His gaze lingered awhile before he took a turn and disappeared into the distance.
The LX 570 has that effect on car spotters. Its size give pause then one quickly comes to terms with it. It’s massive in the way you could say of the Audi Q7 or the Infiniti QX80.
Each differ from the other dimensionally by millimetres but there’s no denying their hugeness make them stand out.
Based off the Land Cruiser 200 Series, the LX 570 is the luxo-version of the legendary Toyota 4X4 barge. Its claim to off-road fame is supported by a ladder frame chassis that has been the platform of choice for genuine off-roading coupled with an advanced terrain-response system allowing it to tackle almost any obstacle.
While the LX 570 is eager to boast of its off-tarmac credentials, it’s far more likely to spend time on the highways and shopping mall traipsing or even playing escort duty for VIPs than truly bashing itself up in the wilderness.
It’s simply overkill to take this big boy through such hostile environment when diesel pick-up trucks will do the job for far less penny. But it could if you want to. …
From a competitive viewpoint, the LX helps Lexus complete its SUV line-up that includes the NX and RX lower liners.
It also helps showcase its technical prowess to deliver a product that’s adept off-tarmac, never mind the reality it will see serious off-road duty as often as elephants crossing the Causeway.
We can’t help but wonder if Range Rover was part of the impetus to bring about the LX.
Available locally since last December, the version you see here has undergone a substantial update.
One of the key changes is the adoption of a massive spindle grille. Its in-your-face design is striking and some deem it intimidating. Lexus says all the bodywork except door panels have been redesigned.
At over 5 metres in length and nearly 2 metres in width, a 4WD this big would easily appear bloated but aggressive lines and an edgy design temper the effect. What it turns out to be is tall and chunky, conveying space, power and presence. The sheen of the paintwork is quality stuff and adds to the premium factor.
We can imagine a squad of takumis aka master craftsmen poring over every detail to ensure no blemishes get past them.
LED lighting are everywhere from headlights, foglamps to tail lights. The 3-eye LED headlamps project a front end that’s decidedly futuristic and big running boards make the LX look the part of a 4X4.
To facilitate entry and exit from the vehicle, it is complemented by an air suspension that can be adjusted to lower the vehicle. Large tail lamps smarten up the rear which gets a split tailgate, the upper one of which is powered.
The LX rolls on 21-inch wheels which fill out the wheel wells nicely while leaving sufficient gap to allow for dynamic suspension travel when tackling major undulations in the rough.
It’s inside the cabin that you realise where the indulgence applies.
No expense is spared to “lux” it up especially when RM924,000 is changing hands (or RM525,000 in Langkawi/Labuan). Build quality is top notch and Lexus-style, showcasing luxurious comfort and refinements in a lounge-like space.
There are acres of supple leather for the upholstery. Glossy wood inlays on the dash and steering wheel plus a dash top and doors trimmed in cow hide offer plenty of soft touchpoints from front to back, reinforcing the premium effect.
The dash is a picture of conservative modernity headlined by a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with a remote-touch interface.
Playing supporting roles are a head-up display and 4.2-inch TFT colour display in between the speedo and rev meters. Ambient LED lighting introduced in this facelift adds elegance come sunset. The analogue clock below the central display is classic Lexus.
One of the advantages of an SUV is the high seating position so that you can see over most cars. In a full-size SUV like the LX, that seating position is even more imperious, as if the driver is lording over the realm of motorised citizenry.
Seats are well padded to support occupants for the long trips. Legroom is fine in second row. Available third row seats in most vehicles are meant only for children.
But, in the 8-seat LX, the last row is still comfortable and has enough wriggle room per person to minimise claustrophobia.
The four-zone climate control is adjustable in second row via an armrest control panel, which allows control of the ventilated seats and fully-automatic air conditioning.
The system maintains an ideal temperature throughout the cabin with different temperatures that are adjustable individually. Also, a rear-seat entertainment system keeps mid-row passengers occupied when the LX is on the move.
