Lexus LX 450d 2016 new car review

Towards the end of 2015, the Japanese brand decided it would launch a diesel-powered variant.

Robert Barry
Robert Barry
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

Lexus recognised that more than 70% of newly sold large luxury SUV vehicles in New Zealand are diesel-powered, so towards the end of 2015, the Japanese brand decided it would launch such a variant locally at the same time as its gargantuan LX came due for a major revision and redesign.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 4 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 3 out of 5

Overall score , 3.9 out of 5

The good
  • Luxurious
  • Refined
  • Practical
The not-so-good
  • Only five seats
  • Imposing
  • Pricey

Enter stage left the new LX 450d which wears the new face of Lexus, with the love it or hate it Spindle grille design and a fully revised exterior where only the door panels are carried over from the previous generation vehicle.

There are also extensive refinements to the already sumptuous luxury interior, including the addition of an analogue clock and ambient LED lighting as well as new Shimamoku wood and satin chrome detailing.

Lexus has also added a full suite of active and passive safety features including a pre-crash safety system, lane departure warning with vehicle sway warning, radar cruise control, four on-board cameras, head-up display, adaptive highbeam system, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

It’s powered by a stump-pulling 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre twin-turbodiesel V8 engine, coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission which will be familiar to Land Cruiser 200 owners.

What’s missing?

To help the LX 450d meet fuel economy and emission standards, Lexus was obligated to take some weight out of the vehicle, so it misses out on a few features found in the petrol-powered LX570.

Hence, in pursuit of weight reduction, the 450d misses out on the electrically operated third row of seats as found in the LX 570, making it a five-seat rather than an eight-seat wagon, and it doesn’t have the enormous electrically-operated Panoramic glass moonroof or the dual rear-seat entertainment system with twin headphones.

The pay-off is a vehicle that offers combined fuel economy of 9.5l/100km as well as 3.5-tonne towing capacity and more than 700l of boot space to the top of the second-row seat back.

If you’re looking for a luxury workhorse with plenty of boot space and the ability to tow a boat or a horse float, then the 450d is certainly better suited than its petrol sibling the LX 570, especially with a combined consumption figure of 14.l/100km.

Road trip

There is only one way to fully appreciate the ability of such a large luxury cruiser, and that’s a decent road trip. We collected the LX 450d from Lexus of Christchurch and drove it up to Picton to catch the Wellington ferry, terminating our journey in Palmerston North and flying home.

The 450d is a great travelling companion, and you'll enjoy its effortless power and unbridled luxury. Having a cool box between the driver and passenger seat to keep bottled water chilled was a nice touch, and the audio system is darned near concert hall quality in its sound reproduction.

The heated driver’s seat was switched on for most of the trip North from Christchurch to Picton as was the dynamic radar cruise control to keep our velocity at the legal limit, and the dual-zone climate control did a great job of keeping the windscreen and windows clear as a northwesterly crossed the top of the South Island bringing the rain with it.

Sitting up high in the LX 450d affords a commanding view from the driver’s seat, and it’s this feature that makes long-distance driving so much more enjoyable.

Given its imposing dimensions, it’s not uncharitable to think of the 450d as a land yacht, albeit a surprisingly nimble one, thanks to the drive mode select system which offers drivers the choice of Eco, Normal, Comfort, Sport S and Sport S+ mode. Switching from Eco to Sport S turns the 450d from a civilised cruiser to a road-eating bruiser; it’s almost a metamorphosis from a cart-horse to a racing stallion, which is pretty impressive for a car that has a gross vehicle weight of 3350kg.

The LX 450d belies its heft with the ability to easily overtake trucks and slower traffic uphill as well as maintain momentum around winding roads such as the Rimutaka Hills without huge amounts of body roll that one would normally associate with a vehicle of this size.

The ease with which the engine torque slingshots the LX away from a standstill and around slower traffic just has to be experienced to be believed.

A three-tonne SUV that handles like a hot hatch? It might seem crazy, but it is indeed a reality.

Acquired taste

There is no denying that the new-look Lexus spindle grille with the new headlamp and fender design on the LX line vehicles is an acquired taste, and for some people, it’s a bit like Marmite spread on toast - they either love it or they can’t abide it.

Personally, I liked it. I felt it gives the LX a more aggressive and modern look and indeed the whole body redesign (minus the door skins) has given the car a more cohesive identity with its smaller SUV and sedan siblings.

When your starting point is a big bluff slab-sided vehicle with off-road capability, it’s important to get the proportions of the design right, and the Lexus designers have succeeded in my view.


We didn’t have the opportunity to take the LX 450d off the beaten track, but there is no doubt thanks to the multi-terrain select system, the Crawl Control system, downhill assist control, and the ability to raise the vehicle’s height, it is as accomplished off-road as it’s on-road.

The most direct competitors to the LX 450d are the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz GLS 350d Sport at $160,000 and the Range Rover SDV8 Vogue at $190,000. While the Benz offers a third row of seating, the Range Rover doesn’t, and there are numerous other specification differences between the trio.

It would be fair to say, however, that of the three the Lexus is the most compelling offer for its blend of interior luxury and comfort, generous standard specification, all-round performance and its status as the vehicle most suited to its role as a Kiwi cross country cruiser.

Price $159,900

Note: this was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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