May 26, 2008

Photo Gallery: 2008 Lexus LX 570

Specifications: 2008 Lexus LX 570

The Guide: 2008 Lexus LX 570

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Winnipeg, Manitoba – The new LX 570 from Lexus presents a difficult decision to potential buyers when they’re looking at the only available factory option: do you want the luxury and convenience extras, or a Korean subcompact?

That’s right, there’s but one factory option and it retails for $10,300, or $305 more than a 2008 Hyundai Accent. The modestly named “Ultra Premium Package” includes such niceties as a 450-watt audio system with surround sound and 19 speakers, DVD entertainment, radar cruise control, premium leather, exotic wood trim and 20-inch wheels. My tester wasn’t adorned with this option group, but I can assure you that the LX 570 I drove was anything but lacking.

The standard equipment list looks something like this: four-zone climate control, nine-speaker audio, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, four heated seats (air conditioned in front), backup camera, power-folding third row seats (for a seating capacity of 8), and swiveling headlights. Strangely, though, xenon HID headlamps are conspicuously absent from both the standard equipment list and the option package.

But let’s not forget that this is an SUV, not a sedan. As such, it needs to have a comprehensive list of serious utility features, even if said list’s raison d’être is bragging rights at the country club. Things like an 8,500-lb. towing capacity (the Cayenne’s good for a measly 7,700 pounds), height-adjustable suspension, and a two-speed transfer case that’s accompanied by a ‘rock-crawling’ mode with three speed settings. Just knowing that all of that capability is there is enough.

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Although the LX 570’s princely price-tag is dear by any measure, let the record show that last year’s LX, the less powerful 470, was a full $16,800 more expensive. That’s consistent with Toyota Canada’s approach to their entire model lineup this year, and perhaps the most meaningful way to address our dollar’s parity against the American dollar. That’s not to dispute the fact that buyers in the U.S. still pay significantly less than we do here, but the discrepancy in up-front cash required is being reduced to the point that it’s less likely to be a good value for those venturing south of the border. Take into account interest charges (for those with somewhat less than $75K in cash waiting to be spent) and the lack of willingness for some automakers to honour warranty claims on U.S. vehicles in Canada, and it’s starting to look like we’re better off buying here. And that’s refreshing.

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Prime competition for the LX 570 comes in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GL and Audi Q7 entries, and perhaps less so from the Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade. But it’s the Benz that offers the best value in this crowd, offering a diesel version of the GL for just over $70K that consumes just 11.5 L/100 km in the city. Compare that to the thirsty Lexus at 17.1 L/100 km. And that’s the Transport Canada rating. My real-world experience had the LX chugging fuel to the tune of more than 20 L/100 km. Mercedes-Benz offering good value and low fuel consumption: who knew?

But back to the Lexus at hand: it appears as though the price drop is as much about adjusting the LX’s market positioning as it is about the strength of the Canadian dollar. It was just too expensive before.

The numeric increase in the LX’s name from 470 to 570 signifies an increase in engine displacement and, of course, power. The new corporate 5.7-litre V8, first seen in the Toyota Tundra, churns out 383 hp and 403 lb-ft of torque. That’s a huge jump from the 268 horses and 328 lb-ft afforded by last year’s 4.7-litre unit, and at the same time it achieves a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

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Power is routed through a new six-speed automatic transmission to a full-time four-wheel drive system. A driver-controlled toggle on the centre console allows for switching in and out of low range. Situated nearby is the on/off switch for the ‘rock crawling’ mode, which allows the truck to trundle over extreme terrain at one of three driver-selected speeds. Much like the vast majority of LX owners, I stayed on the beaten path with the truck, but I imagine this last feature takes the challenge out of the off-roaders’ mantra: travel as slowly as possible but as fast as necessary.

The LX starts off with some pretty standard suspension bits: a double-wishbone front independent arrangement with a rear live axle. Things go exotic when we start looking at the “Active Height Control” that allows a 90-mm range in the truck’s ride height. While the transitions take place almost imperceptibly, the low setting, automatically selected when parked, was a welcome feature when getting in and out of the truck.

All of this luxury is still riding on a truck chassis, however, and the nearly three-ton SUV rides like, well, a truck; cushy and quiet, perhaps, but a truck nonetheless.

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But once one becomes accustomed to the notion that nimble is not in this vehicle’s vocabulary, it’s easy to get used to the luxuries that are provided. The LX’s cabin is first-rate, commensurate with the dollars being demanded. The stitched leather on the dash, satin chrome accents, dark wood trim, and sumptuous leather seats: rugged has never been so pleasing to the senses. And the dash layout is exceptionally pleasing to the eyes, with a nicely integrated LCD touch screen and simple climate and audio controls. The voice-operated Bluetooth connectivity was a welcome nod to safety in on-the-road communication.

But while the Lexus casts a huge shadow on Mother Earth, be warned that the third row seat is not a fun place to be for adults. It’s awkward to access, and the seat cushion is low leaving passengers’ knees up near their chins. We can thank that live axle below for the inconveniently high floor back there.

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The only chink in the armour of my test vehicle was a rattle that developed in the overhead console during the week of the test drive. While it was annoying, it’s probably something that would be remedied after a quick visit to the dealer.

This year’s truck has a smoother style than last year’s LX 470, particularly in the front end, but overall its tall greenhouse and lumpy lower sheetmetal don’t exude the same class found in other Lexus models.

A considerably better value than last year, the new LX 570 is a tasteful update in the Lexus tradition.

Pricing: 2008 Lexus LX 570

Base price: $
A/C tax $
Freight: $
Price as tested: $


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