Words and pictures by Grant Spolander
We test the Lexus LX570, a vehicle that bears a striking resemblance to the Land Cruiser 200 Series, but costs a fair bit more. Are buyers paying a premium for badge status, or is the LX570 truly worth the extra money?
When we compare 4x4s in our off-road tests, as we often do, it’s not purely to determine which is best, but also to highlight a vehicle’s particular strengths and weaknesses relative to those of its competitors.
Ordinarily, we’d compare the LX570 with luxury SUVs in the Range Rover / Merc GL500 category, but each time I tried to do this I kept coming back to the fact that the LX570 is nothing more than an expensive Land Cruiser. With that in mind, when I wrote this test I was less concerned about whether the LX570 measured up to its rivals and more interested in whether it’s justifiably priced at R208k more than a plain ’ol Cruiser.
The LX570 and the LC200 are practically identical, from the Boeing-sized boot spoiler to the bug-eyed taillights and bulbous fenders. However, if you look really closely you’ll notice that the Lexus features a slightly more trapezoidal grille and headlight design. Otherwise, there ain’t many differences to speak of – it’s the same bulking blob whether it has a ’T’ or an ’L’ encased in the badge, but that’s just my subjective view.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and this has never been more true than when comparing the LX570 and the LC200. Although the Lexus’ centre console, instrument cluster and dashboard do bear similarities with the units found in the Cruiser, overall the Lexus’ cabin is far more ergonomic and thoughtfully designed.
This is particularly noticeable in the LX570’s off-road controls, which are neatly bundled close at hand, allowing the driver to control suspension height, damper settings and the engagement / disengagement of low-range, Crawl Control and Hill Descent Control. In contrast, the LC200’s off-road controls are somewhat scattered over the vehicle’s dash.
The LX570 also boasts additional comfort features like a flip-down DVD player for rear passengers, a motorised boot lid that can be closed by pressing a button on the key fob, and a third row which also folds away under power at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, this third-row setup is much like the Fortuner’s where the seats fold up and to the side rather than flat against the floor.
Some other great cabin features include: loads of head and leg room throughout the cabin, individual climate control for those in the second row and a fantastic infotainment system incorporating GPS navigation and a Mark Levinson DVD player.
Much like the LC200, the LX570 features a full-time 4WD system with traction control, centre diff-lock and low-range gearing. However, fundamental differences can be found in their suspension setups.
With the ability to disconnect its anti-sway bars using the KDSS system, the LC200 features excellent wheel travel on all four wheels. In contrast, the LX570 doesn’t feature KDSS but does boast all-round air suspension, allowing the Lexus to increase its clearances when driving off-road.
As the rear diff is the Lexus’ lowest point, the increase in suspension height doesn’t necessarily mean more ground clearance, but it does afford the Lexus better approach, departure and break-over angles of 31º, 23º and 27º respectively versus the LC200’s 30º, 20º and 21º. Interestingly, in a previous off-road test of the LC200 (see pg 76 of our June ’09 issue) we highlighted the Cruiser’s need for better clearance angles.
Another terrific feature shared by both the LC200 and the LX570 is Crawl Control. The best way to describe this off-road driver aid is to think of it as traction control on steroids. Ordinarily, the LX570’s traction control requires wheel slippage for the system to react; unfortunately, this slows down the system’s response time and diminishes forward momentum.
Crawl Control minimises the traction control’s time delay by rotating the wheels at a controlled speed, enabling the system to continuously monitor and brake each wheel before slippage occurs. The only input required from the driver is the selection of the crawl speed and the direction of the steering wheel. My only critique of Crawl Control is that you feel like a passenger and not a driver, and because it works so well it takes all the fun out of off-road driving.
The LX570’s undercarriage is heavily fortified by steel plates rather than plastic guards. With its robust ladder-frame chassis and high-profile tyres, this Lexus feels well-equipped for tough terrain.
A significant difference between the LX570 and the LC200 can be found under the hood – the Lexus boasts a petrol-powered 5.7-litre V8 versus the Cruiser’s 4.5-litre petrol V8. The added capacity of 1.2 litres sees substantial power and torque gains: The Lexus churns out 285 kW @ 6 000 rpm and 530 Nm @ 2 800 rpm while the Cruiser produces 202 kW @ 5 400 rpm and 410 Nm @ 3 400 rpm.
To put it another way, the LX570 can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds versus the Cruiser’s 9.6 seconds. This figure is roughly on par with the Merc GL500’s acceleration time (7.1 seconds) but it’s a far cry from the Range Rover’s unrivalled 5.8-second sprint.
The LX570 is not for ideal tree-hugging hippies; around town we recorded fuel consumption of 20.2 l/100 km. At this rate, you can expect a driving range of 460 km from the Lexus’ 93-litre tank. On the open road at 120 km/h, that figure dropped to a more acceptable 15.5 l/100 km.
On the handling front, slight bodyroll can be felt around tight turns but this is to be expected from a 2-metre tall vehicle. The LX570 also features the option to adjust the damper setting to one of three modes: Auto, Sport or Comfort. With the latter selected, the LX570 boasts a smooth, comfortable ride that soaks up speed bumps as if they were road-side reflectors.
The LX570 is definitely a better vehicle than the LC200, and I don’t say this because it comes with extra gadgets or luxury aids, but because it’s packaged and designed better. The cabin layout is superior, the suspension system is superior and the engine is far better suited for a vehicle of this size and mass. But despite these points, it’s not worth the extra R200k.
If it’s absolute opulence you’re after, I’d recommend the Range Rover Vogue; for roughly the same price as the LX570 you get unbelievable engine performance and a cabin that’s packed with more technology than a NASA space probe.
But… both the Range Rover and the Merc GL500 feature very low profile tyres with no option to fi t smaller rims, so if you’re looking for a high-end luxury SUV that can in fact go anywhere, the LX570 with its 285 / 60 / R18 tyres may well be the perfect 4×4 for you.
Kia Sorento 2.2 TD AT | R405 995 | Odometer 6 046 km