Volvo XC90 VS Lexus LX
- Stylish inside and out
- Powerful four-cylinder engine
- Spacious cabin
- Cabin storage could be better
- Quiet exhaust note doesn't match brutish looks
- Touchscreen takes getting used to
- 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
Does the Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 have what it takes to match other large seven-seat prestige SUVs... or is it even better?
This Volvo XC90 is where it all began for Volvo way back in 2014. Okay, let me rephrase that, it wasn't the beginning of Volvo – that was in 1927. This second-generation XC90 was a kind of new beginning for Volvo because it brought with it the styling and technology rules for the brand's future models. But how does it hold up now?
See, when the new XC90 arrived in Australia in 2015 it wowed us with its large portrait display, advanced safety equipment and 'Hammer of Thor' headlights. Since then, safety and tech has come along way - has the XC90 been left behind?
And while on the topic of reality checks: what's this large seven-seat SUV like to live with – how did it cope with our nightmare car park test?
We tested the XC90 R-Design T6. What the heck does that mean? Well the T6 refers to the engine – it's a four-cylinder petrol – and R-Design is the highest trim level.
A four cylinder… in a giant SUV? Yep, we'll get to that.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
The XC90 may have been the first of Volvo's new breed of cars, but it remains exceptional in its styling, refinement, technology and safety. The R-Design trim level makes it the burger with almost the lot in that it still gives you room to option more and doesn't assume you want, say a sunroof, when you might not.
The T6 engine is excellent – powerful, with plenty of torque. All that's missing is a beefy soundtrack to go with this brute of an SUV. A cool alternative to a large SUV from BMW, Benz and Audi.
Would the XC90 R-Design T6 be on your prestige SUV shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Can you believe the current Volvo XC90 came into the world in 2014 and still looks this good? Signature elements are the giant grille with its oversized badge, the 'Hammer of Thor' headlights, the unmistakable Volvo tail-lights and the tall profile with enormous windows. Yup, the XC90 is still a futuristic, stylish and elegant-looking brute.
The R-Design trim level enhances the look by adding a gloss-black grille, body-coloured side skirts and bumpers, silver wing mirror caps, aluminium roof rails, a roof-top spoiler, fog lights in the front spoiler, dual tail pipes and the 20-inch alloys you can see in the images.
The modern, minimalist design cabin has also aged well – although the portrait-orientated screen now feels a bit small. I remember writing about how outrageously large it was when it was launched – and then I sat in a Tesla with its mega touchscreen, taking displays to a whole new level.
The R-Design spec makes its presence known in the cabin, too, with the R-Design steering wheel, R-Design Sport pedals and R-Design carpet; it also adds carbon-fibre door inlays and a leather illuminated gearshift knob.
The R-Design trim level also gives buyers two seat trim choices – Nappa leather/Nubuck or Nappa perforated leather. Both are no-cost options and our test car featured the perforated hide.
How big is the XC90? Let's take a look at this seven-seater SUV's dimensions. The XC90 is just less than 5.0m long, more than 2.0m wide (with mirrors) and nearly 1.8m tall.
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.
It's a giant box on wheels, how could be it be impractical? Actually, there are ways it could be more practical, but first the good points.
There's plenty of room. This is one of the few seven-seat SUVs where even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare, and then behind that position in the third row with just enough room for my legs. Headroom in the second row is excellent, but the third row is getting tight although my head still isn't touching the roof.
The doors to the second row are large providing a tall and wide opening for easy entry and exit. The third row is a bit tricky to get into, but I haven't met a single seven-seat SUV where entry into the third-row is a breeze.
Even though the XC90 does well to slide and fold its second row (40/20/40 split) forward, I still ended up crawling in on my hands and knees. Older kids will be able to leap in, so put them back there.
The boot is enormous and with the optional air suspension the XC90 can lower itself like an elephant getting down on its knees to make it easier for you to load stuff into the back. Yup, with all seats up you have 314 litres of boot space; with the third row folded flat you'll have a cargo capacity of 1019 litres, and with all of the seats folded (no not the front ones), there's 1868 litres. Those are measured in ISO litres which are different to the VDA litres used by many other car makers.
Storage throughout the cabin is good but could be better. There are two cupholders in the third row, two in the second and another two up front, and while the storage boxes in the armrests in the third row are an excellent idea, the second row just has small door pockets and seat-back cargo nets. It would be good to see drawers under the seats or even a fold out tray from the centre console.
Storage in the front isn't great either – that long sliding panel next to the shifter (you can see it in the images) houses the cupholders, the glove box is also on the smaller side and so is the storage area under that armrest – but it does contain two USB ports. There's one 12-volt power outlet in the second row, another in the boot and a cigarette lighter (or another 12-volt) in the front.
There's four zone climate control – and directional air vents in all three rows.
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
The Volvo XC90 R-Design T6 lists for $104,900, plus on-road costs. The trim level below, with the T6 engine, is the Inscription which lists for $102,900, and the entry-model is the Momentum for $96,900.
So, while nearly $105K might seem like a lot (especially once you add the on-road costs) you can feel comfortable knowing it's actually mighty fine value for money considering the amount of equipment you're given in return.
Coming standard is the 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display and sat nav, there's a 10-speaker 330W stereo, Bluetooth and internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android auto, digital radio, 360-degree parking camera, gear shifting paddles, power and heated front seats, four-zone climate control, a pop-out booster child seat in the second row, bending LED headlights, fog lights and a proximity key.
That's along with all the R-Design gear which we covered in the section above and the extensive safety equipment list which we'll cover below.
