Their modern designs make it easy to overlook the fact that Lexus and parent company Toyota make some of the most old-school vehicles around, including the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser and its luxurious counterpart, the Lexus LX 570.
While most modern SUVs trend toward urban performance with car-based platforms and low-slung profiles, the Lexus LX 570 is a dinosaur from a different era. It has body-on-frame construction, high sides and upright styling that has little regard for aerodynamics, and it drives off-road with aplomb. That's why it's hard to find direct competitors for the LX 570 outside of Toyota's Land Cruiser. The Land Rover Range Rover is one exception; it's priced close to the LX and can go virtually anywhere despite having unibody construction.
Other models that compete on size and/or price include the Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80 and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. Compare the LX 570 with those vehicles here.
As good as it may be on a trail, however, I don't think that's how most Lexus LX 570 buyers will end up using their big ute, so I set out to see if the old dog had any tricks on the highways and byways of Los Angeles.
New for 2018: Two-Row Version
For 2018, the one major change for the LX 570 is the addition of a two-row, five-seat version aimed at those who don't need a third row and want to gain some cargo room. In the traditional Lexus LX 570, the third-row seats are more of an obstruction when stowed than in many vehicles because they fold up to the sides rather than down into the floor. That LX has eight seats in three rows, but only 44.7 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its second row. The two-row jumps up to 50.5 cubic feet, a 13 percent increase.
There's more good news: The two-row version comes with a $5,000 price decrease and starts at $86,575, but it's mono-spec, meaning there are no trim packages available for it. While the three-row is comparably equipped to start, you can add a luxury package (including perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front- and second-row seats, and a four-zone climate control system) and a rear-seat entertainment system that brings a pair of 11.6-inch screens.
The Lexus LX 570 comes with an old-fashioned 5.7-liter V-8 that makes 383 horsepower and 403 pounds-feet of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive that offers an additional low gear via a switch in the center console. Next to that is a control for Lexus' impressive crawl-control system, which can be set to maintain a slow pace over rough terrain without the driver having to manipulate the pedals. This system is standard, along with an air suspension that offers a variety of ride heights. I'd recommend letting the suspension automatically do its own thing on the road; raising it too high on your own can negatively impact ride quality.
On the street, the LX 570 drives like a more refined version of a large truck. The ride is butter smooth over pavement, and though there's some extra body roll in the corners, the Lexus LX 570 doesn't feel sloppy; its suspension gets it back upright slowly rather than explosively. The V-8 gets the LX 570's 5,800 pounds moving easily and — most importantly — pulls hard between 40 and 70 mph, so passing is a breeze.
Road and tire noise are well-controlled — more so than in other vehicles that ride on truck-based platforms. Fuel economy is, predictably, not a strong point: 13/18/15 mpg city/highway/combined.
I recommend letting the suspension automatically do its own thing on the road; raising it too high on your own can negatively impact ride quality.
Interior Hits and Misses
Let's start with the positives: Materials and fit and finish are big highlights in the LX 570. It feels the part of a nearly $90,000 luxury SUV, and even though tan leather isn't particularly my style (I'd always be afraid of spills or stains), it was very impressive. The front seats are also exceptionally comfortable, and the Lexus LX 570 comes with a feature called Climate Concierge, which employs multiple sensors around the vehicle to control the ventilation system, heated and ventilated seats and heated steering wheel (if equipped) to either cool or warm the car more comfortably for occupants.
When it comes to misses, two big ones stem from Lexus' insistence on using a weird knoblike mouse controller for its infotainment systems and continuing to resist smartphone connectivity options (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay). Lexus is starting to change this in some newer vehicles, but those changes are too late to help the LX 570. It wouldn't be as much of a con if the built-in system were good, but its structure is confusing, the navigation map is a mess and it's uncomfortably difficult to use while driving.
There was also one weird quirk I found in the LX 570's backseat: The floor is quite high, which elevates passengers' knees and raises their thighs off the seat's lower cushioning — unfortunate, because that's some good Lexus-grade cushioning down there. You won't notice on a short trip, but it will affect passengers on the longer jaunts I think Lexus envisions owners taking in this vehicle.
Safety Technology Much Appreciated
I came to appreciate many of the Lexus LX 570's safety systems, which all worked flawlessly in my week with the SUV. I drove it in traffic and in cities, parallel parked it on city streets and somehow squeezed it into my apartment's compact parking space. Though visibility is pretty good thanks to large windows all around and a commanding seating position, negotiating tight spaces would be nerve-wracking without the standard 360-degree camera system and parking sensors, which were very helpful without being overbearing.
Rounding out the list of standard safety features are all-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers, forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, blind spot monitors and lane keep assist.
The 2018 LX 570 ended up being pretty much what I expected it to be: big and luxurious, with plenty of capability for adventuring (it can tow 7,000 pounds), but lacking in a few key areas around multimedia technology and drivability. I like the LX 570's trucklike feel, but some customers will be looking for an SUV that, to be frank, doesn't ride and drive like one.
That's why when my time with the LX 570 ended, I found myself a little sad. I would hate for this to be the last one I drive, but I can see the world changing around it to the point where it may not make sense for Lexus to keep it in production. Having the LX 570 in the lineup in lieu of a large three-row crossover — that would likely cost much less and get better fuel economy — doesn't really make sense. But for now, I'm glad it's holding on.
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