Lexus LX VS Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
- Unquestionable presence
- Amazing off-road chops
- Loaded with gear
- Not very pleasant to drive
- Engine not as good as it should be
- Terrible media interface
- Better in every way than the A45
- Terrific front seats
- Relatively restrained looks
- Expensive servicing
- Some interior bits are cheap
- Getting old
Clearly the regular Lexus LX570 wasn't over-styled enough, because now there's this - the new 2019 Lexus LX570 S - which takes the brash big SUV from the Japanese brand and adds some extra brawn to its look.
It may be based on a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series but the V8 petrol-powered Lexus LX570 is a heavily styled heavy-duty SUV. This new version packs extra heavily-styled elements like 21-inch rims, an even more Storm Trooper-esque body kit and a bunch of other changes.
And while we know that this is a supremely capable off roader, this test was more focused on what it might be like for a city-slicker-cum-doomsday-prepper: someone who wants to know they can get out of trouble if necessary, but also wants a level of driveway desirability.
This special version will set you back a hairy $25,000 more than the regular LX570, though. Should you consider it?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Buuuuuuuur, parp, buuuuuuuuuuuur, parp. Anyone who knows anything about cars immediately recognises the sound of a 45-engined A-class derivative. It's the sound you hear in a tunnel as old mate blasts past with a giant carbon-fibre wing atop his hatchback. It's the sound you hear at 3:00am on a summer morning (if your suburb has no speed bumps, of course).
Sure, the GLA compact SUV is probably a slightly unexpected source of all that noise. But then, Merc's Ingolstadt rivals stuffed Audi's stupendous five-cylinder engine into a Q3 to make the hugely improbable RSQ3, so why not do the same with their skirts-lifted A-Class?
To be honest, my expectations for this car were low. So do I owe Mercedes a grovelling apology? Or can I still claim the moral high ground after a week of GLA 45 "ownership"?
If you're more interested in appearance, space and features when choosing your large SUV, the Lexus LX570 S may offer a lot of appeal to you. And if you actually plan to venture outside of the suburbs where you can explore the abilities of the vehicle's underpinnings, it could be right up your figurative alley... or down your goat track, as it were.
But in day-to-day driving it is let down by a lacklustre drive experience, underwhelming and thirsty engine and frustrating media interface. If you really don't need eight seats and the hardcore hardware, check out the Lexus RX350 L instead. You won't regret it.
Is this Lexus big and beautiful or brash and bloated? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
My wonderful wife, who is not really into this kind of car, admitted to me in a quiet voice that she really liked the GLA45 as long as it was in Sport + mode. And I have to agree. While I'm very fond of the ridiculous Audi RSQ3 (that turbo five-cylinder sounds amazing), I think I'd stump up the extra for the GLA.
Importantly, it can be comfortable, it can be quiet and it's a better fit for most humans than the A or CLA. It is getting on a bit and could do with a further clean-out of the poor ergonomics, but in what is likely its final year on sale, it's still a belter.
Has Peter finally lost it? Can the GLA45 be the best of the A-side 45 trio? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
If you can't find anything interesting about any new Lexus in terms of design you'd better book in at your optometrist.
The LX570 S is a vehicle that isn't backwards in coming forwards, with the model-specific body kit seeing new front, rear and side skirts, as well as a different mesh design for the huge 'spindle' grille. The 21-inch forged alloy rims are finished in gloss black, and like the regular LX you get LED headlights and daytime running lights, as well as LED tail-lights.
There is no doubt this is polarising - opinions were split in the office, with some finding the LX attractive, while others questioned if it was acceptable. I fall into the former camp - there's something ostentatious about the LX570 S that really appeals to me.
It's not just exterior trim changes, though - Lexus has fitted some performance parts to it, including performance dampers that are designed to make this big rig drive a bit smaller than it is. It still has adjustable suspension, though, so you can raise and lower it at will. It looks particularly menacing dumped on its guts.
It is arresting in its presence, and given that some customers buy vehicles like this as much to be seen as anything else, it deserves a decent score for its styling, even if it looks a bit like a lowered Subaru Forester, and has a really short wheelbase (2850mm) for the length of the vehicle (5080mm). It's boxy, at 1980mm wide and 1865mm tall.
The interior of this LX is pretty special, too - check out the interior pictures to see for yourself.
The GLA45 isn't a looker, but then, none of the GLAs are. There's a certain blobbiness to it. A bit of Teletubby mixed with...um, another Teletubby. It's not ugly, it's just not particularly attractive. The 20-inch wheels do much to lift the appearance and negate the effect of the raised ride height compared to the A45/CLA45.
