Peering over the stitched leather-lined dashboard of the hefty Lexus LX as it points skyward up a dirt ridge is a reminder of the capabilities of the 200 Series Cruiser architecture beneath. A few scrabbles as the traction control searches for grip and it’s soon up and over, barely fussed by the dirty fracas beneath.
Only the broad 12.3-inch infotainment screen is showing signs of the commotion outside, a thin layer of dust descending across its face. While the LX wears a Lexus badge and is brimming with Lexus luxury inside, it’s pure Land Cruiser beneath the skin – which is a good thing.
But one area those Land Cruiser genes have been missing over the two-decade lifespan of the LX is with the 200 Series’s V8 diesel engine.
What has purely been a petrol-fuelled proposition until now has taken the logical step and adopted diesel propulsion for the first time, propelling it into sharp focus for those who have traditionally gravitated to a Range Rover – or a top-shelf Land Cruiser Sahara – in the quest for luxury, efficiency and off-road ability.
The 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel is identical to that used in the 200 Series, right down to its 200kW and stonking 650Nm.
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It’s barely fazed by our dirt-crawling expedition, the effortless torque rush solving any issues shifting the weighty body. Cruising at 110km/h, too, is a relaxed and comfortable affair, the six-speed auto slotting between fifth and sixth gear and keeping the engine in its torque sweet spot. It’s quiet, too, adding to the ambience of what is one of the most cossetting and sumptuous cabins this side of a limousine.
However, at that speed it’ll slurp upwards of 11 litres of diesel per 100km, well up on its 9.5L/100km claimed consumption. Brief 130km/h blasts in the Northern Territory show its bluff nose doesn’t slink through the air particularly cleanly, consumption rising further.
For outback cruising, though, few will do it in the style and comfort of an LX, even with the standard 20-inch tyres. It’s a sizeable set of hoops and one boasting a 50-series profile. Not ideal, then, for rocks and sand – or for finding a replacement anywhere between Bathurst and Broome. To be fair, though, we punished them over nearly 4000km of shaly/rocky/corrugated roads and never copped a puncture.
Despite the low sidewall, the tyres contribute to a superb ride, which is more a credit to the adjustable-height hydraulic suspension that replaces the Cruiser’s fixed-height coil springs. It’s beautifully supple, smothering small and big bumps alike. And the body control is superb and as the big LX approaches the limits of its travel it controls things nicely.
Corrugations, too, are still felt, but not the bone-jarring affair they otherwise could be. Across a broad selection of surfaces we were struggling to find somewhere the LX’s suspension didn’t make for a terrific ride.
Of course, the LX’s big drawcard is its ability in the rough stuff, something that hasn’t changed from the LX570 that’s still on the Lexus shopping list.
Core mechanicals team with nicely tailored software to make for easy progress. It’s a supremely capable machine, one that benefits from the additional height when the suspension is in its highest mode; an extra 50mm is added to the front and 60mm at the rear, something only on offer below 30km/h.
It’s a supremely capable machine, one that benefits from the additional height when the suspension is in its highest mode; an extra 50mm is added to the front and 60mm at the rear, something only on offer below 30km/h.
That extra clearance – lifting it to about 280mm – also improves the approach and departure angles at its regular height, which at 25 and 20 degrees respectably trail those of a Land Cruiser (32 and 24 degrees). That’s important given the unique Lexus bumper that makes for a very different look to the Land Cruiser at its nose; lights, bonnet and grille are also unique to the luxury marque, with similar changes at the rear.
Yet the luxury occasionally lags behind a 200 Series Sahara, at least when it comes to a list of features. Rear DVD screens and ventilated front seats are missing, for example, as are heated back seats. That’s why the LX450d undercuts its petrol-fed cousin by almost $10k, with a sticker price of $134,500. And the LX oil burner misses out on the third row of seats that’s of little use in the outback, but handy for family duties in town.
Blame it on weight. The extra kilos of the diesel donk combined with things such as the adjustable suspension system meant having to strip equipment out to adhere to the 3350kg GVM.
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The biggest ticket item to be left on the floor, though, is the dual fuel tanks that give a 200 a sizeable 138-litre hold. Instead, the LX does with the single 93-litre tank, reducing its touring range considerably. Relying solely on the officially quoted figures, the LX450d will only cruise past its petrol-powered cousin by about 20km, each just falling shy of the 1000km mark.
That, alone, will tilt some people towards a Sahara, which is still a mighty fine piece of kit – taking the luxury fight to the LX on so many fronts.
Elsewhere, though, the LX has genuinely useful features. The automatic high beam system includes a matrix of LEDs that can block out other traffic, providing better illumination on country roads. Of course, it won’t help once you plonk a big set of spotties up front, but it’s terrific when you limit it to the vehicle’s lighting system.
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That dabble with accessories opens an interesting quandary with the LX.
Other than its unique body panels that will limit some of the 200-Series accessories to the Toyota side of the ledger, the unique suspension will also cause issues, unlikely to have the vast range of aftermarket options of a LandCruiser.
Still, the Lexus LX450d adds to the appeal of what is effectively a top shelf LandCruiser. It does so with unique styling and some supple suspension that give the LX a character removed enough from the 200-Series it now shares an engine with.
Lexus LX450d Specs
Engine: DOHC 32-valve V8 twin-turbo diesel
Capacity: 4.5-litre (4461cc)
Power: 200kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 650Nm at 1600-2800rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed auto
4X4 system: full-time dual-range
Construction: separate chassis
Front suspension: independent/coil springs with hydraulic height adjustment
Rear suspension: live axle/coil springs with hydraulic height adjustment
Wheel/tyre spec: 285/50 R20
Kerb weight: 2670kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Fuel tank size: 93 litres
ADR fuel claim: 9.5L/100km
Touring range: 978km