Gas-guzzling luxury comes at a cost

Last updated 07:01 07/09/2012
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POWER PLANT: 5.7-litre petrol V8, 270 kW at 5600 rpm, 530 Nm at 3200 rpm.

RUNNING GEAR: All-wheel drive. Six-speed automatic transmission. Double wishbone front suspension, solid axle setup at the rear.

HOW BIG: Length 4990mm, width 1970mm, height 1920mm, wheelbase 2850mm.

HOW MUCH: $196,400

WHAT'S GOOD: Super-luxury SUV offering every appointment.

WHAT'S NOT: Fuel use so high it's almost an embarrassment.

OUR VERDICT: Lexus LX570 is a great vehicle that is really capable on and off the road. But that cost...

Initially, I couldn't keep my eyes off the computer readout of this vehicle's average fuel consumption.

It kept telling me my fuel use was averaging 30 litres per 100 kilometres. In the old imperial terms, that was worse than 10 miles per gallon - and with petrol prices in New Zealand reaching record highs, that was definitely not a good look.

Click photo above to check out more views of the luxurious Lexus LX570.

But as the days progressed and I continued to drive the vehicle, the average fuel consumption slowly fell, so that by the end of my week behind the wheel, it had moved into the 20s.

But it was still a long way short of the published average consumption of 14.8 L/100 km, which in itself is a very high consumption for this day and age, and all that set me thinking about who would buy a vehicle such as this.

Welcome to the world of the Lexus LX570, a great big full-sized SUV that is based heavily on the long-running Toyota Land Cruiser, but which is powered by a 5.7-litre petrol V8 and is so heavily stacked with luxuries that there is no need for any optional extras to be offered.

As far as luxury vehicles go, this Lexus is a masterpiece. Not only does it seem to have everything you could possibly need on board, but it is capable - it can waft you around the urban streets in quiet and luxury, but it can also take you off the road and into rough country that you wouldn't dare go with lesser vehicles.

But it also costs $196,400, and it drinks petrol.

I suppose it could be said that anyone able to afford to buy such an SUV can also afford to fill it up. But I'm left wondering whether a massive petrol V8-powered LX570 is appropriate anymore, particularly when there are other diesel-engined equivalents around.

The Lexus LX has been sold in New Zealand since 1998 when it was introduced as the LX470. This bigger-engined model was launched four years ago, and I've been driving it because it has recently undergone a facelift.

It now has Lexus' signature spindle grille and receives fresh exterior styling front and rear, including new 20-inch alloy wheels.

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On the inside, the LX570 also receives a number of upgrades and changes.

The driver's seat now has what is known as an new Easy Access system, which makes entering and exiting the vehicle easier because the steering wheel and driver's seat automatically retract when the ignition is turned off. It's quite fun having that happen, and right from the start it indicates that this Lexus is chock-full of luxury and appointment.

The instrument panel has been updated and incorporates a new colour multi-information display. A metallic finish for the centre instrument cluster and front side air vents, along with a new metallic accent above the glove box, freshen the look of the instrument panel.

The cabin of the new-look LX570 also includes a mahogany wood trim, while ivory or black leather-accented interior trim combinations are available.

The LX570's 5.7-litre V8 delivers 270kW of power at 5600 rpm and peak torque of 530Nm at 3200 rpm. That's plenty; and crucially, 90 per cent of the torque is available from 2200 rpm, which gives the vehicle the capability to tow up to 3.5 tonnes.

Newly adopted steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, controlling a six-speed automatic transmission, ensure that customers can make the best use of this power, on and off-road. A sequential shift mode also allows the driver to select gears manually.

Even at very low speeds, such as trail driving, the transmission operates smoothly and imperceptibly.

The LX570's transfer case provides full-time four-wheel drive that is equally adept at handling the rigours of slippery winter weather, mud or snow. The system uses a Torsen limited-slip locking centre differential with front-to-rear variable torque distribution, directing more power to the wheels with the best grip should slippage occur.

The vehicle is also loaded with other equipment designed for off-road use, including four-wheel Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) that employs both brake and throttle intervention to help control wheel spin, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) to help maintain directional control during cornering, and an updated Crawl Control or off-road cruise control feature, which now has five pre-set speeds to choose from.

There's also a new Turn Assist feature that tightens the big Lexus' turning circle by adding more brake force to the inside rear wheel.

The LX570 also has a Multi-terrain Select function which allows drivers to optimise vehicle performance by choosing from five types of terrain - including rock, rock and dirt, mogul, loose rock, and mud and sand - to deliver the ideal combination of stability and traction control assistance over different surfaces.

The LX570's chassis is equipped with an independent double-wishbone front suspension which allows for 230mm of total front wheel travel for outstanding articulation over rough roads and obstacles.

The four-link trailing-arm rear suspension retains the solid-axle configuration for strength and durability. Body-on-frame construction provides ruggedness and durability in challenging driving conditions, plus impressive ride isolation characteristics.

Active Height Control (AHC) lowers the chassis for easy entry and exit and returns automatically to its normal height when the vehicle begins to accelerate - in other words, when stopped, it will actually squat down on its haunches to make it easier to get in and out of. For improved aerodynamics and on-road stability, the AHC system also lowers the vehicle when travelling at higher speeds.

When the transfer case is shifted into low range and during crawl control, AHC raises the vehicle to provide additional ride height in driving situations where chassis clearance is at a premium.

A hydro-pneumatic Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system provides three modes to control the spring rate and shock absorber damping force to provide optimal handling and comfort for on-road or trail driving.

Comfort mode provides a softer response on extremely bumpy roads, while the Normal and Sport modes help provide increasingly greater levels of control for driving a heavily loaded vehicle, at higher speeds on paved or unpaved roads.

The LX570 is equipped with 10 standard airbags, including driver and front passenger knee airbags, front and second row seat-mounted side airbags in the outer seating positions, and roll-sensing side curtain airbags that cover all three rows.

The safety suite also features the availability of an advanced radar-based Pre-Crash System with radar Active Cruise Control.

Exterior visibility is further enhanced with a multi-terrain monitor, featuring four exterior cameras.

Cameras include wide-view front and side cameras, located on both driver and passenger sides, a feature designed for use in tight settings such as parking stations and to aid in low speed off-road driving.

With cameras located within the front grille and under the passenger and driver outside mirrors, the driver can check hard-to-view areas by simply pressing a button on the dashboard and viewing the camera images on the standard navigation system screen.

These cameras function up to a vehicle speed of 12 kmh and can display the front and passenger side view simultaneously in split-screen mode. There's also a rear view camera with predictive guidance lines that ensures tricky reversing manoeuvres are done with ease.

A full array of luxury amenities are standard, including four-zone independent climate control, the reversing camera, navigation, and a 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference Surround Sound audio with 450-watts maximum power and 16 channels. The system also features iPod/USB connectivity.

LX570 also offers dual rear seat entertainment screens mounted behind the front seat head rests.

So all that represents a wealth of motoring appointment and luxury for the money - little wonder therefore that Lexus New Zealand says the LX570 represents the best of Lexus' off-road technology and performance.

It does too, and for that reason it is a tremendously good vehicle to drive. But its size and operational cost means I can't see it having a lot of relevance in New Zealand, and that will always mean very limited sales in this country.

- Taranaki Daily News

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