REVIEW: Large and in charge Lexus LX is big on presence, luxury and capability

Published Oct 5, 2023


When Lexus sets out to make a statement you know they’ll be doing it in style. And it’s none more so than the five-seater Lexus LX 500d, which stands quietly in a parking bay and simply says ‘look at me’.

The sheer size of it makes it one of the biggest cars you’re allowed to drive without a truck license or an abnormal load sign on the roof.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I know, but the 500d we had on test is one of the biggest vehicles we’ve driven in quite some time.

It’s based on the wildly popular Toyota Land Cruiser 300 and if you’re lucky enough to own one you know it’s a bit special.

Most competitors try to be a little subtle about their flagship SUVs with gentle curves and an understated presence. Not so the LX 500, it’s the Hulk of the segment with an enormous spindle grille flanked by L-shaped LED headlamps with a BladeScan adaptive high-beam system and large side radiator grilles giving it an impressive road presence.

The sides, rear and roof make no apologies for being large pieces of stamped aluminium and metal that cover a luxurious interior befitting a bespoke SUV.

Lexus describes it as a Tazuna cockpit from the Japanese word that describes a rider’s control of their horse using the reins.

What I do know is that the interior is befitting of the LX 500’s stature as the premium SUV in their stable.

It’s littered with quality soft touch surfaces, leather, stitching and brushed metal and from the moment you climb in behind the wheel it’s clear that no cost has been spared to ensure that you experience premium surroundings, including passengers who have their own monitors and heated and cooled seats.

The large 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system is now easy to use with crisp graphics and logical inputs while the secondary seven-inch screen below it houses functions such as climate control and drive mode settings.

Fortunately there are still a number of analogue switches and dials which are easy to reach and this means you don’t have to dig into menus and sub menus for simple things like lowering the ride height or turning down the volume on the 25-speaker Mark Levinson system.

Under the enormous bonnet of the LX 500d sits a twin turbo 3.3-litre V6 diesel engine producing 225kW and 700Nm coupled to a new 10-speed Direct Shift automatic transmission.

That’s a lot of power, and it’s needed to move the just under 2.7-tonne.. dare I say it? Behemoth.

As you would expect it’s not exactly nimble, but that’s okay because at no time do you feel the need for extra power and when you do give it a bit of a shove it moves along swiftly with an incredibly smooth and quiet stamp of authority.

You can select between Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport S+ and comfort modes but I reckon most of the driving will be done in Normal or Comfort and the Sport and Sport S+ option just to see what it’s like and despite the superior lumbar support you’re not going to be screeching around corners because it’s simply not that kind of vehicle.

The driving experience is massively enhanced by the comfortable and commanding driving position. The car quietly wafts along thanks to a lowered centre of gravity and adaptive variable suspension that belies its ladder frame chassis.

I managed to put in a fairly long stretch to collect some camping gear in Witbank and after an hour or so if I didn’t have an appointment, I would simply have carried on driving. Such is the superb feeling when piloting it.

On my arrival I noticed that he had a Land Cruiser 300 in the garage and after introducing ourselves he asked me why a Lexus and not a Cruiser.

I had to first explain what I do for a living but he did admit that he was looking at the LX but in the end he opted for it’s less expensive stablemate, having owned them from the 80 Series Cruiser onwards.

On the way back my partner and I discussed which we would prefer, if money was no object, of course and you had R2,507,600 to throw at an LX 500.

My ultimate would be to have a fully kitted self-sufficient overlanding 79 Series double cab, but that wasn’t in the equation.

The LX comes with every possible offroad gizmo.

With front, rear and centre lockable differentials, height adjustable suspension and everything else you may want or need, including a multi-terrain monitor that “sees through” the bonnet shown on the smaller display screen, the LX 500 will get you where many vehicles won’t in extreme refined comfort to boot.

If you can get a set of 22-inch all terrain tyres it will make a statement in the bundus second to none, which we thought gives it an added cool factor.

As you would expect it comes with every available passive and active safety feature to keep you safe when things go awry but I did find that the lane keep assist function was very sensitive and couldn’t find a way to deactivate it.

Consumption for buyers won’t be top of mind but we averaged 9.3l/100km which considering its size and shape isn’t bad at all.

The Lexus LX 500d carries its flagship status with aplomb. And while it’s not for everyone, even if you can afford it, there’s no denying its road presence, luxury and overall refinement.