A premium sedan wows car buyers with a striking design, a plush interior, and exclusive technology. A premium sport utility vehicle (SUV) does the same thing, but with the added potential for rock climbing, should the urge strike. On recent test drives of the 2016 Land Rover LR4 HSE LUX and the 2016 Lexus LX570 for Latino Traffic Report, I fought the urge and stayed on-road, cruising in comfort and style.
While not direct competitors, these SUVs shared some similarities as well as unique attributes to sustain such an exclusive niche.
Some may confuse off-roading with rally racing but the two couldn’t be more opposed. A true enthusiast prefers to tread lightly, enjoying an intimacy with nature by driving rather than hiking on the trail.
To do this effectively requires basics, starting with full-time four-wheel drive (4WD), which they had, but both the LR4 and LX570 added technology that enhanced the ride.
For starters, they included knobs for selecting terrain challenges to fine tune off-roading functions—General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud and Ruts, and Sand with the LR4’s Terrain Response System. The test model also came with the Heavy Duty Package that added the Rock Crawl mode, a two-speed transfer case, active locking center and rear differentials, and a full-size spare tire. The LR4 improved on-road performance with the Command Shift transmission that included a choice among Normal, Sport, and Manual modes.
Land Rover may have set the standard for luxury off-roading but Lexus stepped up with the Multi-Terrain Select system that offered Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock, and Mud and Sand modes. To improve on-road performance, I had a choice among Comfort, ECO, Sport S and Sport S+ modes.
Suspensions also matter for on and off-road driving and both utilized adjustable suspension systems that lowered and raised the vehicle based on driving conditions.
Heart and Soul
Powered by a 5.7-liter V8 engine, the LX received a new eight-speed sequential shift automatic transmission for 2016, replacing the previous six-speed. The powertrain offered 383 horses and 403 lb.–ft. of torque. The LR4 also included an eight-speed transmission, but it was matched to a supercharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with 340 horsepower and 332 lb.–ft. of torque.
As an SUV, towing is a consideration. LR4 owners can tow up to 7,716-lb, while the LX can pull 7,000 lbs. The standard panoramic view camera, new for 2016 on the LX, will help hitch and maneuver a trailer.
While both try to utilize technology to improve fuel economy, SUVs this size and weight make fuel economy a challenge. The average fuel economy is fairly similar for each, 15 miles per gallon (mpg) for the LX and 16 mpg for the LR4. I averaged 15.4 mpg and 16 mpg respectively.
The P in Premium
The experience inside of these vehicles accentuated their membership in the premium SUV segment. There were no cloth options for seating, just leather please, with real wood and aluminum accents. Heated front seats were standard on both, plus the seven-seat LR4 also included heated rear seats. The eight-seat LX test model included a heated second row via the Luxury Package ($1,190) that also added ventilated (cooled) front seats.
A 12.3-inch center display screen with a mouse in the center console, or Remote Touch Interface, to control the Lexus Enform infotainment system, navigation, and air conditioning distinguished the LX. Lexus Enform also enabled interactivity with smart phones.
The first time I ever noticed accent piping on leather seating was on a Land Rover. The array of knobs and levers for engaging different functions also stood out. The modern LR4 retained the awe factor inside, especially on the test model that included the HSE LUX Package ($10,200) with premium soft Windsor leather with twin-stitch detailing to the top of the dashboard and doors, armrest and grab handles and also around the instrument cluster. Its five-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driver information LCD screen located within the instrument cluster, however, was a little less striking. The L
R4’s infotainment system, Land Rover InControl, can utilize apps downloaded from either the Apple App Store or Google Play to connect to a Smartphone. Oddly, Sirius/XM Satellite radio was added as an option; one would think it would be included, especially on the HSE LUX package.
Both test vehicles included a cooled storage unit for added convenience and a CD player.
Stepping up to a premium SUV brings expectations for an extensive list of standard features, including safety. This can also be where these SUVs fall short.
Airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control make-up the technology that’s expected. But some innovations like a blind-spot monitor, pre-collision mitigation, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control should also be included. They were on the LX but not on the LR4.
Sí: Both of these premium SUVs offer what the segment requires, great styling, interior plushness, and off-road capability.
No: While the LR4 fell short on standard safety technology, the LX570 placed quite a premium on including them with pricing that approached six figures.