The facelifted Lexus LX follows hot on the heels of the Land Cruiser 200, which was launched last month. Which one should you go for?
If the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 is the “King of Africa,” where does that leave the Lexus LX?
The press release refers to it as The Great Conqueror, but we look at that chintzy grille and it simply shouts “Emperor”!
It’s like Xerxes – the tall, muscular fellow from 300 who successfully brought down King Leonidas. He quite liked dressing up in a fancy golden Speedo with accompanying golden armour and jewellery, while the Lexus prefers to adorn itself in chrome and LED lights. Both make a statement that says something like, “Look at me — I’m in charge, boet”.
So, if the Land Cruiser is the King, then the Lexus is the Emperor — a few notches higher on the social totem pole.
The question is, which one should you go for? Is it good enough just being the King, or is it worth spending the extra cash to drive around as the Emperor of Africa?
Luckily, we were in the fortunate position of being able to drive both, so we can deliver a verdict on that particular query. But first, consider the Lexus…
The previous LX didn’t do a convincing job of disguising its relatively humble roots, but the facelifted model tries to look somewhat different. It succeeds to a point, but then those Land Cruiser lines are too well known and too prominent not to draw a direct comparison between the cars.
The main difference between them is up front. The Toyota carries a design that harks back to the 80 models, albeit with a fair amount of chrome to go along with it, while the Lexus carries a face that fits in perfectly with other modern Lexus models.
It’s not a subtle car, by any stretch of the imagination, but then again, subtlety is not what this segment is known for.
The Lexus looks brash, expensive and unstoppable. It’s not as handsome as a Range Rover but neither is it as awkward looking as the Infiniti QX80.
Features and equipment
The interior is bespoke in some places and familiar in others. Most importantly, it’s bespoke in all the right places, so it hides its Land Cruiser roots rather well. That’s saying something, because the 200 is already one of the most luxurious and comfortable means of transport we can think of.
The main difference between the cabins is the infotainment interface. The Land Cruiser is all about function while the Lexus offers a more complex entertainment and information system.
At the centre is a 12,3-inch colour display, which you use via a remote touch interface system. It’s basically a mouse that you use to choose the function you want. We’ve heard people complain about how complicated it is, but we found it easy to operate once we’d worked it out. It seems daunting at first, but as an owner you’d soon be a master of the point and click.
In addition to the large screen, the LX comes standard with a 4,2-inch colour display in the instrument binnacle and heads up display on the driver’s side of the windscreen. Most of the main functions can be operated or adjusted via these displays and the remote controls on the steering wheel, if the mouse set-up is just too daunting.
Rear seat passengers are treated to two entertainment consoles in the front seatbacks, each able to operate independently of the other. Four-zone climate control is standard as well, so every passenger in the front two rows can set their own preferred temperature.
The LX has a signature Lexus steering wheel. (The one in the previous unit simply had the Toyota badge replaced by a Lexus badge.) In fact, once you start looking at the finer detail, you’ll notice that Toyota has even replaced some of the minor switches with bespoke switches this time round, and this goes a long way towards justifying the price premium over the 200.
The Mark Levinson surround sound system also helps to justify the price difference, not to mention the beautiful Lexus clock…
It was always a wonderfully opulent cabin, and that’s still the case, but with a few noteworthy additions. The standard specification now includes seat ventilation and heating for the front and second row, a rear sunshade and a wireless cellphone charger, which has to be among the best bits of paraphernalia offered in a car.
Performance and handling
The LX is now, for the first time, available as a diesel. This is good news, because the V8 just isn’t worth the money. The thirsty big bore petrol engine is still part of the line-up, but we see no reason why you should choose it over the diesel.
Firstly, having a 5,7-litre petrol V8 doesn’t make it fast by any stretch of the imagination. The car is way too heavy for that. Secondly, it guzzles fuel at a rate that would dismay a multi-millionaire. The petrol model is certainly quieter, but the cabin is so well insulated that you can’t hear the engine, anyway.
The diesel unit is the same one that you’ll find in the 200, but it is tuned slightly differently to produce 195kW and 650Nm of torque. The only transmission option is a six-speed automatic.
The LX is not for performance or handling enthusiasts. It performs admirably when you gun it, but it is not designed for dynamic driving.
We spent most of our time within the confines of the city, which we assumed would be a hassle for the LX. The older Johannesburg suburbs and their roads seemed a big narrow for the Lexus, but fortunately it is imposing enough to persuade other road users to give you some space. In the more modern parts of the city, the LX fits in perfectly. Yes, you may spend an extra 10 minutes outside the mall hunting for a parking space, but at least it’s time spend in ventilated seats.
