While the sensible heavy duty tow vehicle choice is a turbodiesel 4WD, there comes a time when you don’t need or want to be sensible. If you’ve done well in your career and have the money to spend on a luxury petrol SUV to tow with, why not?
Enter the Lexus LX570, a large, solid luxury SUV wagon dripping with all the baubles you could possibly want and a healthy 5.7-litre V8 engine to flatten any hill ahead when towing. With a 3500kg/350kg towing capacity, the big Lexus is as good as it gets for lugging a big van along.
The second-generation LX570 landed here in 2008 and is based on the Toyota LandCruiser 200. In early 2016, the LX570 had a significant upgrade. Externally, Lexus says that only the roof and doors are carried over from the previous model.
The interior has a new steering wheel, console storage, full instrument panel, door trims, ornamentation, instrument display, multimedia screens and seats. The new multimedia system has a high definition 12.3-inch screen and Remote Touch Interface and there’s a larger, 4.2-inch multi-information display.
A new eight-speed transmission, replacing the six-speed unit, and a new Drive Mode Select system for optimising powertrain and suspension responses are the key mechanical changes.
There are new 20-inch split 10-spoke wheels and optional 21-inch 10-spoke wheels (as fitted to the test vehicle).
Other upgrades include Panoramic View Monitor, Head-Up Display, three-spoke wood/leather steering wheel, LED ambient lighting in cabin and cargo area, touch-sensor overhead lighting, manual second-row sunshades, wireless charging tray for Qi-compatible phones, larger 11.6-inch high-definition screens for standard rear seat entertainment system, tyre-specific tyre pressure monitoring system, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lexus Enform connected mobility.
Standard gear highlights are climate control with separate rear controls, Active Height Control (height-adjustable suspension), damper adjustment, Adaptive Variable Suspension systems (including Multi-terrain ABS, Active Traction Control and Crawl Control), 10 SRS airbags, HID high-beam headlights and projector low-beam headlights, Smart entry and Smart start, Lexus Park Assist (sensors and cameras) and power tailgate opening.
The ‘standard’ LX570 costs $140,500 (plus on-road costs) but the test vehicle came with the $16,500 Enhancement Pack option package (21-inch alloy wheels, heated steering wheel, front seat ventilation and second row seat heater and ventilation), making for a total of $157,000 (plus on-road costs).
The step-up into the Lexus cabin is easier when using the suspension’s access mode, which drops the Lexus onto its haunches. Yet there is no denying that this is still a large, tall vehicle. The pay-off is when you step up and in, you get one of the most comfortable and roomy cabins in the luxury SUV class. The view from the driver’s seat is very good forward and to the sides. Side mirrors are large, and the rear parking sensors and reversing camera dispense with any concerns about getting around the LX570’s big blind spot at the rear.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The LX570’s V8 engine is called the 3UR-FE, and has an electronic throttle, roller rockers, direct ignition and a lightweight cast-aluminium cylinder block, variable valve timing, 16-valve DOHC heads and Siamese inlet ports that optimise airflow and intake pulsation.
The auto transmission is an eight-speed electronically controlled hydraulic unit, and the LX570 has a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a torque-sensing centre differential.
The transfer case has an electric motor to shift between high and low range, and push-button activation for the centre diff.
The Torsen mechanical limited-slip centre differential gives a torque split of 40:60 front/rear.
The big V8 is a quiet, smooth unit that also shifts the big LX’s 2.7 tonnes with a fair bit of eagerness when needed. The transmission is very smooth and intuitive. This is a very smooth powertrain: there is no backlash or clunky gearshifts.
The LX570 is a big wagon and feels it on the road. Steering is reasonably quick on turn-in though understeer is the LX570’s preference, despite the grippy 21-inch tyres. What makes the Lexus unwieldy in fast corners is the lack of seat side-support – you’re left to hang on tight to the steering wheel to stop yourself from moving side-to-side through fast corners.
There are three damper settings (Comfort, Sport and Sport+) to choose from, and while Comfort is the pick for day-to-day driving, on some surfaces it can make you feel a little seasick. Sport is better, while Sport+ just accentuates the lack of body rigidity and while it ties down the suspension well there’s little point with a vehicle like this. It’s not a sports SUV.
Offroad the Lexus is a good thing. It’ll eat dirt touring roads for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you decide to head for bush tracks or the beach, the LX will walk through most of what the terrain can serve up, though the standard tyres are a weak point for puncture resistance and while all the electric traction aids can extricate the LX570 from most situations, the vehicle feels really big on tight tracks.
You can’t have a big petrol V8 SUV and expect it to sip petrol like a diesel. The LX570 will burn fuel at around 17.0L/100km on an easy cruise, and towing a 2400kg full-size van, inhale petrol at a rate of 25.2L/100km. In hilly terrain the LX570’s trip computer got up to 32.3L/100km, but mid-20s would hopefully be more likely an average on tour. Luckily there are twin fuel tanks with 138 litres between them.
Where lugging big weights is concerned, the Lexus does it easy. The caravan we used had an 1800kg Tare weight and 140kg ball load. The stability of the Lexus, sharing much of its DNA with the Toyota LandCruiser 200, is not in question. It would take a foolhardy driver and a very unbalanced caravan to get this rig out of shape. Performance was very good, although on steep climbs it took all the big V8 had to keep speed pegged at 100km/h. Engine braking wasn’t great, with the free-revving V8 reluctant to peg speed downhill, although the paddle shifts were excellent for quickly engaging a lower gear to give what engine braking the engine had. While stability was good, the suspension had much less float when towing when the Sport damper setting was used.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Lexus of course has a lot of LandCruiser about it, which is mostly a good thing. It has the power, refinement and stability to make a very good tow vehicle. Of course it’s thirsty, but if you’re paying $160,000-plus for a luxury SUV, paying for the petrol on tour is the least of your worries.
The full test appears in Caravan World #559. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!