Test driving the Lexus LX 450d
Lexus' latest flagship SUV is intimidating, posh, loaded with kit and comes with a hefty price tag
No doubt, this is the largest and most intimidating car in the Lexus line-up. It's also the most expensive, considering its tag of a whopping Rs 2.32 crore. That's considerably more expensive than full-fledged luxury SUVs such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS. But, Lexus has a plan and we try to unravel it. The LX looks like an SUV on steroids. Its length of 5,080 millimetres and overall size make other cars appear microscopic. The family Lexus design continues to dominate, with the largest spindle grille one can image. Narrow LED headlamps make the design look sleeker, and seek help from the boomerang-shaped fog-lamp console. The side profile gives away its Toyota Land Cruiser genes. With not too many radical lines, the LX appears at its sober best from the side; although the wheel-arches deserve 20-inch wheels instead of the standard 18-inch ones it gets.
The design gets more interesting at the rear, with L-shaped LED tail-lights that come with a chrome garnish. The split tailgate has an electrically operated upper half, while the lower bit opens manually. Like the rest of the Lexus brought to India, the fit-and-finish is top-notch. The SUV is 1,865 mm tall and that makes getting in and out quite a task — even with the help of the side-board. You sit tall on the driver's seat and literally look down upon other cars on the road. The visibility is great and you get an imposing driving position.
Sharp headlamp design is a standout element
The two words that best describe it are: Plus Size. There is good use of leather, wood and brushed metal, which gives the cabin a premium feel. Similar to the Lexus RX, the LX gets a large 12.3-inch infotainment display with the same user interface and joystick controller. This unconventional setup takes a little time to get used to, but is fairly simple and intuitive. The icing on the cake is the stunning Mark Levinson music system, which comes with 19 speakers. With the cabin insulation also working as a noise cancelling system, it delivers one of the best sounds that one can expect in a car.
Compared to the other Lexus cars, we found the LX's controls most confusing. Toggling through the driving modes can be tricky because the 4x4 knob is identical and sits right next to the driving mode knob. Practically, every change in setting requires a stopover, because you don't want to get the wrong button or dial. And, there are just too many of them. Also abundant are the features, which include tyre pressure monitoring system, parking sensors with a 360-degree camera, stability control, hill-start assist, ABS, and 10 airbags. This is the only Lexus in India than can comfortably accommodate five adults. We especially liked the front two, since they can be electrically adjusted and come with adjustable lumbar support. The second-row seats could do with more under-thigh support. Seats are ventilated and the base can be adjusted electrically.
Getting used to the LX 450d's controls do take some time. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
There's not one but two a-c vents at the back and rear-seat passengers can also control the temperature using the controls on the armrest. It also gets a pair of infotainment screens that can be operated using a remote. The sunroof comes as standard and ensures there's always enough light coming into the cabin. Unfortunately, in India, the LX is offered as a five-seater while the Land Cruiser comes with a seven-seat option. There's a reason why the bonnet is of such generous proportions. It's so as to accommodate a gigantic 4.5-litre V8 diesel motor, punching out 265 PS and a massive 650 Nm of torque. Yes, this is the only car in the Lexus line-up in India that doesn't wear the hybrid halo. No surprise, this over-sized SUV claims a fuel efficiency of just 9.6 km/l.
Crank it up and fellow motorists around you turn their heads towards the LX, trying to complain about the diesel clatter it emits. Meanwhile, you'll be sitting nonchalantly in the well-insulated cabin, wondering what the fuss is all about. Even as it builds up speed and gets louder, it can barely be heard within. And, only when revved harder can a murmur filter through.
With the gigantic wave of torque flowing in at as low as 1,600 rpm, the LX doesn't need to be poked hard usually. It's a big and heavy car, and the power delivery is leaner, but never explosive. This Lexus doesn't like being hustled.
The six-speed automatic gearbox isn't the slickest either, even in Sport+ mode. The shifts feel jerky and uncertain, especially at lower speeds. Climbing the hilly road, even as we try using the steering-mounted paddle-shifters the downshifts aren't smooth and feel hesitant. It's best to play with the abundant torque and let the LX cruise ahead. For its size and weight, the LX does have a remarkably quick 0-100 km time of 8.6 seconds. This is just a second slower than the much smaller Lexus RX and surprisingly matches the time of the ES sedan. We're not sure how many owners will be interested in taking their two-and-a-half crore SUV off-road, but the LX has all the tools if they so desire: right from ladder-on-frame underpinnings to proper 4x4 system with adaptive suspension, multi-terrain mode, and active height control to raise the ground clearance.
The Lexus can practically tame any road surface, including something resembling the Moon's. But, in doing so, it does threaten to toss around the occupants who are held in place by the well-contoured seats and, seat belts. The driving modes can alter the steering, powertrain and suspension settings, with Sport+ keeping the suspension at its firmest best. It never becomes unbelievingly stiff, but does control body-roll to a great extent. It's only when you brake hard that you can feel some pitching and wallowing.
The handling did surprise us. It remained fairly planted for an SUV of this proportions, even during some enthusiastic driving. The steering felt heavy for city driving and was relentless even as the LX gathered pace. We think the weight might come handy during off-roading, but on road there's no feedback coming to the driver. For this price there are more than a handful of luxury SUV options available in the market. Practically, every manufacturer from Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes and Range Rover has very capable and attractive offerings. And, almost all of them cost less than the Lexus. Those who buy the LX will have just two reasons. First is the remarkable reliability and ease of ownership the brand has carved for itself internationally. The second is exclusivity.
Lexus LX 450d
4,461-cc, twin turbo V8 diesel
265 PS at 3,400 rpm
650 Nm at 1,600-2,600 rpm
six-speed, automatic, all-wheel drive
Rs 2.32 crore (ex-showroom).
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