Lexus 450d First Drive
Yes, it has a diesel motor – but does this luxury 4WD make any sense in Australia?
Words and Images by Evan Spence
I’m probably not the right person to be doing this review – my 2005 SR HiLux is about as much luxury as I need in my life. If the interior light of a vehicle illuminates when the door is open, I think that’s fancy. So it’s really hard to work out where to start with a vehicle that basically has as much technology as a NASA rocket ship. The key point worth mentioning with the Lexus 450d, is that the vehicle has a turbo-diesel V8 motor, the one found in a 200 Series LandCruiser. And as we all know, Australia has a love affair with diesel 4WDs. Is that enough to get it across the line over, say, a 200 Series Sahara, or something from Land Rover? Let’s find out…
It’s safe to say the on-road driving experience is a positive one; the cabin is decadent and whisper-quiet, apart from the roar of the V8. It’s certainly not an intrusive noise, rather inviting to be honest. Handling is best described as soft; this thing floats over bumps like they aren’t even there, but this also comes with the trade-off of body roll through corners. Playing with the settings (Comfort, Sport, Sport +, etc.) sees the vehicle completely change in dynamic feel. It was interesting to see how this worked when driving up the notoriously steep Old Bathurst Road in the NSW Blue Mountains. Without applying any additional throttle input, the car would surge forward with a twist of a dial. It was rather fun to be honest. Fuel economy was not recorded, because truthfully if you can’t afford diesel, you can’t afford a Lexus. Welcome to the club.
The first thing I noticed was how unsettled the Lexus was on dirt roads, which really surprised me considering how composed the 200 Series is. All I’m putting that down to is the extremely road-biased tyres fitted to the vehicle, which makes sense. But it was certainly noticeable, as the vehicle would bounce from side to side on very minor surface imperfections. When the going gets really tough though, make no mistake about it, the Lexus 450d is an animal off-road with all the modern traction control modes and features you can think of, courtesy of the 200 Series LandCruiser. The screen even shows where your tyres will land as you crawl through objects, a feature which comes in very handy.
And why is that? The 450d is low. Really low. Even with the suspension dialed up all the way (gotta love height-adjustable suspension), by design, you will come into contact with Mother Nature. The approach, ramp-over and departure angles are (to put this diplomatically) car-like. This is due to the hard-mounted side steps, front bumper and rear bumper design. I don’t think there is a way around this either as I don’t see too many companies manufacturing a bull bar for this beast. If you use this vehicle off-road, you will hit it. Which is a shame, because with better ground clearance this vehicle is sublimely comfortable and insanely capable thanks to the amount of traction and wheel articulation available.
It’s tasteful, warm, elegant and all the other marketing terms you would see in a car brochure. Genuinely a nice place to be. But I have one very major gripe with the interior … everything is white. The seats, the dash and, worst of all, the carpet. I don’t really know why this was decided, even the carpet in the cargo area is white. Imagine storing a muddy set of recovery boards or a recovery kit on white carpet … kiss your resale value goodbye. This is not a vehicle you want anyone eating a kebab in, basically … even though I had to grab a delicious pie from Wentworth Falls on the way. Hey, I’m a risk-taker.
Features wise, there are many. Many! Honestly, if you are thinking about buying a Lexus 450d you will need to spend an entire day reading the owners’ manual and familiarising yourself with what all the buttons do. One really nice touch many people commented on was the Heads Up Display (HUD), which worked really well and was in the exact right position. Operation of the 4WD system was very simple, which shows that they still want people using them off-road. All in all, I personally still think the interior of a Land Rover Discovery makes you feel more special. And that’s what you want when spending this much money.
It’s big and bold, no doubt about it. I couldn’t help but stare at the front grille area and notice it looks like a cross between a cattle grid and an electric razor, but looks are subjective, aren’t they? The front bumper, as mentioned, ruins the approach angle massively, as does the rear bumper and side steps. It’s kind of like a 200 Series LandCruiser with a Bankstown-spec body kit. It’s all done with quality components and well-built, naturally, but it’s not what I want in a 4WD personally.
The Lexus 450d is a fine luxury vehicle, but it’s like a salad from a fast food restaurant … it’s a compromise. The off-road ability is compromised because of all that luxury. It kind of shouldn’t exist when you think about it. However, if it tickles your fancy, it’s certainly not a bad vehicle at all. It’s really rather good, but not Range Rover good to be honest. Would I buy one over a 200 Series Sahara? Nope … but 4WD ability is my number one concern. If you wanted something flash to drive to the casino, and do a bit of sand driving on the weekend, it will perform that task no problems. Just don’t think about grabbing that kebab on the way home unless you like cleaning white leather surfaces.
Engine Type: V8 Diesel 4.5L
Power: 200kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 650Nm @ 1600-2800rpm
Drive Type: Full-time
Kerb Weight (kg): 2740
GVM (kg): 3350
Payload (kg): 610
GCM (kg): 6850
Braked Towing (kg): 3500
Max Towball Downforce (kg): 350
Max Tow at GVM (kg): 3500
Max Tow Car Weight at Max Tow: 3000
Tank Size (L): 93
Combined Economy ADR81/02: 9.5
Calculated Tow Range (km): 599
Price (excl. on-roads): $134,129
Ground Clearance (mm): 225
Wading Depth (mm): Not supplied
Tyre Size: 285/50 R20
Wheelbase (mm): 2850
Max Roof Load (kg): 70