petrol power and more fluid styling this LX570 may be for you.

Proper credentials

Based on the Land Cruiser 200 platform, LX570 is a premium SUV with formidable off-road ability.

In terms of configuration it’s the only low-range enabled luxury SUV which is not independently suspended at all four wheel corners (unlike Merc's GL and Solihull’s Range Rover), retaining a solid rear axle. LX570’s off-road credentials are further enhanced by a proper 2.618:1 reduction ratio low-range transfer case and Torsen locking centre differential.

A full suite of electronic driver aids are standard too – most of which should be familiar to Land Cruiser 200VX owners. To show off the LX570’s off-road abilities and on-road refinement Lexus allowed me to evaluate its latest local product offering in and around Cape Town’s highways and up-and-over the Zevenwacht wine estate’s 4x4 route.

If you remember to fold the side mirrors in, LX570 will play off-road all day long without any cosmetic damage. Has a full-sized sparewheel too...

Favourable first impression

I must admit, clambering aboard the metallic grey LX570 I had my reservations. I expected it to be more Toyota Land Cruiser instead of Lexus.

I love Land Cruisers – make no mistake – yet hate disingenuous badge engineering. For all intents and purposes I though the presence of a solid-rear axle on a Lexus product would play havoc with the ride and acoustic refinement so synonymous with the brand.

Cruising out of Cape Town towards Stellenbosch I was proven wrong on all accounts.

Firstly, the LX570 cabin is (nearly) faultless. Beyond the manually actuated parking brake girdle (it really needs to be a flip-switch in a Lexus, right?) the cabin is beautifully finished. It features rather authentic looking wood grain trim insets which don’t (for a change) resemble fake Japanese teak, and you have to make a concerted effort to spot the Toyota family switchgear and trim bits – of which there are precious few examples.

With the air-suspension set to the comfort setting ride quality was superb, whilst acoustic insulation from road and mechanical noise is worthy of something with a Lexus badge in the centre of the steering wheel boss. Mercedes-Benz’s GL may boast better steering and Landy’s Range Rover more advanced Bilstein adaptive damping, yet the LX is eerily quiet at highway cruising speeds.

Plenty of standard kit with LX570. An electronic, flip-switch operated parking brake would be nice, replacing the unsightly (and ergonomically undesirable) handbrake girdle...SatNav covers Botswana and Namibia too, which is where Lexus would like you to take the LX570 when on vacation.

Big L refinement

Reflecting its American market bias, the LX570 is powered by a 5.7l V8.

Driving through a six-speed (as opposed to 200VX's five-ratio) automatic transmission, the LX’s V8 is good for 270kW at 5 600r/min and a rotational force peak of 530Nm at 3 600r/min.

Show the six-speed self-shifter no mercy and Lexus claims the LX570 will run a hot hatch humbling 7.3 second 0-100km/h sprint time on the way to its 220km/h top speed.

My experience with the 5.7l V8 was of an engine perfectly matched to its application. With the additional ratio, LX570 never feels stained when required to execute an overtaking manoeuvre.

The V8 burble is well silenced - as one would expect from a Lexus. If you’re a hooligan driver, you’ll have to keep your right foot flat against the carpet (with the side windows open) to enjoy any classic V8 acoustics. The big engine’s relatively unobtrusive operation is of course a boon when stalking animals during an early morning game viewing expedition.

Consumption, if driven with restraint, should average out to around 14l/100km. During an afternoon test driving we saw an average of 18.7l/100km though…

Off-road though, the big Lexus really comes into its own.

Plenty of clever traction control and old fashion 'Cruiser toughness ensure unchallenged off-road ability.

Not just a social image climber

Before setting off on a rather tight broken-surface excursion around Zevenwacht I disabled both LX570’s VSC and huge curtain airbags, kept the dampers set at comfort, engaged low-range and locked the centre differential. From there on out, progress was (predictably) effortless.

The LX570’s CRAWL function pretty much does what it says - allowing for three distinct speed settings in conditions ranging from rocky terrain, through loose rubble on a downhill slope to snow, mud or loose gravel.

On a particularly nasty, rock lined descent, I engaged the hill descent and with the ABS acoustics echoing incessantly, the LX570 showed-off amazing control for a 2.5t vehicle – ambling down at a scant 1km/h. The handy thing about its hill descent function is the flip-switch configuration – which allows one to speed it up on the go to either Mid (3km/h) or Hi (5km/h) speeds by simply engaging the switch by hand.

Beyond these clever electronic throttle and pulse brake actuated driving aids the LX570’s active height control and adaptive variable suspension (which adjusts the damping bound/rebound) does usher in plenty of obstacle clearing wheel travel.

I purposely picked the worst possible line on the most challenging climb of the afternoon, to see if I could outsmart the LX570’s off-road traction aids. In low range it simply went up and over my most foolish cross-axle steering guidance. The combination of a Torsen centre diff, surfeit of rotational force and pulse-brake managed individual wheel traction management ensures unchallenged forward progress.

Very at home in the bush. Tows a might 3.5t on-road too...

For aristocrats who actually go off-road?

The only issue I expected LX570 to have was a hair-trigger throttle sensitivity in low-range, due to its large capacity petrol V8 engine. Thanks to the presence of sophisticated variable valve timing and an outstandingly resolved integration of engine management characteristics and all-wheel drive transmission behaviour ensured even ill-judged throttle inputs were absorbed effortlessly.

Boasting more off-road biased tyres (in relative, not absolute, terms) than either Range Rover or Merc’s GL, LX570 would appear to be a terrific combination of traditional solid rear axle Land Cruiser off-road ability and contemporary Lexus refinement.

Detractors will point towards it obvious lineage with the Cruiser 200 and question the higher asking price. The reasons for this are rather obvious: bigger V8 petrol engine (and an extra gear), more kit (the 19 speaker Mark Levinson sound system and rear seat DVD screens for instance) and the privileged of having your off-roader serviced at a premium Lexus dealership instead of the local Toyota dealer.

If you doubt the appeal – well, Lexus has sold 30 units already…


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