The body kit stops just short of lairy, which is heartening. So if you want to stand out, venture out into the aftermarket world.
Inside was a mild surprise. The last time I drove a CLA 45 I used the word "gaudy". While the GLA isn't amazingly better, the texture of the Alcantara replacing the brushed metal-look plastic, or the carbon of the option pack, was much more pleasant. The brightwork in the cabin is still a bit odd looking, and it's still overcooked with its red detailing, but it is an otherwise beautifully built and well-detailed interior.
If you like equipment, knobs, dials, buttons, leather and wood, the LX570 S might be your dream vehicle.
And this version gets model-specific 'semi-aniline' leather-accented trim, alloy pedals and 'Shimamoku Grey' wood highlights. Now, that mightn't mean anything to you, and you might just think it looks like a woodgrain steering wheel - but would you change your mind if you knew it takes 38 days of Japanese craftsmanship just to do finish the steering wheel?
It looks plush - not modern or contemporary, as such, but neat. And if you want it, this spec is available with 'Garnet' burgundy leather trim.
The sheer size of the Lexus LX makes you think it should be super spacious, and ultra practical, but given the hulking mass of the thing, it's not as well packaged as it could be. Or maybe that should read: it's not as well packaged as we know Lexus could do with a new version of it.
That mainly comes down to the wheelbase being quite short, the fact it's built on a ladder-frame chassis, and that this generation of LX is actually pretty old - it first launched way back in 2007, and while it has been updated several times since then, the game has moved on for cabin practicality.
Even so, you can fit eight people in the LX, if the three in the third row aren't big and don't hate each other. For someone my size - 182cm with size 12 feet - the room is a bit limited; there's more space in the third row of a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger. But there are vents and cupholders, as well as grab handles - important if you actually plan to go off road.
In the second row there are vents, cupholders in a fold-down armrest which also houses the climate controls for the rear zones and the buttons for the heated and cooled second-row outboard seats, plus there are bottle holders in the doors, map pockets, and a bit more space for regular sized humans.
The electric slide adjustment for the second row can make it more accommodating in the third row if you need to, and there is a recline function, too.
This spec has two 11.6-inch display screens in the back with HDMI and auxiliary inputs, plus there are headphones for each screen and there's a 12-volt jack - but no USB points.
Up front there's a fridge between the seats. No, seriously, where you'd usually have a covered centre console there's a cool box that is good for half a dozen drinks and some sambos.
Plus there's the usual practicality measures you'd expect, like decent door pockets, big cup holders and some bins for odds and ends. There's a cluster of control buttons on the dashboard which can take a little bit of learning, and the array of control knobs between the seats means you have to watch yourself to make sure you don't twiddle the wrong one.
There's another controller there - the odd-bod unit that Lexus persists with to control the 12.3-inch media screen. This mouse/joystick style controller is so utterly frustrating to use that it verges on dangerous when you're trying to toggle between screens, because it takes too much concentration. Plus there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and you can't pair Bluetooth devices on the move, or input sat nav instructions at speed, either.
Thankfully, if you hook up your device via USB or wirelessly you can take advantage of the mammoth 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system which I think could be the best in the business.
Boot space varies on how you configure the seats. With the third row in place, there's 259 litres of cargo capacity, which is enough for a week's groceries (and the split tailgate makes it easy to load the bags in, too!).
With the third-row seats folded up out of the way - they electronically release and tuck to the sides of the cabin - there is 1220L of boot capacity. And if you lever the second-row forward there is 2074L of room.
There's a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor.
The front seats are utterly brilliant and feel as good as they look. On first acquaintance they may feel under-padded, but once you've adjusted them to your liking, you never want to leave. The AMG cars also feature one vast improvement over a normal GLA - the ergonomic disaster of a column-mounted shifter is removed, with a console-mounted shifter added where a small cubby once lived. It's so much better, although the Park button is oddly difficult to press.
When luxuriating in those snug front seats, you'll have access to two cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders, as well as a console bin (where the USB ports are) and a tray under the climate controls. Rear seat passengers will find legroom tight but headroom good, even with the huge sunroof.
The GLA's boot holds an entirely reasonable 421 litres, rising to 1235 when you drop both rear seats.
Price and features
It's hard to consider a car that costs $168,089 plus on-road costs as being anything other than expensive, especially when the flagship version of the donor vehicle it's based on costs about 30 per cent less, and some competitors are about half the price.
But you get a lot with the Lexus LX570 S. Like, a lot.
