A favorite of oil sheikhs the world over, the Lexus LX 570 is something of an anachronism in today's world of streamlined crossovers. Riding on a rigid ladder frame instead of the de rigueur unibody platforms adopted by most rivals, the LX 570 is undeniably a throwback to an era when SUVs were kings, regardless of how much fuel they sipped.
But, as we quickly learned after climbing aboard this big bruiser, the LX 570 is still highly sophisticated and immensely desirable - assuming its suite of attributes is in line with your perceived needs and expectations.
What is it?
This luxed-up twin of the Toyota Land Cruiser received a mild nip-and-tuck for 2013 that makes it more cohesive with Lexus' spindle-grilled passenger cars and crossovers.
Rugged well beyond the conceivable demands of any buyer in this market, the LX and Land Cruiser trace their heritage back to Toyota's answer to the original Land Rover and the Jeep. Over the decades following its introduction, the Land Cruiser became a staple of places far, far away, earning a reputation for toughness and reliability that remains above reproach today.
But just why does the average suburban soccer mom need this capability in Beverly Hills or Buckhead? Well, they don't. But Lexus has endeavored to dress up the Land Cruiser for a decade and a half now. Commanding a hefty but not insurmountable premium over its Toyota sibling, the LX now significantly outsells the Land Cruiser in our market.
For 2013, the updates to this big rig are by and large cosmetic both outside and in the leather-and-wood-wrapped interior. The only mechanical changes are minor revisions to the off road crawl control system, which keeps the LX inching along at a snail's pace over steep descents. A new Turn Assist system brakes the inside rear wheel during hard, low speed cornering to effectively reduce the LX's turning radius.
All LX 570s are exceedingly well equipped, but our Gulf States Toyota-supplied tester was loaded up with a Luxury Package that adds semi-aniline leather, radar cameras for cruise control and impending collision sensing and ventilated front seats. Additionally, a 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, extra cameras to assist with parking and a child-friendly dual screen DVD system graced its window sticker. The finally tally was a hefty $90,170.
What's it up against?
With the ability to seat eight passengers, the LX 570 is nearly in a field of its own aside from the less expensive Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Infiniti QX56. The Cadillac Escalade offers a similar number of seatbelts, but otherwise strikes us as a mismatched rival.
If passenger hauling isn't your focus, the five-seat Land Rover Range Rover is certainly the LX's most natural competitor - and it brings with it a good deal of off road heritage, too.
What's it look like?
With its basic proportions dating back to the Land Cruiser's 1991 enlargement, the LX cuts a distinctive profile among the bubbly crossovers you might otherwise encounter in a parking lot or school carpool line.
The 2013 update appeared a bit tacked on to us when we first saw it at the 2012 Detroit auto show, but the look seems more natural now that various Lexus four-doors boast the same basic design language.
Careful selection of upmarket styling bits ensures that the LX clearly looks more premium than the Land Cruiser, although this big Lexus somehow lacks the gravitas of the Range Rover. Strip away the Lexus badges and the chrome trim and it's not hard to picture big UN badging on the side of this truck. That's appealing to us, but it might not resonate with every shopper in the premium SUV segment.
And on the inside?
As the 2013 model year changes were mostly relegated to the exterior, things inside look pretty familiar. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since virtually every surface is covered in either a highly-lacquered wood trim or buttery soft semi-aniline leather.
There's no shortage of switches an control knobs, a look that works well with the LX's rugged positioning. At the rear of the center console, four toggle switches work the two-speed transfer case, crawl control, the height-adjustable air suspension and three-mode shock absorbers. Though the grey plastic that wraps these buttons feels substantial, they don't look or feel as special here as their counterparts do in the Range Rover.
On the other hand, Lexus' touchscreen infotainment system makes its appearance mercifully without the goofy computer mouse-style controller seen elsewhere in the brand's portfolio. We'd still like to see redundant audio preset buttons, but the system is otherwise a benchmark in terms of simplicity.
Roominess is another LX forte. Front seat passengers are treated to heated, cooled and multi-adjustable thrones, while even the second row gets good leg and head room. The third row powers up against the cargo walls when not needed, which ultimately reduces storage capacity compared to most rivals. Fault the off road-oriented solid rear axle for prohibiting in-floor storage.
But does it go?
The same 5.7-liter V8 that motivates Toyota's Tundra pickup with authority does so here, too. Sending power to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic, the V8 is rated at 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft. of torque.
Tipping the scales at about 6,000 lbs., the LX 570 is a gigantic vehicle, but the quick-shifting six-speed and torquey V8 propel it with more authority than one might expect. Moreover, the engine is absolutely silent at idle, rising to only a muffled growl as the tachometer tickles the upper reaches of the rev range.
Moving nearly as quickly as the rev-meter is the LX's fuel gauge. Blunt aerodynamics, lots of ponies and that substantial curb weight limit the LX 570 to just 12/17 mpg, or 14 mpg combined. We had no difficulty reaching the combined figure, but achieving 17 mpg must require a downhill slope and a tail wind.
Otherwise, the LX 570 makes a fantastic road trip partner. Enough sound deadening to build a recording studio keeps any hint of wind or road noise at bay, while the commanding seating position and wide windshield help drivers look down on everything other than 18-wheelers.
A wide wheel track gives this big SUV a sure-footed feel that belies the suspension's off road-tailored flexibility. As we learned during our off road sojourns, the LX 570 boasts substantial wheel travel, but the suspension remains taut and composed on pavement. Moreover, the relatively short sidewalls aid handling, which although well short of sports car levels, proved safe and predictable in hard cornering. The LX makes its girth known in the twisties, but switching the three-mode suspension to Sport reduced body lean a little bit.
Once the pavement ends, the LX really comes into its own. Hampered only by its size and its low-hanging running boards, this vehicle feels otherwise unstoppable. We climbed moguls the size of Fiats and relied on the crawl control system to safely return us to ground level. As we've said about similar systems in Land Rovers and Jeeps, off roading a luxury vehicle is almost too easy these days - at least for those lucky few who venture down the road less traveled.
Leftlane's bottom line
Certainly, the Lexus LX 570 isn't for everyone. But for those who appreciate its heritage and are willing to put up with hefty fuel consumption, it feels worth just about every penny.
Still, we'd have a hard time overlooking the veddy Bri'ish Range Rover if it was our money on the line.
2013 Lexus LX 570 base price, $80,930. As tested, $90,170.
Luxury Package, $3,010; Mark Levinson audio, $2,350; Intuitive Park Assist, $1,000; DVD player, $2,005; Destination, $875.
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.