Twenty-five years ago Lexus debuted its first SUV, the LX450, although most people if asked would guess the RX was first instead due to its sales volume. Then, as now, the big LX is the Lexus model most obviously based on an existing (and concurrently sold in the US) Toyota model, the Land Cruiser. Differing mainly in quality of leather and some interior and exterior decor along with some Toyota options being standard on the Lexus there have always been more similarities than differences, however having the vaunted big “L” badge on the front has carried a certain cachet and is often considered well worth the extra cost of admission. After all, Land Cruisers have never been cheap over here, and while not a numerically big seller, the LX has been a consistent seller without much in the way of actual marketing costs.
These last few years in particular the Lexus has actually outsold the Land Cruiser, but of course the raw numbers are a drop in the proverbial bucket of both the maker’s as well as the complete market’s overall sales. It’s not controversial to hold the opinion that it’s offered here because they can afford to do so even if the numbers are small and perhaps they want to reward loyal customers who have grown accustomed to having it available rather than using it to chase another trend or top a sales chart.
In fact the Land Cruiser hasn’t crested 4,000 units sold in the United States since 2005, whereas the Lexus LX has been averaging over 5,000 sales each year since then and prior to that crested five-figure sales totals a few times. Of course the basic vehicle is also sold worldwide and is legendary, both as far as actual physical abilities are concerned as well as longevity and solidity of engineering.
It’s no stretch to claim that this vehicle and its roots are likely the ne plus ultra of all around on/off-road machinery although some others may be more capable in certain situations but likely not when all the important ownership factors are included and can be put to use.
Since that first LX450, based on the FJ80 chassis and powered by a 4.5liter inline-6, the LX has followed with the Land Cruiser’s UZJ100 chassis by offering the renamed LX470 (due to the change to a 4.7liter V8 at that time), and since 2007 the URJ200 chassis, now the LX570 with a 5.7liter V8.
It has received several facelifts inside and out keeping it fresh and consistent with the rest of the Lexus lineup, but most significantly in 2015 when the interior got a major revamp while the exterior only carried over the roof and doors.
Your author at one time owned a 1999-vintage Land Cruiser and after climbing aboard this 2020 model Lexus LX570 finished in Satin Cashmere Metallic paint found that some familiar sensations instantly came flooding back from close to two decades ago.
The current model really hasn’t grown very much since back then, however once up in the driver’s seat, the view is still expansive, the room in the cabin is vast (at least as side to side area goes), and once the door thunks shut with a solidity not often seen anymore in any vehicle, there is a feeling of the vault door having closed and the surrounding world being shut out.
Looking at the seats with their buttery soft leather along with the door panels, center console and dashboard swathed in identical-looking and feeling material as well as what can only be described as a marvelous wooden slab hewn from a small log in order to achieve the curvature and thickness in the panel crossing the dash, one can immediately sense that little expense was spared to elevate this interior from that of its slightly more plebeian relative. Pretty much everything is soft including the glove box door, all the better to isolate yourself from the hard world out there…
The wood is an open-pore walnut and the finish is just about the perfect sheen, not looking like completely raw wood but having no sense of artificial sheen on it either. The steering wheel also boasts the same finish wood although curiously the steering wheel heat only affects the leather wrapped portions, which in the end had the effect of keeping my hands in likely the best position.
Seats that are heated, ventilated, adjust in all manner of direction including incorporating an unfurling thigh bolster start the comfort experience. Memory positions for not two but rather three positions (Owner, Spouse, and perhaps The Help?), an air suspension that raises and lowers as needed or desired depending on conditions both terrain-wise as well as occupant-wise up to being able to achieve an 11.9″ ground clearance, silky smooth controls with a heft and precision that escapes most makers along with extremely refined and almost silent acoustic feedback in items such as the turn signals are just several of the items that are noted very quickly by a driver as they are coddled in this inviting warm-toned environment
Instrumentation is of the traditional gauge variety (none of that digital nonsense here, how uncouth) beyond a small center panel in the middle of the gauges that’s pretty much lifted straight from a Highlander but perfectly functional nonetheless to report and display ancillary information. However amidships on the dashboard is mounted a somewhat recessed 12.3″ screen that is continuously split about 70/30 to display two different menu items with the subjects either larger on the left or smaller on the right in whichever configuration may be desired.
Control of this center screen is primarily by a sometimes irritating joystick (it takes a bit of practice and requires watching the screen) without any centering spring which is by design. It’s effectively a cursor and trackpad without a trackpad, so the small pad stylus moves around and stays where positioned until moved again by hand. The screen also responds to touch although it’s a bit of a reach, and many items are also voice-controlled.
I generally left the larger portion displaying the mapped surroundings and the smaller portion to the right in Audio mode with presets below that can be highlighted with the pad stylus and then selected by either pressing down on the device itself or by side mounted buttons on the wrist-rest without moving my hand, much like a computer mouse. Located where it is on the right of the center console it is just as controllable by the front passenger should that be desired which may be useful. Or one could reach over and touch the screen. Or use the steering wheel controls. Or even voice commands. (Which also goes for most other things that the screens can display/control)
Second row accommodations are just as sumptuous with in this case a fold down armrest console that contains a remote control for the somewhat dated (or is traditional a better descriptor here) DVD-based entertainment system equipped with screens on each front seatback measuring about 12″ diagonally and protected by individual leather (or leather-like) sleeves bearing the Lexus logo for protection. The center armrest also has controls for the rear seat heaters/ventilation as well as two more HVAC zones in addition to the two for the front seat.