As well as all the hardcore LandCruiser off-road hardware and an extensive safety tech list (see below), and the model specific goodies like the intricate interior trim, body kit and bigger wheels, the features list is lengthy.
There's push-button start, keyless entry, leather seat trim all around, a 12.3-inch media screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming plus DAB digital radio and USB connectivity, a 19-speaker sound system, sat nav, auto-dimming mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats and outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, electric seat adjustment front and middle rows with electric folding rear seats, twin screens in the second row, quad-zone climate control and more.
There are only two colour choices for the LX570 S: 'Sonic Quartz' (the white you see here) or 'Starlight Black'.
The GLA 45 lightens your wallet by no less than $89,211 - more than double the GLA 180 front-wheel drive, and about $5000 more than the bonkers (and ancient) RS Q3.
Packed into the GLA's kit bag are 20-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, comprehensive safety gear, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), auto parking, powered and heated folding mirrors, a massive sunroof and dynamic dampers. There's no spare tyre, just a tyre-repair kit.
The multimedia system is Mercedes' COMAND unit and it is as user-unfriendly as ever. It does, however, power a very decent stereo, and also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Thankfully our car was bereft of both the carbon-fibre package ($990) and the aerodynamics package ($1990).
Engine & trans
Under the bonnet of the LX 570 is a thumping great 5.7-litre V8 engine producing 270kW of power at 5600rpm and 530Nm of torque at a high 3200rpm.
While those engine specs might be really enjoyable in a light, low, two-door coupe, the fact the peak power and torque comes in high in the rev range puts this vehicle at a disadvantage when you consider some German rivals.
A Mercedes-Benz GLS500, for example, has a 4.7-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 which just happens to have more power and torque than the Lexus, with 335kW at 5500rpm and 700Nm across a broad spread from 1800-4000rpm.
The LX570 employs an eight-speed automatic transmission, and it has the Toyota off-road hardware you'll want if you plan to take this bad boy off-road. That means there's a dual-range transmission with a low range transfer case, plus height-adjustable air suspension, a Torsen locking rear differential, and the excellent 'CRAWL' off-road system.
Towing specs are accounted for, too, with a 750kg un-braked towing rating, and the maximum 3.5-tonne capacity for a braked trailer.
If you're curious about the kerb weight of the Lexus LX570 S, it sits at 2740kg, and had a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3350kg, meaning that's the maximum permissible weight... if your family is big-boned, you mightn't be able to fill all eight seats.
AMG's fabled 2.0-litre turbo four lurks under that higher bonnet, still kicking out an improbable 280kW and 475Nm. Drive reaches the road via Merc's own seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four of its wheels.
All that power and grip translates to a 4.4-second dash to 100km/h for the slightly tubby (over 1600kg) GLA, but just between you and me, anything under five seconds feels scorchingly quick.
Does it really matter? If you're spending this much on a big SUV, you can't expect it to be miserly, and nor would you likely be too bothered about what it costs to refill.
Even so, the claimed fuel use figure - 14.4 litres per 100 kilometres - is high, and there's a pretty good chance you'll see higher than that regularly. And you need to run it on premium unleaded (95 RON).
In daily running we saw roughly 17.5L/100km around town, which settled to about 11.5L/100km on the freeway. If you do a lot of distance driving or country touring, and you're not in a hurry, you might find it to be decently efficient.
Hitch something to the back or head off-road and you'll see the 138-litre fuel tank capacity dissipate rapidly. There's a 93L main tank plus a 45L auxiliary.
And hey, if fuel use does matter to you, check out the LX 450d with its strong 4.5-litre twin-turbo diesel V8, which claims 9.9L/100km.
The official combined-cycle figure suggests the GLA45 will consume 7.5L/100km. Obviously that figure is largely irrelevant, and not just for the usual reasons, but because you don't buy a GLA45 to potter about in. I got, uh, 12.5L/100km, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying it.
As you might expect, you'll need to feed it 98RON.
Confused is the word that sticks out most to me as a descriptor of the drive experience.
It has all the off-roading hardware you could need under the skin, including adjustable hydraulic suspension so you can raise and lower it when you need to. But I'd be worried about damaging the Quagmire-esque chin of the LX570 S on rough terrain, so there was no off road review conducted of this spec.
But if you want to know how the Lexus LX fares off the beaten track, read our adventure review. Giggity.
As a daily driver, you'd probably be much better off getting a Lexus RX350 L if seven seats will suffice - because that is an inherently more enjoyable SUV to drive, even if it doesn't have the same level of street presence as this big bad boy.
