Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class VS Lexus LX
- Modest steering feel
- So-so warranty
- Pricey servicing
- 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
If you’re in the market for a full-size, seven-seat, luxury SUV you’re obviously living life large. Big family, lots of friends, dogs and cats, and heaps of activity - horses, boats, camping?
You’re aiming at a six-figure bullseye between $130,000 and around $150,000. On a three-year novated lease, somewhere around three grand a month.
Mercedes-Benz Australia invited us to experience the car on a launch drive across city, suburban and rural roads.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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|
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.
As mentioned, the GLS is big; a step up from the already substantial model it replaces. Built with the US market in mind, in fact it’s produced in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it’s more than five metres long, close to two metres wide, and over 1.8m tall. And there’s more than three metres between the axles, a 60mm wheelbase increase over the previous model.
And despite the size of the canvas, the Benz design team has managed to make the GLS look like a modern Merc. Signature elements include obvious ones like the slatted grille with a couple of three-pointed stars on the nose.
But there’s also, the carefully chiselled twin ‘power dome’ bonnet, scowling LED headlights and vents to aid front brake cooling and smooth aero performance around the front of the car.
The big beast’s off-road intent is highlighted by extensions around the wheelarches, with big optional 22-inch rims sitting underneath. The fact they look right-sized for the car speaks volumes about its scale.
The racy AMG Line package is standard, and a recess and pronounced character line, tightening the lower waistline is a familiar Merc treatment, plus alloy roof rails toughen the look while dialling up practicality.
The rear is relatively simple, borderline generic, with tapered tail-lights offering the only strong whiff of design personality. But believe it or not, thanks to careful detail sculpting of the body, and smoothing underneath the car it boasts a drag figure of Cd 0.32. Outstanding aero performance for a large SUV.
The driver and front passenger are presented with a sweeping dashboard dominated by twin 12.3-inch digital screens, one primarily covering the instruments, and the central screen managing the MBUX media system, including audio, nav, phone integration, car set-up, and more, plus ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control.
The overall feel is simple, and restrained, yet massively confident, with a subtle colour palette, large squared-off elements defined by brushed metal finishes, and an obvious, intense attention to detail, from the haptic controls to the beautifully finished, multi-function steering wheel.
And the standard Burmester audio system includes a two-way in-car communication function that subtly amplifies the driver and front passenger’s voices for those in the third row, and vice versa. Sheer genius.
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.
Space is obviously a critical factor here, and no surprise there’s copious amounts of it inside the GLS.
Front seat passengers enjoy plenty of breathing room, without feeling remote from one another, and there’s lots of storage in the shape of a large lidded box/armrest between the seats, a decent glove box, two big cupholders and jumbo door pockets with room for large bottles.
There’s one data-enabled USB port in the front, two charge-ports in the second row, and four in the third row. Shouldn’t be any complaints about powering mobiles, tablets or games.
The second row feels every millimetre the SUV limo. Simply getting in and out is made easier because an auto lowering function drops the car 25mm when one of the doors is opened.
I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. And there’s an extra 10cm of electrically adjustable travel to play with if those in the third row agree.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the front seatbacks, and again, the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is a breeze, there’s climate control ventilation, and a huge glass sunroof is standard. Rather than asking ‘Are we there yet?’ the kids will be disappointed when you arrive!
Then there’s what the Cleary family refers to as ‘the way back seat.’ A pair of third row seats for the lucky kids that get to inhabit their own little world. Getting in and out is relatively civilised thanks to electric slide and tilt for the second row seats, and space is generous. I could sit comfortably, so the kids will be all smiles.
With all seats upright cargo capacity is enough for a seven-person day trip (355L VDA). Press the button to fold the 50/50 split-fold third row down and your options expand substantially (890L). And with 40/20/40 split-folding second row lowered, transportation of a full, three-ring circus is on the cards (2400L). Overall, more space than the arch enemy BMW X7.
Plus, the ability to lower the car 50mm thanks to the standard air suspension makes life even easier. And one button lowers the second and third rows at the same time.
The spare is a collapsible space-saver, and towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3500kg, with a tow ball weight of up to 140kg. The ESP system also features a trailer stabilisation function that counters oscillation with “braking intervention.”
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.
Price and features
Aside from the comprehensive suite of safety tech, covered in the Safety section below, the GLS equipment list includes, 21-inch alloy rims, adaptive high beam assist, air suspension, alloy roof rails, AMG body kit, a huge panoramic sliding glass sunroof, privacy glass from the B-pillar back, auto tailgate, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, and power closing doors.
The power closing doors are a big plus for parents not wanting to disturb kids nodding off in the car, with the soft-touch function drawing the door in for the last few millimetres to an almost silent close.
Inside there’s ambient lighting (64 colours), strategically placed open pore oak wood trim, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmester surround sound audio, electric folding second and third row seats, a head-up display, ‘Mercedes-Benz’ branded illuminated sills, leather seat upholstery (‘Artico’ faux leather on the dash and doors), multi-adjustable electric seats in the front and second row (memory in the front), electrically adjustable steering column, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, and five-zone climate control.
The multi-media system is spectacular, incorporating the twin 12.3-inch digital screens, the central media unit managing nav, digital radio, mobile device connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus vehicle tracking. There are also remote vehicle status functions (door locking, valet parking, etc), global search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Yelp, and Trip Advisor), and a wireless device charging pad.
