Lexus LX 450d: First Drive Review
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Does the most expensive model in the Lexus range deserve its asking price? We find out.
The Lexus LX 450d is the biggest and most expensive model in the brand’s range. Priced against the mighty Range Rover and considerably more expensive than its cousin, the Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX has many wondering why/if it deserves its asking price. We try to find out.
Presence, presence and then some more. Lexus is a Japanese brand, but they’ve clearly taken an Indian bada hai tho behtar hai (bigger is better) approach while designing the LX 450d. This SUV is a mini-continent and measures 5,080mm in length. That’s more than the standard Range Rover, but 119mm short of the extended wheelbase Rangie. In fact, it’s shorter than the Range Rover LWB in all dimensions, except for height where it’s 25mm taller.
However, while Land Rover’s design is restrained, the LX is explosive. Here too, we see the humongous spindle front grille taking up most of the space up front, flanked by the signature slits that house the LED fog lights and cornering lights on either side. Sleek this SUV is not, but the full-LED headlamps are and they add an additional dose of aggression, much like the muscular and plus-sized bonnet.
The side profile is where the Land Cruiser connection becomes apparent and the LX does look a bit dated. Look closely and you will notice that the doors aren’t as wide as you’d expect and because of the vehicle’s size, even the massive 18-inch wheels look a size small.
The rear end seems to draw inspiration from a Samurai helmet, particularly because of the manner in which the tail lights and their chrome accents sit together. The number plate sits in between the chunky reverse lights and just above it is a distinctive shut-line. That’s not just some styling trait. The tailgate is split folding and while the upper half opens with an electric release, the lower half has a mechanical lever.
Build quality is quite solid and will definitely please your inner dictator. Lexus has paid special attention to maintaining consistency in the panel gaps and while this is an old school, butch, body-on-frame SUV, it’s been put together with precision.
Now being an old school SUV, entering the LX is not car-like. You do have to climb into the cabin using the side-step and the pillar-mounted grab handle. If you are tall enough, you can sit and then swing your legs in. Ingress isn’t perfectly easy, especially in the rear row, because even if you keep the suspension at its lowest setting (easy access mode), it’s still quite tall.
The doors themselves are a bit narrow for a car that’s bigger than the average two BHK apartment in Mumbai. But once you’re in the driver’s seat, prepare yourself for a sense of power and influence. As big as it is on the outside, the high seating position and view of the big bonnet is nothing short of an ego booster.
The same theme continues for the interior design and everything from the grab handles and buttons to wing mirrors and knobs are proudly big in size. Quality, for the most part, is precise and consistent. There are a few hard plastics on the lower half of the dash, but the top is draped in fine quality leather as is the section around the centre console. The mix of wood and metallic finish elements is tasteful and primary touch points like the door armrests, gear lever, steering grips and infotainment controller palm-rest feel premium to the touch.
Ergonomically, it does come across as rather busy though. The common controls you will use (air-con/steering buttons and door-mounted switches) fall to hand easily, but the portion around the gear lever console has several buttons and dials, primarily the ones used to adjust the suspension and 4x4 system. For example, the drive mode selector and 4x4 crawl speed adjuster dials are of the exact same size and sit right next to each other, so you might accidentally use one instead of the other.
Now, big SUV = big space right? Well, not exactly. Sure, it’s certainly not cramped and it can genuinely seat 5 occupants because it uses its near 2-metre width properly. However, the seats sit quite high up, so taller folks will find headroom to be just adequate. Two six-footers can sit one behind the other, but don’t expect enough legroom to stretch your legs.
The front seats are power adjustable, with the driver’s seat getting the added convenience of lumbar and under-thigh support adjustment. These seats have been made expecting the occupant to be well-built, so people of smaller proportions will especially find them to be sofa-like. They’re very comfortable to be in and offer great side-support too, which does come in handy in tall boy, ladder-frame SUVs like this one.
