January 5, 2008
Toronto, Ontario – My name is Peter, and I kinda like the 2009 Lexus LX570. There. I’ve said it. I feel better now.
Admitting affection for a 2660-kg, V8-powered, eight-seat, body-on-frame luxury SUV in these times is somewhat akin to lighting a Brazilian rosewood bonfire on the ice caps while dancing about in a gorilla-fur toque. And yet, I find myself quite impressed with this supremely well-crafted leviathan.
Lexus has sprinkled its fairy-dust all over the rugged Toyota Land Cruiser (a model not available in Canada), turning it into a $79,800 five-star suite on wheels. Naturally, Lexus refers to it as its flagship SUV, and put emphasis on the word “ship.”
Power comes from a 383-horsepower 5.7-litre V8 that generates 403 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. It’s coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with lock-up torque converter and transmission cooler; towing capacity is an impressive 3,856 kg.
As would be expected of Lexus, this drive-train delivers the goods with silken precision. Put your foot in it, and the V8 sings a mellifluous song that’s correctly understated, yet suitably forceful.
This SUV is rated at 17.1 L/100 km city and 11.4 on the highway. After a week of non-aggressive driving, I achieved 15.3 L/100 km. Had I been testing this vehicle a few months previous when premium was about a buck-fifty per litre, I would have been stuffing the Christmas goose (strangled at the park, since it’s cheaper) with grass and bark.
My blue tester sported the $5,600 Premium Package that adds 20-inch wheels (up from the standard 18-inch), heated and air conditioned front seats, heated middle-row outboard seats, power liftgate, park assist, and wide-view front and side monitor system, plus wood and leather wheel and shift knob. Ever-plusher hide, Bubinga wood, front cool box, a super-duper 450-watt 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with rear DVD, radar cruise control and Lexus pre-collision system requires another $10,550 for the Ultra Premium Package.
Regal is the word that best describes the LX570. Hoist yourself up into the comfy chair, and you’ll cast your gaze over the great unwashed from a perch fit for a third-world dictator. The interior craftsmanship is beyond reproach, although if this were my kingdom, I’d go for the beige interior, which looks far richer than this truck’s drab grey.
Dare I use the word “truck” here? In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha!” And she could easily drive to Russia from her house in this thing.
The high seating position (remember, there are frame rails below) and low beltline allow for a direct sightline to the front corners. The XXL-size rear-view mirrors are industrial grade. Shift the full-time AWD into low range, and the standard electric/hydraulic adaptive suspension with active height control increases ride height by three inches. The system allows each wheel maximum articulation while minimizing pitch and sway angles. When parked, the LX570 sinks two inches to make ingress and egress a tad more graceful.
Crawl Control uses engine and braking forces to maintain one of three super-slow speeds (one, three or five km/h) for traversing challenging terrain, and of course the LX570 is equipped with hill descent control, electronic traction control and stability control.
To most buyers, all of this off-road prowess will amount to nothing more that bragging rights. But having been one of the few humans to abuse (albeit briefly) an LX570, I’ll gladly share this experience.
At the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car of the Year testing, after a night of heavy rainfall, I was able to negotiate the muck-bowl of an off-road course before it was closed for the day. The maroon LX570 tester happily bucked and hammered its way through the course with little drama. I even got to use the “wiggle” technique I learned on a Land Rover trip (swinging the wheel violently from side to side) to get extra purchase in the muck. Never thought I’d get to do that again.
Okay, so the Lexus LX570 can do stuff that will likely never be asked of it. What’s it like on the road?
Stately, swift, silent and sybaritic. Sporting? Of course not. The three-stage selectable damper settings range from torpedoed-freighter to pitchy firm. The middle position seems the best compromise, serving up a good ride with reasonable body control. That said, there is always some side-to-side jostling that gives away the LX570’s trucky roots. A Porsche Cayenne S or BMW X5 it ain’t.
But your passengers likely won’t complain. The interior is better appointed than most gentlemen’s clubs, and the standard four-zone independent automatic climate control that operates through 28 vents ensures everyone is comfy. The presence of ten airbags will sooth the mind, as well.
Strangely, this luxo-ute does not have one-touch turn signals or a heated steering wheel, which I feel are essential in this class of vehicle.
Second row power-sliding 60/40 seating is commodious, with the third row perfectly habitable for two, or three in a pinch. The split third row will fold forward but not flush to the floor (those frame rails again). Press a button on either side of the cargo area, and each half of this row neatly flips up against the sides, leaving most of the floor space usable for cargo.
Buyers looking at the $79,800 three-row Lexus LX570 could cross-shop the Cadillac Escalade ($82,555), Lincoln Navigator ($67,800), Mercedes-Benz GL550 4Matic ($91,000) or the BMW X5 xDrive48i ($71,500).
What the LX570 offers over these rivals is that super-slick Lexus presentation, coupled with the real-deal off road ability of the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser. In other words, a brilliant execution of a somewhat ridiculous concept.
Pricing: 2009 Lexus LX570 Premium Package
$5,600: Premium Package of 20-inch wheels, heated and air conditioned front seats, heated second-row seats, power liftgate, Park Assist, front and side-view monitor, wood and leather steering wheel
|Price as tested:||
Manufacturer’s web site