The basket of goodies can hold its head high in this part of the market, so the value equation stacks up well.
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'.
Engine & trans
There are two engines on offer. The 3.0-litre (M256) in-line six-cylinder turbo-petrol GLS 450 4Matic, and the 2.9-litre (OM656) in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel GLS 400 d 4Matic.
The all-alloy, twin-scroll single-turbo petrol engine delivers peak power of 270kW from 5500-6100rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm across a broad plateau from 1600-4500rpm. It also features a 48-volt electrical system driving the ‘EQ Boost’ set-up, able to deliver an extra 16kW/250Nm for short periods. The integrated starter-generator also enables energy recuperation.
Although the all-alloy, twin-turbo diesel features variable valve lift it gives some ground on power, offering up 243kW between 3600-4000rpm, but torque is a solid whack, with 700Nm on tap from 1200-3000rpm. Worth noting, that to minimise emissions this engine features a “selective catalytic reduction converter” in the exhaust, which brings with it the use of an ‘AdBlue’ reducing agent. The separate AdBlue tank has a capacity of 31.6 litres.
The nine-speed auto transmission is the same in both versions, although the diesel has a slightly lower final drive ratio.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle for the GLS 450 is 9.2L/100km, the more frugal GLS 400 d trimming that to 7.7L/100km. The petrol 450 emits 210g/km of CO2 in the process, the diesel 400d dropping that slightly to 202g/km.
Stop-start is standard, you’re looking at premium unleaded for the 450 GLS, and you’ll need 90 litres of dinosaur juice to full the tank on both models.
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.
Merc claims the GLS 450 will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.2sec, and the 400 d in 6.3sec. Not hanging around for a 2.5 tonne mothership. But the standout is the 400 d’s torque. All 700Nm of it available from just 1200rpm to 3000rpm; right in the mid-range sweet spot.
The nine-speed auto transmission is smooth yet responsive, with paddles on the wheel for manual shifts when you want to pick the ratio. The combination of effortless grunt and the nine-speeder keeping things on the boil is an impressive one.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, and while you can feel the weight in cornering, the standard Airmatic air suspension (which does away with steel springs) is superb in terms of ride comfort and body control.
We took a deep breath and pushed enthusiastically through a series of sweeping corners and the fat (285/45 fr - 325/40 rr) Continental ‘PremiumContact 6’ rubber wrapped around our car’s (optional) 22-inch rims gripped hard.
The ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system also seamlessly shuffles torque between the front and rear axles (theoretically up to 100 per cent in each direction).
Merc has put extra focus on body rigidity, the tuning of engine and suspension mounts, and sound absorption, and it shows. The GLS 400 d is beautifully refined on the highway. A neat touch is the car automatically lowering 15mm at motorway speeds or when ‘Sport’ mode is selected.
Steering is electromechanically assisted, and Merc says the front suspension geometry has been revised to minimise vibration through the wheel. And yes, feedback is minimal, but unfortunately so is road feel with only a general connection between your hands on the wheel and the front tyres on the bitumen.
When you’re steering a large beast like this, often with something substantial hitched to the back, you want to know braking performance is up to the task, and the GLS’s big ventilated discs all around deliver reassuringly strong stopping power, with nice, progressive pedal feel to boot.
The seats are adjustable six ways to Sunday, but beyond that they’re comfortable and supportive, even over long stints behind the wheel.
We stayed on the bitumen, because, let’s face it, that’s where this car will spend 99.9 per cent of its time, with the exceptions of the boat ramp, a ski weekend or pony club.
For those special occasions the optional ‘Off-road engineering package’ adds a low-range transfer case, inter-axle locking, hill descent control, and under body armour for more serious work.
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.
At the time of this launch drive the GLS hadn’t been safety assessed by ANCAP, but you could make a small wager, like every penny you have to your name, that it will score a maximum five stars.
The expected active features are there, including ABS, ASR, and ESP, with additional tech including ‘Active Blind-Spot Assist’, ‘Active Brake Assist' (Merc-speak for AEB), active lane keeping and lane change assist, ‘Adaptive Brake’, ‘Attention Assist’, ‘Evasive Steering Assist’, ‘Parktronic’ (active parking assist with 360-degre camera), rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure warning system.
Then, if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact the GLS is equipped with nine airbags (front and pelvis side for driver and front passenger, side for outer rear seat occupants, full-length curtain, and a driver’s knee bag), an active bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries, and the ‘Pre-Safe Plus’ (flashes rear hazards to warn drivers closing too quickly from behind, tightening the belts at the same time, and locking the brakes if the GLS is stationary with a rear impact imminent).
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 Mercedes-Benz range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi and BMW continues to lag behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
On the upside, Mercedes-Benz ‘Road Care’ roadside assistance is included in the deal for three years.
Service is scheduled for 12 months/25,000km (whichever comes first) with pricing available on an 'Up-front' or 'Pay-as-you-go' basis.
As a guide, service pricing for the outgoing GLS is set at $2600 per service (up-front) and $3250 (PAYG), a saving of $650 a pop. Fourth and fifth services are also available for pre-purchase ($3550 and $4900).
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.