When Toyota Chairman and Lexus Chief Branding Officer Akio Toyoda took to the stage to unveil the LC500 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month, he said he was determined to make sure people didn’t use the words “Boring” and “Lexus” in the same sentence anymore. He must not have driven his company’s LX570 recently.
Now to be fair, the LX570 competes in a category where excitement really isn’t the point. Full-size SUVs are built around comfort, capacity and capability. You don’t buy one of these modern land yachts (think Escalade, Navigator, QX80, Range Rover or GL550) to set a lap record at the Nürburgring. They’re built to haul a boat, transport your family to the mountains for a week of skiing, or carry you and your co-workers in comfort as you visit clients across town or the state.
And this is where things get tricky. Mr. Toyoda wants Lexus to be a more exciting and youthful brand. So features that signify that shift are creeping their way into all Lexus vehicles even if they don’t make much sense. Case in point, the LS570 offers drive mode select which allows you to toggle from ECO to Comfort to Sport and Sport+ modes, the last two of which Lexus describes in this manner: “SPORT mode dials up powertrain response and dials down power steering assist to yield a sportier driving feel, and, to that, SPORT S+ mode adds firmer damping control from AVS to prioritize handling agility.”
Let me tell you, even in Sport+ mode, agile this thing ain’t.
The LX570 is not an RC F. It’s a big, body-on-frame truck that weighs three tons and has a high center of gravity. It doesn’t need Sport mode, much less Sport+. These set an expectation this vehicle can’t deliver. What it should offer are just three modes, ECO, Touring and Towing. Leave the sporting intentions to its smaller, more nimble sibling the RX as well as the coupes and sedans bearing the spindle grille.
So let’s acknowledge the true mission of the LX570 and talk about all that’s good here.
First of all, this thing is comfortable, especially in the first and second row. Loaded up as my LX was, even rear seat passengers get heated seats that are adjustable fore and aft as well as reclining. Up front, the driver and passenger seats are heated and ventilated, and the heated steering wheel was a welcome feature on these cold midwestern mornings. Load up 5 people in the first and second rows and there’s not a whole lot to complain about. The semi-aniline leather seating and wood trim are first rate, better than you’ll find in the Escalade and right up there with the Infiniti. The Climate Concierge automatically monitors the temperature of the four climate zones in the LX570 and adjusts the fans as well as the temperature of the seats and steering wheel independently. If, however, you are relegated to the third row, I hope for your sake the trip is a short one. The seats are comfortable enough, but legroom in the way back is at a premium.
Next, there’s capacity and with the third row down, there’s plenty of it. Even with five people on your journey, you’ll be able to carry all the luggage and gear you’ll need for a week or two on the road. Fold down the second row and this luxury transporter becomes a utilitarian marvel. It had no problems swallowing a two-piece, six-foot tall midcentury modern shelving unit we scored at the Treasure Mart. With people in the third row, however, space is limited to just 9.1 cubic feet of cargo space. That’ll get you a few bags of groceries or a couple of overnight bags, but if you plan on traveling with more than 5 people for any length of time, you’re going to need a roof-top carrier for luggage.
Driving the LX570 is as you would expect. Visibility is excellent from the high seating position and the ride is both smooth and quiet. It’s packed full of driver assist and safety technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot warning monitors, a new, massive 12.3-inch display screen and remote touch interface, and there’s a new, smooth shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. To say this thing is loaded is like saying, Meryl Streep has a few awards. Power from the 5.7L V8 is ample, though at 6,000 pounds and with 383 horsepower, the LX570 has one of the lowest power to weight ratios in the class. It can tow up to 7,000 pounds which again is adequate but but significantly less than the towing capacity of the the Escalade, Navigator and QX80.
If you’re inclined to take a nearly $97,000 truck off-roading, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better choice. The LX570 is basically a deluxe version of the Toyota Land Cruiser and as such, its capabilities when the wheels leave the pavement are first rate. It offers crawl control with terrain mode select and power height adjustment so you can raise the vehicle if you need an extra few inches of ground clearance. Whether you’re traversing a muddy bog, a sandy desert or a rocky mountain pass, the LX has the chops to get you through it.
The bottom line here is the Lexus LX570 is a capable full-size SUV that can carry all the people an most of the stuff you want in supreme comfort. It’s the ultimate suburban assault vehicle – perfect for families running errands around town who might want to play in the mud every once in a while. If you’re towing a big boat or camper, or taking longer trips with five or more people, there are better options out there for you.
Full-Size AWD 8-Passenger SUV
Base Price: $88,880
Price as tested: $96,905
403 lb.-ft. of torque
Full-time 4-wheel drive
8-speed automatic transmission
Independent double wishbone front suspension
Electronically controlled shock absorbers with front and rear stabilizer bars
Power-assisted rack and pinion steering with variable gear ratio
4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS
20-inch wheels with Mud and Snow tires
Drive mode select w/eco, sport
Full complement of airbags for front and rear passengers
Front seatbelt pre-tensioners
Pre-collision system includes automatic braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert
Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert
HID headlamps with automatic high beam dimmer
Integrated LED fog lamps and daytime running lamps
Rain sensing intermittent wipers
Comfort & Convenience
Semi-aniline leather with contrast stitching and wood trimmed interior
Heated and ventilated power front seats
Heated leather and wood steering wheel
Heated power second row seats
Power folding third row seat
Navigation system with voice activation system
Lexus Enform destinations and app suite
Mark Levinson 19-speaker surround sound audio system with DVD player
Dual screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system
Front and rear cameras with 360-degree overhead view
Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL550