LEXUS has launched the third generation of its biggest and most serious off-roader in lavish style at Hamilton Island.
Testing both on and off-road proves that, like the new Toyota LandCruiser on which it is based, the new LX570 heads well upstream in terms of technology, refinement, safety and performance – as well as size and price.
The all-new Japanese luxury SUV flagship will arrive in Australian Lexus showrooms from April 10, when it will become only the second iteration of the full-size LX four-wheel-drive line to be sold here.
For the first time, two model variants will be available, opening with the LX570 Prestige and rising to the LX570 Sports Luxury flagship.
With an entry-level price of $136,700, the MkIII LX is priced $13,726 higher than its ten-year old predecessor, the LX470.
Apart from being $31,710 pricier than the most expensive LandCruiser (the $104,990 Sahara turbo-diesel) at base level, the petrol-only LX570 also opens its account well above V8-powered luxury SUV rivals like the Grand Cherokee SRT8 ($85,990), Volvo XC90 Sport ($89,950), Audi Q7 4.2 FSI ($118,900), BMW X5 4.8i ($118,300) and the Mercedes-Benz ML500 ($121,100).
Even Porsche’s V8-engined Cayenne S ($134,500) and Volkswagen’s range-topping 5.0-litre V10-powered Touareg R50 TDI diesel ($129,990) are cheaper than the cheapest LX570.
Lexus says the redesigned LX is one of just two vehicles in the luxury SUV category to feature a full ladder chassis (which, like last year’s new 200 Series, employs larger-section hydroformed cross-members in thicker-gauge steel), making it a more capable and durable off-road vehicle.
“When you take into account the specification and off-road capabilities of LX570, it is by far the category leader,” said Lexus Australia chief executive, John Roca. “LX570 is not a pretender; it combines the features expected from a luxury saloon with the off-road capabilities of a four-wheel drive.
“LX570 continues to set a standard in terms of combining the features demanded from a luxury vehicle with the capabilities of an off-road vehicle. The Luxury SUV market has been waiting a long time for a vehicle like this and LX570 certainly delivers on the needs of luxury SUV owners.”
Furthermore, Lexus claims that, at $151,700, the top-shelf Sports Luxury version “represents a price advantage of almost $30,000 when compared with its nearest luxury four-wheel-drive competitor”.
This refers to Range Rover’s flagship Vogue V8 Supercharged, priced at $189,900 and powered by a 291kW/560Nm supercharged 4.2-litre V8, but dismisses the monocoque-chassis Porsche Cayenne S and Mercedes-Benz GL500 ($149,000), both of which are highly capable off-road thanks to high-rise adjustable air suspension and low-range gearing.
Lexus also overlooks the hybrid-chassis Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged ($110,990), which runs a 287kW/550Nm version of the Vogue’s SV8 and, like the 285kW/530Nm 5.5-litre GL500, is certainly competitive on and off-road with the 2.75-tonne LX, which is powered by an exclusive new 270kW/530Nm 5.7-litre alloy V8 matched with the LandCruiser’s new six-speed automatic transmission.
Nevertheless, the LX570’s quad-cam dual-VVTi V8 makes it the most powerful Lexus SUV ever, easily eclipsing the relatively paltry 170kW and 410Nm outputs of the previous LX470’s cast-iron 4.7-litre V8, which continues in upgraded 202kW guise in the ‘Cruiser.
The 90-degree 32-valve V8 is the largest-displacement engine ever fitted to a Lexus, returns claimed average fuel consumption of 14.8 litres/100km (an eight per cent improvement on the LX470’s 16.1L/100km) and hauls the 2740kg LX to 100km/h in a claimed 7.8 seconds – making it significantly quicker than the LX470’s 12.0s.
A long-stroke design with an undersquare bore/stroke relationship (94.0/102.0mm), the 5.7-litre 3UR-FE engine weighs 219.3kg, has a 10.2:1 compression ratio, is tuned for 98 RON premium unleaded but can run on 91 RON ULP, and provides a towing capacity of 3500kg with trailer brakes (750kg unbraked).
Dual fuel tanks with an automatic fuel transfer system between the 93-litre main tank and 45-litre sub-tank provides a claimed driving range of 900km of normal driving.
The Toyota-built AB60F six-speed auto has two overdrive gears (fourth is 1:1), and the two-speed transfer case offers a low-range reduction ratio of 2.618:1.
Like the 200 Series Landcruiser, the LX570 comes with a full-time four-wheel-drive system comprising a new torque-sensing Torsen mechanical limited-slip centre differential that offers a rear-biased 40/60 front/rear torque split (with a maximum of 70 per cent to the rear) and can be locked via a button on the dash.
“Our goal when developing the all-new LX570 was to ensure that it was the most capable off-road vehicle ever produced, while not sacrificing the levels of luxury for which Lexus sedans have become renowned,” said chief LX570 drivetrain engineer Sadayoshi Koyari.
“In developing the LX570 I wanted to deliver an experience for the driver and passenger that was like being in a Lexus sedan, but with the added feature of superior off-road capability. I am confident that the LX570 not only exceeded our goal, but gives owners the confidence to take their Lexus to places they have never been before.”
Lexus says the LX570 underwent 240,000km of Australian testing in everything from sub-tropical rainforests to the Outback, which was used to evaluate dust sealing, suspension, overall vehicle durability and new suspension technologies right up to production model stage in late 2007.
The new LX improves the LandCruiser 200’s new double-wishbone front, live-axle rear all-coil suspension by offering new four-wheel hydro-pneumatic technology with improved Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) three-mode damping adjustment and Active Height Control (AHC) spring-control systems as standard, along with the ground-breaking Crawl Control off-road cruise control system fitted as standard to petrol 200s. Ground clearance is a generous 225mm.
As well as electronic stability control and multi-terrain ABS, the LX offers the same 10-airbag safety protection that’s offered in the LandCruiser from the mid-range VX grade upwards (up from six in the LX470), including twin full-length side curtain airbags.
The premium Sports Luxury version features the first Lexus fitment of an Australian-first ‘Wide View Front and Side Monitor’ system, which employs grille and wing mirror cameras to provide a view of the front and passenger side of the vehicle.
A further 34 new features include keyless entry and start, sonar-assisted parking, a powered rear tailgate, self-levelling HID high-beam headlights and projector-type low-beam headlights with the Lexus Adaptive Front-light System (AFS) and, exclusive to the premium Sports Luxury grade, the Lexus Pre-Crash System (PCS) and radar-operated Active Cruise Control.
A larger brake package direct from the LC200 comprises 340mm front and 345mm vented rear discs gripped by four-piston and single-piston calipers respectively, residing inside larger 18x8.0-inch six-spoke alloy wheels with 285/60R18 tyres (compared to the superseded LX470’s 275/65 R17 rubber).
Multi-terrain ABS is backed up by electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, plus hill-start assist and, like the new ‘Cruiser, the rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering gains variable gearing. The LX offers an 11.8-metre turning circle.
Lexus says strict attention has been paid to noise, vibration and harshness levels, which have been reduced over the LX470 via items like large dash inner and outer insulators, a bonnet insulator, a laminated windscreen with intermediate film layer and the application of asphalt sheet to the majority of the floor.
Like the LandCruiser Sahara ($94,990 petrol), the 570 offers a four-zone climate-control system, but Lexus says it is the company’s most powerful climate control system to date, with 28 outlets and twin heating/ventilation/cooling units, linked to a new high-capacity compressor via the world's first double-tubed refrigerant gas piping system.
Tested in Australia, North America and Japan, the AC system can cool the cabin by nine degrees from an ambient temperature of 45 degrees in 10 minutes.
And, while the Sahara makes do with a nine-speaker sound system, the LX gets a 19-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio unit with DVD, MP3, WMA and CD-R/RW playback.
Also inside are metal-plated mouldings on the dash and centre console, unique Bubinga wood trim highlights, leather knee pads on the lower dash for front occupants, Optitron instruments that dim to black when the ignition is switched off and four sub-gauges (oil temperature, battery voltage, water temperature and fuel level) that frame the multi-information screen in the centre of the instrument panel.
Lexus says the LX570 accommodates up to eight 182cm-tall adults in comfort, via three rows of seats trimmed in high-quality leather using stitching techniques perfected on the flagship LS sedan.
Similar to the 200 Series, the new LX is 100mm longer overall than the 470 at 4999mm but has a 175mm-longer cabin, in which the driver’s and front passenger’s seats offer 10-way and eight-way power adjustment respectively.
Claimed to be first-in-class, the heated power-sliding second-row seat offers 105mm of forward and aft movement and affords third-row passengers greater leg room, or more cargo space. The 40/20/40-split second-row seat also features the LC200’s new tumble mechanism, and the LX570’s third-row seats have a powered fold-and-stow function that operates in just eight seconds.
Lexus has forecast 30 LX sales a month, or 360 annually, to a wider range of customers in a luxury SUV market that, despite rising fuel prices, has increased from 6000 a year across six models when the LX first launched here a decade ago to more than 20,000 sales of 17 models last year.
“LX570 presents a great opportunity for Lexus in the Luxury SUV market,” said Mr Roca.
“Ten years ago LX 470 launched to a fledgling market and in this time the LX has established itself as a true luxury four-wheel drive. LX owners are some of the most loyal Lexus customers. They have been waiting 10 years for a new vehicle and the LX570 is sure to impress.”