Our test car was fitted with the $8000 'Premium Package' which brings sunblinds for the rear doors, a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, air suspension, plus tailored dashboard and door trims. The 'Bursting Blue' metallic paint our car wore is a $1900 option.
Worried you're paying too much? Fear not, because relative to most other prestige seven-seat SUVs the XC90 R-Design T6 is at the more affordable end of the pricing spectrum.
Audi's Q7 3.0TDI Quattro lists for $106,900, Mercedes-Benz's GLS 350d is $118,729, while the Land Rover Discovery TD6 HSE manages to undercut it at $103,000.
It's interesting to note that while the XC90 T6 has a petrol engine, those rivals are diesels. Audi doesn't make a petrol Q7, Land Rover does make petrol Discoveries but only sell diesel ones in Australia, and as for a Benz GLS petrol there's only one - the GLS 500 and that lists for $165,129, which is $60K higher than our Volvo XC90.
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
You may have noticed in the images that our test car wears a tiny blue square on its tailgate. This is the badge of Volvo's Polestar performance tuning division. All R-Design XC90s come with the 'Polestar Optimisation' package which increases the T6's power output from 235kW to 246kW and its torque from 400Nm to 440Nm.
The Polestar Optimisation package also recalibrates the XC90's throttle response and increases the shifting speed of the eight-speed automatic.
Acceleration from 0-100km/h according to Volvo is 6.4 seconds which is a tenth of a second quicker than an 'un-Polestar-optimised' T6 - say in the Inscription T6 or Momentum T6.
The XC90 R-Design T6 is all-wheel drive and for the five of you out there who will ask, including my father in-law – it's a Haldex 'Generation 5' system.
My bet is the same people will also want to know its braked towing capacity: 2400kg.
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.
Volvo says the T6 four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged petrol engine with its eight-speed auto should use 8.5L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads – this goes for the Polestar Optimised T6, too.
We measured our test car's fuel economy at the petrol pump and calculated that after 246km of mainly suburban and city running we were using 14.3L/100km. The trip computer reported a slightly higher figure of 14.5L/100km.
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.
At 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and nearly 1.8m tall the XC90 R-Design T6 is big, but in comparison to other large SUVs it's one of the easiest to drive.
The images in this review were taken at the top of an eight-storey carpark: it's a good place to take photos of my review cars and at the same time test pilot them through probably the worst-designed car park you'll encounter.
Narrow ramps and tight turns are not really ideal conditions for a large SUV but the great visibility through the XC90's big windows, the excellent field of vision offered by the wing mirrors, the light steering and smooth throttle response made climbing to the summit pretty simple.
The flat, broad bonnet helps with being able to see exactly how much room you have between the concrete pylon and an insurance claim, too. Other large SUVs with curvaceous lines and noses that dip away from sight will have you sitting up like a meerkat trying to see how much room you have.
A four-cylinder petrol engine may seem small for such a large SUV but the T6 is outstanding – it's efficient and impressively powerful. Not once did I feel like it was lacking in grunt, but there were many times I wished the exhaust note sounded beefier.
Our car had the optional air suspension which for the most part turned out a composed and comfortable ride, although being fitted with fairly low profile tyres on large wheels (Continental ContiSport Contact5 275/45 R20) meant when the road surface turned bad the ride suffered.
And these aren't even the largest wheels. The R-Design T6 comes with no-cost option 22-inch wheels – they look good, but you'd be wise to try them before you buy.
The touchscreen will take some getting used to – I kept discovering more hidden 'pages' and functions the more I swiped around it.
A serenely quiet cabin, comfortable seats with uber-stylish surrounds, a commanding driving position and not being in just another German SUV made the experience even more special.
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.
If this was Family Feud and the question was: 'Name a type of car that's safe? I'd bet the answer would be 'Volvo' every time. I'd also wonder if Volvo had paid for the question to be asked on the show.
Anyway, the reputation is justified and the brand continues to pioneer life-saving technology and equip its cars with the latest safety gear.
What's just as noble is how Volvo applies the full range of safety systems to all grades of XC90 – so even the base grade Momentum T6 comes with the same safety features as the R-Design T6.
This includes AEB which Volvo says is active from four km/h and can brake effectively to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at up to 45km/h. At speeds higher than 45km/h but below 70km/h the collision is mitigated.
According to Volvo the system will also detect cyclists and if one swerves into the path of the car, the XC 90 can reduced its speed by up to 50km/h. As for other cars, the XC90 can brake to avoid a collision if the speed difference between the cars is less than 30km/h.
The XC90 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert with AEB that works while reversing.
A run-off mitigation feature also brakes and uses evasive steering to pull the car back into its lane if the vehicle accidentally starts to veer off the road.
The XC90 is fitted with front airbags, side airbags, driver knee airbag, plus second and third row inflatable curtains.
For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.
The XC90 R-Design T6 has a space saver spare located under the boot floor.
Chinese company Geely own Volvo, but the XC90s that are sold in Australia are made in Sweden.
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 XC90 is covered by Volvo's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12months – whichever comes first.
There are two service programs offered for the XC90. There's the 'SmartCare' plan which costs $2225 for three years/45,000km; $3500 for four years/60,000km and $4230 for five years/75,000km. Then there's the 'SmartCare Plus' plan which costs $3050 for three years/45,000km; $5350 for four years/60,000km and $6540 for five years/75,000km.
It would be good to see Volvo offer capped price servicing, which doesn't need to be purchased as an additional piece of coverage.
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.