The LX is at its best wafting along at the speed limit, or 10km/h above it. Drive it smoothly and it responds by giving you the softest, most relaxing ride imaginable.
Turbo lag is hardly noticeable and in-gear acceleration is good enough to scare the hot hatches, but for the most part the set-up simply encourages you to sit back and enjoy the ride. And with a standard specification like this, why wouldn’t you want to?
Strangely, the LX has, in addition to the various off-road driving modes, a dial that allows you to switch between a few modes when driving on tar. It has both Sport and Sport+ settings, but in these modes the accelerator pedal is ultra responsive and the car launches itself too aggressively when pulling away and when you just push down slightly to overtake. We preferred comfort mode, because that’s what this car is all about.
As we drove the Land Cruiser 200 a month ago, we didn’t really see the point in going too hardcore with the LX. We don’t believe the average owner would ever do this sort of thing. Among all the ultra expensive and highly capable off-roaders, we’ve only seen the 200 in what is supposed to be its natural habitat. And, as an emperor, you’d probably leave the job of conquering unknown terrain to the plebs.
It’s a pity, because like other expensive luxury barges, such as the Range Rover and Infiniti QX80, the LX is geared to handle fairly tough terrain. You could slap a set of jerry cans on the roof and drive all the way to Egypt without modifying a single component.
For normal off-road use, such as gravel road driving, or conquering something like Sani Pass, the LX is equipped with a Multi-Terrain Select system, which adjusts multiple vehicle systems to give the driver the most amount of traction. The selections include Loose Rock, Mud/Sand, Mogul, Rock or Rock/Dirt.
For more serious trail driving, the LX has Crawl Control. It basically takes control of everything, leaving the driver to concentrate on pointing the car in the right direction.
Couple that to the multi-terrain monitor, which is series of strategically positioned cameras around the car, and you have a foolproof recipe for off-roading.
There is one thing that worries us, however, and that’s the air suspension. It means the Lexus is marvellously comfortable on tar and on a gravel road, but we can’t help think it’s just one more thing that could go wrong if you decide to venture further off road. The 200 has an old-school set-up, and having spent some time with it recently, we don’t see any reason why you’d rather have an air suspension. Would it make us confident enough to take a R1,3 million car on a daunting trail? We’re not so sure…
Space and safety
There is no Euro NCAP rating available for the LX, probably because it broke all of their equipment. It weighs in at roughly three tons and the tests are conducted at 64km/h. A car of that size barrelling down at a concrete block would be a practical demonstration of a massive force moving in the direction of an immovable object. We hate to think about the impact.
Or, it could just be a case of Euro NCAP not getting around to testing it yet, but it would probably score the full five stars, because it is equipped with 10 airbags, a strong passenger cell and a host of electronic safety systems.
As for space… well, it’s not as though it was going to have any problems on that front. The pictures simply don’t do justice to its sheer size. It dwarfs everything out there, which is rather nice if you have a large family, but not so nice when you want to park it.
The point of this test was never to find out whether the LX was a good car. Once you start shopping around for a vehicle with a sticker price in excess of R1 million, it’s pretty hard to find something truly terrible.
What we were wondering was whether it could justify that premium over the Land Cruiser 200, which is already a very impressive luxury off-roader.
The answer has always been no. Previous generations of the LX were simply tarted up Land Cruisers that relied on exclusivity and small design changes to justify a higher price, but this is no longer the case. The LX has been elevated above the likes of the 200 and it can justify the R300 000 price jump when you compare it with the Land Cruiser on paper. The interior is more luxurious, the seats are sublime and there is more than enough additional equipment to explain why you’d pick it instead of a 200.
For the first time, it also looks like a Lexus, and the air suspension goes a long way in making it feel like one as well.
But there is one important thing you should consider, and that’s the knock you will inevitably take in depreciation. We scouted some websites for second hand examples of both the LX and 200, and the results were surprising. A neat 2013 Land Cruiser can be bought for about R900 000, while a 2013 Lexus LX retails for just R40 000 more. So, in more or less two years, that additional investment of R300 000 in the Lexus will be gone.
If you can live with that, then we’d recommend the Lexus, but if you can’t, stick with the Land Cruiser 200. Either way, Toyota ends up getting your hard earned money!
As for which one we’d take, it’s difficult to say. The amount of luxury in the Lexus is tempting, but the 200 VS isn’t exactly a barn…
Let’s just say that we’d be fine with being the king. That’s more than good enough for us!