In 1996, premium automotive brand Lexus launched their largest and most expensive luxury SUV, the LX 450. This was followed by the second generation (LX470) in ‘98 and a third in ‘07. Well now there’s a fourth generation (LX 500d) in town, well two in fact, and Lexus New Zealand let us try them both out. So, here’s what we thought of this Apex Lex.
The LX 500d comes in two guises, the F-Sport and Limited, I’ll get to the differences soon but they’re both dripping in lavish Lexus luxury and are both the size of a small house – but obviously prettier.
For the latest LX 500d iteration, Lexus has opted to go back to the drawing board and build their new flagship from the ground up, and it shows. Under its large and elegant covers is a TNGA GA-F platform which has been made specifically for full-size body-on-frame vehicles (for me, last experienced in the new Toyota Land Cruiser) and is 20% more rigid than before.
The LX’s already sizable body has been expanded (10mm wider, 30mm higher and 20mm longer), to give us more to gawp at I assume. And gawp you will. As with a fair amount of car brands right now, there’s been a lot of attention given to the grille and whether the F-Sport variant, with a black mesh style surrounded in chrome, or the Limited with just chrome, the ‘spindle grille’ is hard to miss and will undoubtedly be polarising.
The bonnet is more sculpted in a dual power-dome style (looks great from the driver’s seat), the headlights are tri-LED and projector and the DRL’s remain LED too. The rear sports a roofline spoiler, a light bar that travels the width of the tailgate and no exhaust (well not in the lower valance anyway).
Aluminium has been adopted for the bonnet, front guards, door panels and for the first time, the roof. I assume for weight saving but the LX 500d is still a heavy beast. And with three ride height settings, you can get a ground clearance of upto 205 mm while riding on its 22-inch feet.
Step inside and the two new LX’s take a few separate paths. Firstly the F-Sport has soft closing doors, while the Limited keeps a satisfying thud. The Limited comes with 7-seats while the F-Sport has 4 and the Limited has two video screens to keep the middle row of passengers entertained.
My F-Sport LX came with ‘flare red’ furniture, it’s very bold and suits the big SUV but may be a step too far for some, whereas my Limited model came in just black leather. The seats themselves are both comfortable and supportive, plus heated and ventilated for those summer and winter mornings. The rest of the finishing is upmarket and so well ’Tazuna’ crafted, the analogue clock has gone, which was a bit of a shock, as was the removal of the CD player, but the loss of the haptic touch pad was (in my opinion) no loss at all.
The technology now comes via three screens. The 12.3″ Electro Multi Vision handles the infotainment, including Sat Nav and a new Mark Levinson premium sound system with 25-speakers (including a 22.4cm rear deck side Subwoofer). There’s another screen below that, which takes care of the A/C and off-road modes – this LX is more than capable of handling the rough stuff. The instrument cluster is a mix of a personalisable digital screen surrounded by more traditional gauges, it’s both modern and classy. Above that is a very large Head Up display that can also relay the information that YOU want to see.
Drum roll please, the big bug bearer with the new LX 500d for me is the location of the start/stop button – it’s right up on the infotainment screen. Yes it’s clever by having a fingerprint pad that will then adjust to suit the driver’s pre-sets (like radio station, temp etc) by why oh why have it up where it can be confused with the radio controls????
Anyway, getting on the road with both the new LX 500d’s is a delight. The ride is soft and malleable even in Sport+ mode and the sheer size of it, has you looking down on most other vehicles on the road.
The LX 500d has a new beating heart, the V8 has been replaced by a V6, but before you start moaning, it’s more powerful than ever 227kW (+14% over the V8) and the Torque has also increased by 8% to 700Nm. It’s also more fuel efficient at 8.9L/100km and emits 235g/km of CO2 but has the ability to tow 3.5 tonnes – so are you happy now?
The new Lexus LX 500d picks up nicely from the get go and feels powerful underfoot, yes it’s still diesel (the electrified model is still some ways away) and it gives you the impression that it can climb mountains – which with it’s off-road modes – including Crawler and (MTS) Multi-Terrain Select, a feature that allows the driver to choose the appropriate driving mode and, optimise the characteristics of drive force control and brake force control in accordance with off-road terrain conditions – it undoubtedly can. Unfortunately I had to stick to the roads.
The cabin is quiet and refined and visibility is excellent, aided by a video screen in the rear view mirror (so those passengers in the back can’t be seen) and 360-degree camera angles that pop up everytime you stop – it even has a transparent bonnet view so you can see which way the wheels are pointing.
Being the height and weight that the LX 500d is, corners are to be taken with more maturity than those used to sports car handling, but its wide stance and big feet ensure that you get around the bends safely. The F-Sport boasts ‘performance dampers’ over and above the Limited’s undercarriage but I found them very similar in the way they behaved.
On the matter of safety, Lexus 500d’s Safety Sense+ has an upgraded Pre-Collision System which now detects cyclists and pedestrians in low light and the Radar Cruise Control now includes curve speed reduction. Plus there’s Lane Tracing assist, Intersection Turn Assist and Emergency Turning Assist for extra peace of mind.
This is a vehicle that loves the open roads, it’s an excellent ride that will have you at your destination more refreshed that before you set off, however, its sheer size will have you driving around the block a couple of times looking for a parking spot that will allow everyone to get in and out of the LX 500d without a little tension.
It’s easy to see why the Lexus LX 500d is at the apex point of the brand, it’s loaded with charm, style and sophistication, while being able to rough it with most of the toughest off-roaders out there.