The rear seats, though, aren’t as palatial as you’d expect. Apart from the leg space that’s just acceptable, the seating position is knees up. Fortunately, the massive glass area means you won’t feel claustrophobic even if you opt for an all-black interior, but all said and done, the Range Rover is easily a better car for chauffeur-driven owners. Also, important to note that unlike its mechanical cousin, the Land Cruiser, the LX does not have a third seat row in India.
Rest assured, the LX isn’t just all size and does come well-equipped too. Not only does it get four-zone climate control, you even get something called the ‘climate concierge’. The setup uses elements like infrared and radiant energy sensors to detect not only the cabin temperature, but the body temperature of individual occupants. So, for example, if a certain occupant’s body temperature is higher than the others’, the climate concierge will direct cooler air towards him, without affecting the air-flow to the other passengers.
Also provided are all-round ventilated seats and, apart from powered front seats with memory settings, the fore and aft adjustment of the rear seats is electric too. Rear occupants get AC vents on the floor and roof, while the climate control system can be controlled from the big rear armrest. Yes, you do get a sunroof and, like the RX, a wireless charging port, though it’s been placed under the front armrest. A nice touch is hydrophobic wing mirrors that don’t let water settle on them, making outside visibility safer.
Like the RX, the LX gets a 12.3-inch infotainment display that’s been integrated into the dashboard. The interface is the exact same and is very easy to navigate through even on the move. There’s no lag whatsoever and while the display is at eye level or above in the ES and RX, you look down upon it in the LX. Here too, you get the mouse-like controller and while it’s not complicated to use, it does take some getting used too. Thankfully, the motion sensitivity can be reduced, which makes it easier to operate.
You also get a colour head-up display and rear seat occupants get two large infotainment screens. These screens can be adjusted vertically and get a variety of source options including radio, Bluetooth and AUX. but they are quite in-your-face and unfortunately, they aren’t touchscreens. Both screens are operated by a single remote which gets a designated spot in the rear armrest.
The piece de resistance here too is the Mark Levinson sound system. The 19-speaker setup is easily one of the best in class and Lexus itself counts it as one of the car’s biggest selling points. Open up all the doors, turn the volume all the way up and you can easily entertain a garden party with just your car. On the move, because the noise insulation is bomb-shelter good, it really delivers the studio quality music experience.
This is the most expensive car in the Lexus range and oddly, the only one that stands out in the brand’s otherwise green lineup. Propelling the LX 450d is a massive 4.5-litre V8 diesel motor that produces 265PS of power and 650Nm of torque. This is an engine for those who believe there is no replacement for displacement, and sounds like an industrial-grade machine too. Fire the engine up and there’s a well pronounced gargle from the engine along with some clatter. That is, until you get inside.
Shut the doors and the cabin shuts out nearly every decibel instantly. Forget the engine; if someone is talking right outside your door you still can’t hear them. Evidently, there’s a hefty amount of sound deadening material in the doors and even the windshield and front windows get double-paned glass for the best noise insulation. Get moving and even as the revs build up, the crude sounding engine emits no more than a slight hum into the cabin. It’s only if you rev it really hard that the note becomes audible.
In any case, this isn’t an engine that needs hard revving. The slightest throttle input puts the 650 torques at your immediate disposal, since they’re available from as low as 1,600rpm. Driving in the city barely needs anything more than a light dab on the throttle, but even if you push the go pedal hard in Sport+ mode, the performance remains tame.
It’s not an engine that likes to be hustled and the 6-speed automatic gearbox isn’t too quick to respond either. Also, the gear changes could have been smoother, especially at low speeds. You do get paddle-shifters if you’d like to shift down a cog, but like most diesels, it’s best to ride the wave of torque rather than revving it hard and making more noise than progress.
Even though 265PS is a lot of power, it’s just about adequate for a beast that weighs 2,840kg. For reference, that’s a power-to-weight ratio of 93.3PS per ton, which is what most entry level hatchbacks manage. The torque-to-weight, though, is 229Nm per ton, and that does play a strong role in making the LX 450d a relaxed cruiser.
