Lexus LX 450d: The luxurious behemoth

Gentle giant The LX 450d, with a sober, grand appearance, can very well haul you across oceans SMURALIDHAR

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It can help you cross continents, and step out as fresh as a flower after reaching the other coast. But is it worth that whopping price tag?

After years of waiting, Indian buyers have got the opportunity to lay their paws on Lexus’ luxurious vehicles. I got my chance to do the same a few weeks ago, and it was eye-opening to say the least, even for someone who has driven some of the brand’s previous generation models.

For its India debut, Lexus has chosen wisely to bring in three key vehicle types – sedan, crossover and sports utility vehicle (SUV) – all of which are witnessing strong growth within the luxury vehicle space. It is also a smart move to bring in a mix of vehicles, which includes hybrids since more and more buyers are choosing them in line with an increase in the choice available.

Lexus’ biggest model and its first sports utility launched back in 1996 is the LX. Currently, it is the brand’s flagship SUV; and given Indian buyers’ preference for diesel powertrains, the India-spec is the LX 450d with its 4.5-litre V8 diesel engine.

Family design

Like a few of its other models, which share platforms with the parent’s own vehicles, the Lexus LX is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser LC200. The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s flagship and from a distance, the LX seems a bit too familiar. There is no escaping the connection, but as I became more intimate with the LX 450d, its special build quality and materials slowly unravelled a different story. The most obvious change in this 2017 model, which is an extensive redesign of what is essentially the third generation LX, is the huge spindle-shaped bonnet grille and the wide LED cornering lamps within the new headlamp configuration. Meant to be a tribute to Toyota’s past, the grille is an exaggeration of a textile spindle and is now a theme that runs across Lexus models.

The side profile of the LX 450d is the most unremarkable, with the classic proportions of an upright, full-size SUV (over five-metre) coming through. The rear features wrap-around tail-lamps on a massive electrically operated tail-gate that cuts deep into the rear fender and offers a low loading lip. My test mule LX looked like a squat, burly SUV gleaming under the sun. Its dimensions give the LX more width (1,980 mm) than height (1,865 mm), yet I had to step up on the sideboards and haul myself up into the cabin.

Plush cabin

If the special exterior paint job, the precisely made chrome trim, the tight shut lines and the high-tech LED lights didn’t quite impress you, the extremely luxurious cabin surely will. The cabin is also the one place where Lexus’ famous hand-built perfection is best experienced. Soft, creamy, perforated leather seats that are both heated and cooled, a multi-function steering wheel constructed with a wood-leather combo and which is a delight to hold, and soft white ambient lighting makes the driver’s spot in LX the perfect perch. The dashboard is very upright and SUV-like, but its combination of black, brown and creamy white colour theme is very pleasing. The quality of hand-stitched leather, polished wood and metal trim used also puts the cabin’s luxury quotient right on top of the class.

The wide centre console feels a little cluttered with multiple knobs and controls for features like the auto aircon, seats, ride height, infotainment system, drive modes and four-wheel drive select. There are oodles of space in the front and rear of the cabin and in the boot. In fact, the LX is so wide that you may need to lean to be able to reach the front passenger. One of the highlights of the cabin is the 19-speaker Mark Levinson music system. Rear passengers get their own entertainment with two 11.6-inch screens mounted on seat backs.

Performance

When cranked, the LX 450d’s V8 engine can’t muffle the fact that it is a diesel burner. Shut the door and the 4,461 cc unit is a distant presence. This is Lexus’ speciality – the ability to isolate noise and vibrations to ensure in-cabin refinement. The engine produces 261 bhp of peak power and a huge 650 Nm of torque. Naturally, hauling the LX with its nearly 3.3 tonnes (fully loaded) weight isn’t much of a problem. But in the ‘normal’ and ‘Eco’ mode, the LX feels restrained, laboured even. Turn the knob to sport mode and suddenly the engine and its six-speed auto gearbox come alive – it feels like a gentle giant who has had a Red Bull rush.

Despite its size and heft, the LX handles remarkably well. The steering with variable gear ratios and variable flow control tech is perfectly balanced for off-roading, slow city speeds, high speeds on the freeway and on tight, winding mountain roads like the ones I was on during the test drive. During dynamic driving, with its big reserves of power available to dip into, often it will be the driver’s skills and limitations that will be put to test. The LX 450d’s USP is its ability to offer serious off-road performance while it is packaged to seem like a luxury boat on the inside. Multiple vehicle systems including a proprietary all-wheel drive system can be adjusted by choosing from multi-terrain select. If you do end up attempting some serious off-roading, shifting into low-range and active height control will enable the LX’s systems to automatically adjust the vehicle height to suit different situations.

Bottomline

One cool feature in the LX 450d are the four cameras positioned in the front, door mirrors and the rear, which relay images to the screen in the cabin providing a 360-degree view – useful during challenging off-road manoeuvres. There is a lot more to the LX 450d, including a whole host of safety features. Not surprisingly, its rated fuel efficiency is 9.6 kmpl. But, the question in the buyers’ mind is likely to be whether the Lexus LX 450d is worth the extra ₹1 crore (at ₹2.33 crore, ex-showroom, Delhi) over its platform sharing sibling the Toyota Land Cruiser 200, which also sports the same V8 engine in the same state of tune. My answer, in short, the LX’s beauty is more than skin deep.

Published on June 08, 2017
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