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Virtuozity - - Automobiles -

WHEN IT COMES TO se­ri­ous off-road­ing there’s still this be­lief that for a proper ‘go any­where’, tough SUV you need to give up on a bit of lux­ury. You can’t take any­thing that isn’t akin to a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle and use it for reg­u­lar dune bash­ing with­out de­stroy­ing it.

In part, this is quite true. There’s a lot of lux­ury SUVS now avail­able, but few can take a daily beat­ing the dunes and moun­tains of the Gulf.

Yes, a Range Rover is lot more rugged than it may sug­gest, and the Ger­man of­fer­ings don’t even pre­tend to have any se­ri­ous off-road lean­ings.

For a big seven-seater SUV that can pretty much cope with any­thing, there’s very lit­tle choice. Toy­ota’s Land Cruiser is of course an op­tion, al­though not as well ap­pointed as its Euro­pean ri­vals and the Nis­san Pa­trol is again ca­pa­ble, but not a se­ri­ous lux­ury ve­hi­cle. Pretty much the only SUV that truly cov­ers these two fairly unique bases is the Lexus LX 570.

The cur­rent Lexus edgy de­sign ethos suits the LX, es­pe­cially at the front, where the sharp lines around the lights and grill re­ally help to give it an ag­gres­sive face. Make no mis­take, this is a se­ri­ously big car. Stand in front of it and the bon­net sits level with your shoul­der if you are around av­er­age height.

At the rear the edgy lines con­tinue into the lights and up­per rear spoiler on the tail­gate. The slope to the rear screen is al­most upright, but the de­sign hides the car’s square di­men­sions re­ally well. De­spite its size it’s al­most soft to look at from some an­gles. You also get a split tail­gate which is very handy when full ac­cess isn’t re­quired.

In­side, the dash fea­tures a soft wood fea­ture that flows from the door, across the cen­tre screen and con­sole, reach­ing across to the pas­sen­ger door on the other side. The up­per dash fea­tures a frankly huge in­fo­tain­ment screen, whilst all the cli­mate and other con­trols are housed in the lower sec­tion.

Next to the gear­stick is Lexus’ track pad sys­tem, which isn’t the eas­i­est to con­trol at first, but you do get a feel for it af­ter a while. This al­lows you to pin­point items on the nav­i­ga­tion map and choose items in the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, as well as use the phone sys­tem.

The seats are in­cred­i­bly com­fort­able and the rear seats of­fer some se­ri­ous leg room for your pas­sen­gers. Even with the third row of seats in place there’s still room for some shop­ping or week­end bags. Add a roof rack and you could eas­ily head off on a long hol­i­day for a fam­ily of seven.

Of course, the LX shares its un­der­pin­nings with Toy­ota’s Land Cruiser, so it’s about as rugged as they come. The four­wheel drive sys­tem is well proven af­ter years of devel­op­ment and the en­gine and gear­box can with­stand some se­ri­ous abuse. It’s not the most re­fined drive on the road, but there has to be some trade­off for that in­cred­i­ble abil­ity.

The gear­box is quite slow, but very de­lib­er­ate, again re­in­forc­ing that feel­ing of longevity. It’s also smooth when you’re go­ing at a more re­laxed pace. Add that to the com­pli­ant sus­pen­sion and the ride is vel­vet soft.

The 5.7 litre V8 pushes out 362 hp, which is spread nicely across the rev range to en­sure that con­stant trac­tion. This is the

key to the LX’S amaz­ing off-road abil­ity. Keep the power and torque low in the range and give that fluid mo­men­tum you need for off-road­ing, es­pe­cially in sand.

On the road it’s ef­fort­less, with lit­tle throt­tle re­quired to make steady progress. It’s not the quick­est ac­cel­er­at­ing SUV on the mar­ket, tak­ing a bit of time to kick up its heels and get mov­ing, but once you get into the power ban then there’s plenty of power to move the LX along at a very rapid rate.

The sus­pen­sion is also soft enough to cush­ion the oc­cu­pants, but firm enough to al­low de­cent cor­ner­ing. Push it too far and

“There’s a rea­son there are so many of LX 570s on drive­ways across the Gulf. It’s a very ef­fec­tive tool at mov­ing a large fam­ily and all its lug­gage around.”

it’ll un­der­steer, but keep sen­si­ble and even a twisty road won’t slow the Lexus down. It also stops well, thanks to huge brakes and tyres.

There’s a rea­son there are so many of LX 570s on drive­ways across the Gulf. It’s a very ef­fec­tive tool at mov­ing a large fam­ily and all its lug­gage around. But more im­por­tantly it also looks bang on the money in any cor­po­rate car park or out­side a top ho­tel.

It feels solid, re­li­able and smooth. Cou­ple that with good on road man­ners, power and an al­most im­pos­si­ble off-road abil­ity, and you’ve got a car that’s hard to pi­geon hole.

There are faster SUVS, there are more rugged SUVS and there are more lux­u­ri­ous SUVS. But none do ev­ery­thing like an LX.

Ba­si­cally, what­ever you need, the big Lexus has it cov­ered.

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