First Drive: 2016 Lexus LX 570

Lexus’s flagship SUV had a significant facelift for 2016, with a suite of cosmetic changes and an all-new interior designed to elevate the ageing LX 570 to new levels of lounge room-like opulence.

On the outside, only the door panels and roof are carried over from the last generation LX, with the spindle grill dominating the new front fascia, modernized taillights and more sculpting around the c-pillar helping reduce the visual size of the eight-passenger LX. Third row passengers might not be such a fan of the new c-pillar however as it reduces their window space.

Shunting about a 2,680 kg SUV is an unenviable task but the 5.7L gets to business in suitably stoic fashion.

As with anything, the more things change the more they stay the same. The same 5.7L V8 engine still sits behind the enormous new grill, dishing out 383 hp and 403 lb-ft of torque. Towing capacity is unchanged at 7,000 lb. What has changed is the transmission. The new eight-speed unit replaces the aging six-speed providing a bump in fuel economy and smoothness. We found the transmission well matched to the engine and shifts were liquid smooth.

Shunting about a 2,680 kg SUV is an unenviable task but the 5.7L gets to business in suitably stoic fashion. There’s little in the way of engine noise and no gruffness at all. Having said that, more grunt would make this rig a more enjoyable drive, the Infiniti QX80 pulls harder and is more rewarding. The LX powerplant is stout for sure, but it’s more of a steady build than a surge.

Back on the outside, the LX retains the split tailgate – but now the upper section is powered as standard. The same third row folding system is in place, but has been redesigned for easier use. The third row seats fold out to the sides, making the cargo area narrower than it ought to be. I’m unsure why the third row doesn’t fold down into the floor as in other SUVs, but I do appreciate the ability to use just one seat in the back row at a time.

With both third row seats up there is 259L of cargo volume, expanding to 701 with only the second-row in place, and 1,267 with both rows folded down.

The four-zone climate control now called the “Climate Concierge” (because Lexus) not only controls the fans but the heated seats and steering wheel too. This is good on paper, but I prefer a steering wheel that burns through my skin and sears in my juices. This one was a little too limp. Both my co-driver and I kept wondering if it was even on.

There’s only one trim available for the LX here in Canada at $104,300. There are no options available and freight and PDI is $2,045. With A/C levy thrown in you’ll be on the road for $106,445 before tax.

That means all the safety tech is now standard, and there’s a lot of it. Examples? A standard head-up display, blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and Lexus Safety System+. The LSS+ is a wave radar and camera system that powers the lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control (which now operates down to zero), pre-collision system and the automatic high beams. Those high beams now are LEDs, as are the low beams, fog lights, and turn signals.

Adaptive cruise can sometimes be overly aggressive or intrusive but I found the Lexus system smooth and subtle. Even cars jumping quickly into our lane triggered only a gentle easing of speed as the car managed the gap – I’ve been in other cars where such an action left my nose print on the windshield.

The panoramic view camera is a blessing in tight parking spaces and can be turned on during off-roading as well.

“Pffft!” I hear you scoff…. “…‘off roading’… you kill me Jacob”. Sure, it’s unlikely that many LXs will find their way out to any deserts here in North America but of all the behemoth luxury rigs on the road the LX is quite possibly the most capable. Remember, this is based on Toyota’s venerable Land Cruiser. The Land Cruiser is an icon in desert nations for good reason. The body-on-frame LX has a Torsen limited-slip locking centre differential with a 40:60 front:rear bias in normal conditions.

Lexus’s A-TRAC (traction control) system is mated here to Multi-Terrain Select with Rock, Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock plus Mud and Sand modes – those two systems optimise the amount of wheel slip allowed for each condition. There is also a button-selectable low-range mode for the tranny, that allows access to forward and reverse crawl control as well as turn assist. We sadly didn’t get to test any of these systems out during our tame test drive through Quebec.

Should you venture off road and get yourself a puncture, Lexus provides a full-size spare (hey, maybe that’s why the third row doesn’t fold down into the floor) which is particularly impressive in this modern age given that the rims are now enormous 20-inch alloys.

The adaptive variable suspension did a solid job of easing out the bumps and lumps in the road and the 50 mm of suspension drop given by the Active Height Control System made it much easier for me to hoist my 168 cm hobbit body into the cabin.

Double wishbone suspension up front with a torsion bar and stabilizer bar, plus a four-link live axle with stabilizer in the back keep the Lexus well planted on the road, and steering response is excellent for car of this size. It doesn’t drive small by any means, but the LX still manages to drive well and imbue the driver with confidence.

There are four drive modes selectable via a dial in the console, Eco, Comfort, Sport S and Sport S+. The modes alter throttle mapping, transmission behaviour and the damping rates of the AVS and there was a noticeable difference between them. On the eco subject, the LX now is rated at 18.3/12.9/15.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined.

The interior infotainment system has had an upgrade too. The rear seatback screens are now 11.6 inches, officially larger than every television I owned until I was 32. The front screen is a whopping 12.3 inches and is powered by Lexus’s Remote Touch Interface. It’s partnered by a 4.2-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster.

The main infotainment screen can be divided into up to three segments and I genuinely like its layout and look, but find the mouse finicky. As with all Toyota products the overly conservative legal department means you can’t do a damn thing while in motion, including go through contacts on your phone (silly because it means people will just grab their phone and try to dial people which is dangerous and illegal), or change the language: which admittedly is a problem owners won’t have to deal with. Still, the failure to recognise a passenger is in the car and open up the screen as well as the safety wowser led infotainment fetters is unfailingly infuriating.

On the plus side, phone users with a compatible phone will be able to wirelessly charge their devices and Apple users have access to Siri through the car’s voice control systems.

Audiophiles will rejoice over the 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system. The interior materials are high quality with a variety of colours to choose from and the controls all feel substantial and satisfying.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 6 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi Q7
BMW X5
Cadillac Escalade
Infiniti QX80
Land Rover Range Rover
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
Porsche Cayenne

Cross-shopped against the Infiniti QX80 and Cadillac Escalade, LX 570 buyers will find more off-road capability, less wind noise and better exterior styling, at the cost of a little grunt. The interior is less obnoxiously opulent than that of the Infiniti, and less Nuevo rich than the Escalade all round. It’s almost a middle ground between the two.

The Lexus LX represents a more subtle manifestation of the size and substance inherent to luxury three-row SUVs, and that’s kind of the point.

Pricing: 2016 Lexus LX 570
Base Price: $104,300
Options: None available
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $2,045
Price as Tested: $106,445

Shunting about a 2,680 kg SUV is an unenviable task but the 5.7L gets to business in suitably stoic fashion. 12/23/2015 11:30:24 AM