x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cruising dunes in style

Luxurious inside and out, and more than capable off the tarmac, the Lexus LX 570 is impressive.

A cooler sits between the front seats of the LX570, providing a chilled thirst quencher when on a desert adventure.
A cooler sits between the front seats of the LX570, providing a chilled thirst quencher when on a desert adventure.

"It's the Lexus Bungalow!" my friend Simon declared after I parked the LX 570 in his Umm Seqeim driveway. It is fair to say that this hulking SUV did not look at all out of place in this particular neighbourhood, rubbing fenders with similarly sized vehicles parked outside spacious villas.

The LX 570 seats up to eight people (all wearing seatbelts, of course) and with the back row of seats folded away, there is enough cargo space for a long weekend's worth of camping equipment and a Great Dane.

Given that you could fit the tent, the camp stove, a portable fridge, the whole family's sleeping bags, airbeds, a pump, the desert shovel and Marmaduke in the LX 570, it seems rude not to take this vehicle into the desert. It shares a platform with the Toyota Land Cruiser, so it is capable of bashing dunes with the best of them, but will any of them sold in the UAE see terrain more challenging than a driveway?

The LX 570 is luxurious inside, sturdy on the outside and blessed with a tremendous six-speed automatic gearbox that is pinpoint-accurate and always found the right cog without whining. The engine has 530Nm of torque, reached at 3,600rpm, making short work of steep inclines.

Like most modern off-roaders, it is pretty darn easy to set up for the sand. Once you've deflated the tyres to 15psi (making sure you either carry a portable air compressor or go off road near a petrol station so you can reinflate your tyres for the drive home) it is a simple matter of flicking a few switches. One switch shifts the car into low range, another raises the suspension for excellent clearance, another locks the diffs and a fourth one turns off the traction control. For safely traversing steep downhill slopes, there is also a crawl mode button - known among some other brands as "hill descent control" - that can be activated once the low-range gear switch is on.

As long as you have an ounce of common sense and head out to the desert with at least two other vehicles and a decent tow rope, there's no reason why you can't enjoy the LX 570 off the tarmac. Just tell yourself it's a dressed-up Land Cruiser and away you go.

But I am pretty sure very few UAE buyers of this car will ever take it into the desert, which is a pity. Still, with that in mind, it is my duty therefore to let the readers know what the LX 570 is like as a road car. The short answer is very nice indeed. After I returned the car to the Festival City showroom, my five-year-old Pajero seemed noisy and agricultural in comparison.

This car is class all the way. There's an excellent light on the running board so you can safely get into the car when it's dark. There is some sort of clever sensor that knows when you're near the car with the key so the light stays on as long as you are in the vicinity. The carpet on the floor mats is so soft and thick, your toes could disappear into it. The front seats are fitted with excellent seat coolers to make the leather seat experience UAE-heat appropriate. The sat nav is dead simple to use, the Mark Levinson stereo sounds great, there is climate control in different zones to cope with different levels of heat tolerance. The headlights rival a lighthouse and the wing mirrors are large enough to see into Saudi. As a nice touch, the wing mirrors fold in when you stop the car - ideal for preventing them from being knocked off in tight Abu Dhabi parking situations.

It ticks all the boxes you'd expect in a premium vehicle.

Another point of luxury is the new leather interior, complete with padded leather around the centre console. "Saddle tan" is the name of the colour of the leather in the version I borrowed, a rich brown that a few people thought was too Oompah-Loompah orange, but I didn't mind it so much. It stayed on just the right side of George Hamilton perma-tan for my tastes.

But the box I was really glad to tick was the roomy cooler box between the front seats, which is great to keep a supply of liquids on hand. But as I extracted a lovely, cooled-down lemon and mint juice from the cooler in the not-so-rugged surrounds of Muroor Road, I thought to myself, I would rather be sipping a refreshingly chilled beverage out on a wind-swept desert adventure. So, if you do buy a Lexus LX 570, don't just use it as an urban bungalow on wheels. Find a dune, give it a bash, it can take it.