Stepping up the conveniences, second and third-row seats are motorised, and the second-row can be manually reclined for added comfort.
All rows have ventilation vents and the air-conditioner is strong, streaming cold air effectively from front to rear.
One of our favourite amenities is a powered cooler box between the front seats, which is brilliant and keeps our cans of ginger ale nicely chilled to be quaffed on hot days.
Lending sonic bliss is the high-end Mark Levinson sound system with 19 speakers that deliver a theatre-like experience.
Unless the LX is carrying more than five people, the last-row seats should be stashed away because the headrests in the second and third rows severely impede rearward vision.
Lexus chose to store the last row seats to the sides rather than into the floor, and this takes away some storage space. Also note the minuscule boot space left when the third row seats have been opened up.
Safety is also emphasised with plenty on the checklist to keep occupants alive and well with features such as a whopping 10 airbags, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring system, hill start assist and multi-terrain monitoring as well as the usual traction, stability controls and anti-lock braking.
At over 2.7-tonnes, the LX is a heavy haul, and requires a brawny mill to move it along quickly.
It struts out with a 5.7-litre V8 engine, the largest from Lexus, producing 362hp and 530Nm of torque. It’s now mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the previous six-speeder, offering better towing and off-road performance.
The LX has paddle shifters though you are not going to drive it like a sports car even with six drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Normal, Custom, Sport S, Sport S+) to choose from.
The bulky body and high centre of gravity relegates the paddle shifters to more relevant tasks such as quick-shifting for towing purposes, tackling difficult offroad situations or engine braking on descents.
Even with a truck-based chassis, the LX is a cultured beast aided by air suspension and other advanced technologies baked in. The V8 provides more than sufficient thrust to glide along. And quietly too with road, wind noises and exhaust note suitably muffled. The gearbox is an exercise in fluidity, changing gear ratios smoothly.
Think of the LX as offering the luxuriant Lexus experience, only from a higher vantage point.
The official 0-100kph sprint time of 7.7 seconds is meant to impress, but in day-to-day driving, the weight penalty means the LX is going to feel somewhat ponderous initially. It perks up on picking up speed.
The vehicle isn’t floaty as it hurries along and body movements are generally reined in, more so in the two Sport settings when cornering at a brisk pace. Steering is light yet accurate and brakes do a commendable job of shaving off speed quite quickly.
The test unit never did any serious off-roading. Rolling it through a construction site and an oil palm estate was about the extent of its travails beyond the tarmac.
We reckoned Lexus Malaysia wouldn’t be amused to see dents, a busted headlight and gunk all over the nice carpeting of their priciest product. And neither would 99% of LX owners.
But if you are the odd one out who think nothing of abusing such pricey hardware, the LX is, on paper, up to the task.
It bristles with an arsenal that’s adapted for the rough outdoors namely full-time four-wheel drive with low-range gearing and a number of electronic off-road aids such as hill start assist, an advanced traction management and active height control that works in tandem with an adaptive variable suspension to improve ride comfort and handling.
To clamber over rocks and ruts, for example, a five-speed Crawl Control adjusts the torque and brakes on each wheel independently, enabling the driver to focus on steering.
Crawl Control is supported by turn assist, which enables tighter turns when there is limited space to move, and an advanced power steering feature called variable flow control allows for better steering precision at low speeds.
Additionally, four cameras and an underfloor view provide surround vision for the driver to steer clear of trouble.
The LX comes with a five-year warranty with unlimited mileage and is available in a choice of six colours.
The LX will appeal to a minority who are looking for an all-rounder in a swanky package.
Petrol bills will be high, but that’s an afterthought for owners who accept it as the price to pay for going large and lux.
The pricing lobs the LX into contention with European rivals and they will no doubt be cross-shopped to the hilt.
Ultimately, those who pick the LX will be swayed by Lexus reliability, its mix of old school and modern styling and the raft of luxurious accoutrements within a spacious land-yacht that can go anywhere.