Absolute serenity, unqualified luxury, and unyielding dreariness behind the wheels; the 2012 LX570 packs all the characteristic features you’ve come to expect in a Lexus SUV. The ride remains the same, the trappings remain the same, even the boredom remains the same.
So what’s new with the latest iteration of the Japanese luxury brand’s flagship SUV? Except for the new turn-assist feature that tightens the turning circle by applying more brake force on the inside rear wheel, pretty much every other change is cosmetic, like the new spindle grille family face, the optional split five-spoke, 20in alloy wheels with Liquid Graphite finish, LED daytime running lights, mildly tweaked headlamp design and larger fog lamp bezels.
We all know Lexus gets luxury better than anyone else — save for Rolls-Royce — on the planet. But sadly what it doesn’t seem to get is the fact that its ageing vehicle line-up needs quite a lot more than just skin-deep alterations to keep up with fast-improving competition. Forget Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes, even the likes of Infiniti is catching up fast with its SUVs feeling more modern than the Lexus, which looks and feels lacklustre in comparison.
I’m not a fan of the way the Infiniti QX56 drives. It’s wallowy and has a lot of body roll around the slightest of corners. But the LX is no different. Although the ride is sublime for the passengers, for the person behind the wheel, the whole experience is a tad detached and vague. But to its credit, the powertrain is arguably the smoothest in the business, with a 5.7-litre workhorse, coupled with an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission, it provides plenty of thrust — 362bhp at 5,600rpm and peak torque of 530Nm at 3,600rpm to be precise — to heave 2,680kg of finely built mass of metal with utmost grace.
Being based on the legendary Land Cruiser there’s no doubting the LX570’s off-road capabilities. The high-mount, independent double-wishbone front suspension allows up to 230mm of travel for the front wheels to help negotiate whatever crags or hills that are thrown its way. Meanwhile the 2012 LX retains the four-link trailing-arm rear suspension with its solid-axle configuration as well as the impressive towing capacity of more than 3,100kg.
Also the Active Height Control system makes it easier for the driver and passengers to enter and exit the car by lowering the chassis by up to 50mm. The smart thing is the height goes back to normal once the car begins to accelerate. This system also automatically lowers the vehicle at highway speeds to aid aerodynamics. As if.
The cabin is spacious and luxurious alright, but is now getting on a bit. One wonders why Lexus didn’t make the effort to make the third-row seats fold and stow flat into the floor as in many lesser SUVs, so that they leave behind unobstructed storage space. Instead they now fold up to the sides making it awkward to store bulky stuff.
Another gripe I had was with the Mark Levinson entertainment system. During the three days I had the car, I tried playing different DVDs and for some reason the soundtrack would come on but the video wouldn’t. Maybe I was doing something wrong?
But something as simple as a video player shouldn’t call for a consultation of the user’s manual, should it? Also, the sound system didn’t seem to have the same punch as it had in the LS460 saloon.
All in all, the LX570 remains what it has always been. It’s spacious, extremely comfy, loaded with premium features and being a Land Cruiser at heart, should kick some posterior off-road. But beneath all the cosmetic treatment, it also remains old. Also, why would you pay close to Dh400,000 for something that’s essentially a Toyota Land Cruiser with a premium badge? I’d any day buy a Land Cruiser and save the rest of the money. And if I were intent on buying a posh SUV, it would be a Range Rover Sport all the way.