On the highway, its big engine will munch mile after mile effortlessly at triple digit speeds. That torque also gives it some oomph off the line, which is why its 0-100kmph time of 8.6 seconds is almost the same as the considerably lighter ES 300h. Of course, more weight means a thirstier engine, so the claimed fuel efficiency figure stands at just 9.6kmpl.
That torque is also needed because the LX is not just some fancy showpiece, but a purpose built-off roader. It comes equipped with a proper 4x4 system that features adaptive suspension and active height-control, which adjusts the ground clearance at each wheel based on the terrain conditions. The LX also comes with multi-terrain select which adjusts multiple vehicle systems based on the driving scenario and includes multiple modes i.e. mud and sand, loose rock, mogul, rock and dirt and rock.
Also offered is crawl control, which lets you controls the SUVs crawl speed in extreme off-road conditions, so you only need to monitor your steering inputs. LX owners probably won’t take it anywhere beyond the farmhouse, but should you get stuck in a tricky situation, it’s capable enough to get you out. Lest we forget, with 225mm of ground clearance, there’s no obstacle too tall.
Ride and Handling
The LX rides like the old school ladder-frame SUV it is. It irons out bumps and potholes without a hitch and dirt tracks or badly made city roads will never be a problem, but you will feel undulations in the cabin. There is a fair amount of vertical and side-to-side movement even at low speeds. However, you do get the Normal, Eco, Comfort, Sport S and Sport S+ drive modes, which change the behavior of the steering, powertrain and suspension.
In Sport and Sport+, the ride is far more stable and while it doesn’t become uncomfortably stiff, the SUV becomes far more stable. We even took a few hard corners in this mode and while it isn’t sports car-planted, it’s very impressive for a vehicle of this size.
The handling is what you’d expect of a big SUV and as long as you appreciate the high centre of gravity, the LX won’t give you any unpleasant surprises. The steering definitely has some weight to it and it isn’t one finger light. With a turning radius of 5.9 metres, be prepared to put in some effort during those many three-point turns in our city conditions or while going off-road. The weight remains consistent as you gain speed and while there still isn’t much feedback, the steering is responsive enough through the bends.
The brakes offer good bite as well, but there’s a noticeable amount of nose dive if you brake hard.
The LX 450d comes equipped as standard with 10 airbags, ABS, vehicle stability control, hill-start assist and three-point seatbelts for all passengers. It also gets a tyre pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors along with a 360-degree camera which gives you a real time view of the SUV’s surroundings, with multiple view angle options. Not only is this feature useful in the city, it’s also handy in spotting obstacles while off-road.
The Lexus LX 450d is only available in one fully-loaded variant. Customers can choose from 7 exterior colours and multiple trim and upholstery options on the inside.
Priced at Rs 2.32 crore ex-showroom Delhi, the LX 450d is not the most luxurious option for the money. The Range Rover Vogue offers a more premium experience and is also a capable off-roader itself. Additionally, if you want a luxury SUV, the Mercedes GLS or Audi Q7 offer a lot for a lot less. Also, if all you want is a big toy, the Range Rover Sport SVR and Porsche Cayenne Turbo are actually more affordable.
However, if you are looking for a capable, well-equipped SUV that makes a statement everywhere it goes, the LX deserves a place on your shopping list. Importantly, Lexus cars come with the promise of hassle-free ownership experience. Something it has already proven in markets overseas, which accounts for a BIG part of its asking price.
This is an aspect that hasn’t always been a strong point for its European counterparts. As a car, the LX 450d is certainly priced at a serious premium, but Lexus promises to offer ownership expenses half that of its rivals and an overall ownership experience that will make you hold on to your car for longer.
We’ve already seen Toyota live up to that reputation and have enough reason to believe Lexus will be no different, especially since the dealer network belongs to existing Toyota retailers. It may not be the best car for the money, but when you consider the whole package, the LX starts to make sense.