This second row is power operated to adjust the legroom and the seatbacks can also be reclined a bit. Leg, head, and shoulder room were all exemplary as they should be in such a large vehicle. When access to the third row is desired, the seats in the second are flipped forward using a lever to start the process and then the seat moves forward electrically opening a large aperture through which access can be gained.
The LX, due to its live rear axle, body on frame design, and desire for greater ground clearance does not allow the third row seats to be folded into the floor, rather (and it’s always been this way) the seats are split in half and folded up against the sides of the cargo area.
In my old LandCruiser folding them down was a strictly manual affair but now it’s a combination of manual and power assist. The seats can theoretically be removed but not without tools and perhaps an assistant. There is in fact a two-row version of the LX available at a reduced price, however it then locks you out of selecting certain options, hence most will likely have the third row included.
We had occasion to mainly use one of the third row sides and there were zero complaints as to comfort, however we didn’t have a non-limber adult back there either. Neither child (a teen and a pre-teen) had any issues and found it to be comfortable for quite a long ride, switching seats there and back. The cushion is obviously low to the floor which would make it less comfortable for taller or larger people.
The LX is also on the shorter side (length-shorter, not height-shorter) due to its off-road capabilities, which definitely affects cargo room especially with this standard third row of seats. That said, it’s still a large vehicle so for the day to day it’s perfectly fine and in fact it was pressed into duty for two airport runs for five people and four sets of carry-on luggage which was a non-issue without any need for creative packaging.
The rear hatch is a split tailgate design and power operated top and bottom, fully for the upper hatch and only power for the lowering aspect as regards the lower tailgate portion. One has to dig deep (kidding, it’s not overly heavy) and lift the smaller lower panel back up manually, however it’s a non-issue and in fact rarely even needs to be lowered as it doesn’t present a significant lip over the cargo floor, at least for smaller items or shopping bags and backpacks.
There is still a decent amount of room behind the third row seatbacks, having the lower portion of the tailgate folded up manually allows packing luggage in tightly before the powered upper comes down.
Starting the LX is of course done via a button, pressing it starts the engine which fires quickly and virtually silently. The 5.7 liter 3UR-FE all-alloy V8 engine has powered this series since 2007 and produces 383hp and 403lb-ft of torque which were very impressive numbers back then and while since topped by others, still cut the mustard just fine today.
There’s a hint of fan noise at times from the engine but the actual operation of it is smooth and extremely refined, generally inaudible in the cabin with only a few extremely slight spots of minor coarseness barely detectible at the wheel. It’s never unrefined, nor harsh, just not completely consistently silky throughout the rev range, however not noticeable unless finely attuned to the engine. No passenger would ever notice. But it is there (barely).
An eight speed automatic transmission gets the power to all four of the full time driven wheels (called out as Full-Time Four Wheel Drive, not AWD, likely due to its lockable center differential and low range) and performs just as expected, i.e. like a good butler without being noticed.
Setting off is done in a stately fashion with the vehicle seeming to gain speed more slowly than initially expected as throttle tip-in is not at all rapid, again to aid in off-roading (not that of course the majority of LX’s will see anything beyond maybe a gravel driveway until they meet perhaps their third owner or the first digit of the odometer has moved at least once and likely twice. The Torsen center differential normally keeps the torque split at 40Front/60Rear.
Pushing the pedal a little deeper into the plush carpet (hidden here by thick rubber mats) reveals a satisfying dollop of power reserves and the realization that rapid acceleration requires the driver to be very direct in asking for it, once on the move, the engine produces plenty of passing power and easily maintains whatever speed is desired.
Driving on the freeways as we did for the majority of its stay with us was hugely relaxing with the LX just rolling along silently and just a rustle of wind around the cabin the main noise; tire, engine, and other road noises almost completely suppressed.
Keeping the LX centered in the lane at higher speed was simple, at lower speed on narrower roads a little more attention was needed, it is a tall and wide vehicle that heels sharply when turns are taken at speeds higher than it prefers as well as even tilting quite a bit at lower speeds, however not feeling unstable.
It prefers to get you there in a stately manner rather than an enthusiastic one which can be respected I suppose and again the slower steering is likely that way due to its root level capabilities. The ride is commendably smooth although bumps are still felt without being harsh, head toss is minimal though which helps a lot.
Anyone that can afford such a vehicle is unlikely to worry excessively about the price of gasoline or the need thereof, however in the interests of a complete report, information should be provided anyway. Over the course of a week, the LX transported us 485 miles which included two trips to the Denver Airport and back (I dropped off and picked up four family members).
Those trips clocked in at 135 miles each and a trip to the Boulder suburbs for a large piece of business at another 110 miles. The balance was purely local driving around town and the general area for the remaining 105 miles which makes the overall mix more freeway oriented than usual.
The first trip to the airport which commenced almost immediately upon receipt of the vehicle ended with a trip average of 18.3 mpg, not bad at all with our 75mph speed limits and minimal traffic. After adding the other two trips and the local mileage the overall average came in at exactly 17mpg although it was a bit worryingly below that for a while until the last freeway trip. In fact it is rated at 12(!)City, 16Highway, with a 14Average which is on the frightening end of the scale, at least the actual was higher.
However the sticker on the fuel filler says it “requires” (not recommends) premium gasoline so that’s a second stab in the wallet. It’s perhaps churlish to complain about the cost of the fuel (if perhaps not about the use of resources) since there is no pretense of this being a cheap machine, i.e. I can’t feel sorry for anyone who whines about it after they manage to pay for the vehicle itself. I’d be more likely to complain that with a 24.6 gallon fuel tank capacity I’d want more range, as needing to fuel up sooner than every 300 miles is likely a reality depending on the driving mix.
Of course the flipside is the legendary reliability and longevity of this vehicle platform. Mileages in excess of 300 and 400,000 miles are not at all outsiders, more limited by time and usage rather than capability.
This is one of the few vehicles that is purposely built to last far longer than most anything else and it shows and feels it when behind the wheel or looking about the vehicle. And resale value remains quite strong for many, many years after purchase.
While ostensibly an older platform with some sort of dated dynamics (on the road, not off), it has though been kept fully up to date technology-wise. Headlights are triple LED, there are paddle shifters (really no need here), 360 degree cameras, Lexus Safety System + which includes all the important and popular safety technology, 20″ wheels as standard, a 9-speaker audio system, USB ports, adaptive variable suspension with active height control, and much more.
There’s also a dynamic suspension knob that lets you toggle between Comfort, Normal, Sport, and even a Sport Plus which seems a bit outside its mission parameters. I tried to rapidly cycle between Comfort and Sport Plus setting and couldn’t discern any quantifiably difference, so who knows if that’s useful, but of course the other adjustments are hugely useful offroad including the terrain settings and suspension height adjustability.
All of the above makes for a starting price of $91,380 which, while a large amount of money, I’m guessing most actual buyers don’t even flinch at if they even look at it. And it’s only around $6,000 more than the base Toyota Land Cruiser.
This LX had a number of options to drive the price up further though, including basic stuff like a wireless phone charger for $75, a refrigerated “cool box” in the center console box that looks like it could hold a twelvy of Hamm’s for the campsite at a bargain price of $175, a set of 21″ split spoke alloys including the spare for $745 which seemed far more appropriate for Rodeo Drive than the Rubicon Trail, and a Head Up Display for $900.
I generally find it curious that smaller items like the $75 wireless charger aren’t just included as standard at this price level, it would surely be annoying to consider the purchase of one as a Certified Pre-Owned version and have something so basic these days not have been included.
Further options included some larger ones such as the Luxury Package for $1,190 to pay for Semi-Aniline Leather-trimmed interior (presumably the dash and door panels) with Contrast Stitching, Heated and Ventilated First and Second Row Outboard Seats, Four-Zone Climate Concierge (love the use of that word here!), and LX Projector Door Lamps (kind of like the Batman insignia broadcast in the skies of Gotham but reversed).
And of course the $2,150 requested for the truly sensational Mark Levinson Audio System containing 19 speakers and 450-watts of Reference Surround Audio System, all the better for hearing the nuances of New Order’s “Temptation” or whatever floats your boat as close to maximum volume as your ear drums can stand.
The dual-screen rear seat DVD Entertainment System is a fiver over $2,000, the matching Heated Open Pore Walnut Steering Wheel is $150, the Roof Rack Cross Bars weigh in at $450, the heavy Floor Liners on all flooring areas cost $393, Alloy Wheel Locks are $80, and the Cargo Net catches another $65.
Delivery and Destination from the factory in Toyota City, Aichi, Japan is $1,295 for a grand total of $101,248.
The LX570 is quite a rolling anachronism, it’s based on one of the ultimate and legendary offroad vehicles without really losing any of the capability of the model it’s based on and yet draped in such luxury inside and out, it’s sometimes a little hard to take it seriously.
But it should be because it is a serious vehicle and Lexus takes it seriously as well, although in a very low-key way. Compared to the few other top-flight on/offroad high-luxury vehicles that it sort of shares market space with (Range Rover, Mercedes G and (maybe) GL; not the Escalade, Navigator, nor likely the Infiniti QX80 I’d argue based on actual capabilities), it’s perhaps actually a bargain, even if it objectively carries a very big price tag as viewed by most people.
It’s great at what it will be used for during the first half of its life and even better at what it’ll likely be used for during the second half of its life, albeit by almost assuredly very different people and is one of the few vehicles that will actually see such a difference in use during its lifespan. All I know is I adore it and that dichotomy makes me love it even more.
A big three-row Thank You to Lexus for providing us this vehicle along with a full tank of fuel for the week, we appreciate it very much!