Therein lies the issue. It is big, and doesn't hide its size well - a bit like an elephant trying to hide behind a bath towel in that regard.
The suspension in this spec is assisted by front and rear performance dampers to "improve body rigidity and steering stability", but a few of the reviewers in the office didn't find the latter to be the case. The steering is both heavy and lumpy, with a big turning circle and not a lot of linearity to the way the vehicle pivots.
The ride isn't great, either. The big rims feel heavy when you hit bumps, and while the car resets itself impressively fast if you pass over a speed hump or a road join straight on, when you hit a bump in a corner things feel flummoxed. And never, ever, does it feel sporty to drive.
The brake pedal feels over-assisted, so much so that I warned my partner she might feel car sick on the way home - that's because the mass of this big, heavy vehicle pitches fore and aft over its short wheelbase, and the action of the brake pedal is both grabby and squishy at the same time. It left me bemused.
The engine is refined and pulls decently, but it certainly doesn't feel fast or powerful, even under full throttle - that's an accusation that can be levelled at all of the large V8 Japanese SUVs, but not at the Europeans (Range Rover or Mercedes GLS, for instance).
You will find yourself pressing hard on the throttle pretty regularly, as it can be a little sluggish at low revs. Indeed, the engine does its best work above 3500rpm - that's not really where you want to be spending a lot of time in a family SUV. The eight-speed auto is smooth, though, and offers decent intuition at all speeds.
While the muted surrounds of the cabin makes for great cruising comfort, I would have loved if Lexus offered a sports exhaust for this model - it would certainly have added something positive to the drive experience.
When the 45-badged cars first launched, they were something of a revelation. BMW's turbo six-cylinder fans sniffed at the 2.0-litre's staggering outputs and all-wheel-drive chassis, but this car really captured the imagination. The GLA45 might be slightly unexpected, but it's better in almost every way as a daily driver than the A or CLA.
For a start, its higher ride height seems to translate to a much better ride quality. Anything on 20-inch wheels should have an appalling ride, but the GLA45 manages to be firm yet comfortable. Put the other two in Race mode and you'll need to up your private health insurance extras to include osteo, physio and whatever "o"-ending specialist fixes your back.
The improved ride quality meant I was far happier to chuck this car around. While it doesn't have the same ultimate overall performance of the lower cars, it's far more comfortable whether you're on it or just driving around. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the steering is excellent.
As for the engine...well, it still farts like toddler during a moment of silence at a funeral, but you can't deny its technical brilliance and huge power outputs. I remember the CLA45's engine as being a bit highly strung. Perhaps I couldn't separate the overall high-strung nature of the car from the engine, but I felt the same engine in this car wasn't as jumpy.
The way it propels this car into triple figures is tremendous fun. It's not as charismatic as the Audi five-cylinder, perhaps, but that doesn't matter in the end - it's properly fast, attached to a better chassis and offers a cabin with a driving position fit for humans.
The Lexus LX hasn't received an ANCAP crash test safety rating, but the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series that it's based on scored the maximum five-star rating in 2011 (and that score applies to all models sold from 2015 onwards, according to ANCAP).
It comes well specified in terms of safety technology, with a configurable surround-view camera and reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a head-up display, trailer sway control, adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning and pedestrian detection.
There's a lane departure warning system that works at speeds over 50km/h, and while it can intervene with 'slight pulls' on the steering wheel, it won't hold the vehicle's position in the lane like some other systems.
The LX also has auto high-beam lights, LED headlights and daytime running lights, as well as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
There's an array of airbags - dual front, dual front knee, dual front side, dual rear side, and full length curtain, for a total of 10. And if you need to fit baby seats, there are two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether points in the second row, but none in the third row.
The GLA comes with nine airbags (including driver's knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and mitigation and driver-attention detection.
Lexus doesn't offer a capped-price servicing plan for any of its models, which leaves it as one of the only brands left without such a plan.
And we've been told that a LX570 model will cost you about $615 per visit, and it needs two services per year, with intervals set at six months/10,000km. Expensive.
The four-year/100,000km warranty Lexus offers is below par, too. But you do get roadside assist, and Lexus is renowned for its high standard of customer care - it even offers a collection/delivery service to customers when its time for a service.
If you're curious about LX570 problems, issues, complaints, recalls or reliability concerns, check out our Lexus LX570 problems page.
The Mercedes standard warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist to match. Service intervals are a very reasonable 12 months/20,000km.
The company also offers capped-price servicing - first service is $576 but the second and third are a whopping $1152 each. Three years will set you back $2880.