by Karl Furlong
It's been around in its current basic form for over a decade, but the imposing Lexus LX just keeps going. Sharing its underpinnings with the Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX has the more premium badge and has (just about) remained in the conversation in this segment thanks to its exceptional off-road capability, typically robust build quality, and a 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine that works hard to keep this behemoth moving. While its known mechanicals will find favor with buyers wanting a dependable full-size SUV, there's no getting away from the Lexus' clumsy handling, its frustrating infotainment system, and thirsty engine. It's these flaws, and the LX's age, that holds it back against thoroughly modern alternatives like the BMW X7 and Land Rover Discovery. As charming and no-nonsense as the big Lexus may be, its replacement can't come too soon.
Lexus has seemingly run out of ways to update the aging LX and, for 2020, the only change is the addition of a new Sport Package for the three-row model. Primarily restricted to exterior enhancements, the Sport Package adds a unique grille, body-color side mirrors with chrome accents, a revised lower rear valance, and a black headliner.
While not as sleek as a BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS, the Lexus NX has its own charm in an old-school kind of way. Tall and wide and with a giant chromed-lined grille, it definitely makes its presence known. Standard exterior features include a power moonroof, triple-beam LED headlamps, aluminum roof rails, a power rear door, running boards with integrated courtesy lights and 20-inch wheels. The new Sport Package (on three-row versions only) adds 21-inch wheels in a black machined finish, along with an exclusive sport grille, front spoilers, and a sport rear valance. An integrated tow hitch receiver is standard.
There's nothing remotely shy about the LX's dimensions. Whip out the measuring tape and you'll find a length of exactly 200 inches (along with a 112.2-inch wheelbase), a width of 78 inches with the mirrors folded, and a height of 75.2 inches. A healthy ground clearance of 8.9 inches is the first sign of the big SUV's excellent off-road skills, and it's matched by approach/departure angles of 25/20 degrees, respectively, when in its Normal setting. It's a heavy beast, though - the two-row LX tops out at 5,800 pounds and the three-row version has a curb weight of 6,000 lbs.
The LX has a rather limited color palette that consists of just five shades: Eminent White Pearl, Atomic Silver, Nebula Gray Pearl, Black Onyx and Nightfall Mica (a dark blue). Whichever color you choose, none can conceal the LX's epic proportions.
Relying on displacement rather than turbocharging, the LX's 5.7-liter V8 has outputs of 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque. Power is transferred to all four wheels and an eight-speed automatic transmission is fitted. Limited by its sheer bulk, the LX will haul itself to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, some way off the pace of class rivals like the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS. A maximum towing capacity of 7,000 pounds is within segment norms, but the LX can already feel strained pulling over 4,000 lbs. The Toyota Land Cruiser is more capable in this aspect with a maximum towing capacity of over 8,000 lbs. Being full-time 4WD, the LX does its best work off-road, but on-road it can't compete with the segment leaders.
Producing 383 hp and 403 lb-ft, the LX's 5.7-liter V8 has reasonable outputs, although they can only do so much in an SUV that weighs up to 6,000 lbs. The V8 doesn't feel especially urgent in its workings and a fairly heavy foot is needed to extract decent performance, both from a standing start and once on the move. The transmission changes gears smoothly but isn't the most responsive and exhibits inconsistent patterns when, for example, passing on the highway. The quick downshift you may be expecting doesn't always arrive. On the plus side, the engine is always smooth and, once up to speed, doesn't intrude on the quiet and refined cabin. It's just a pity that Lexus hasn't made another engine option available.
You'll want to take it easy in the LX as this is not a vehicle that rewards pressing on. The steering is not only too heavy at low speeds, but its excessive lightness at higher speeds and absence of feel make it a challenge to keep the big Lexus pointing in a straight line, which can be tiring on extended trips. Through corners, the tall body leans noticeably. The quality of the ride is better, but also not perfect; the LX is quite softly sprung and cushions occupants from nasty bumps, but it's not as controlled in its body motions as many other luxury SUVs. The different driving modes can be used to improve matters, but even in Comfort, there's too much body roll. Normal mode is, generally, the best for a balance of comfort and control.
Head off-road and the LX 570 makes a much stronger impression. The good ground clearance and a clever traction management system make it easy to clear some surprisingly challenging obstacles. The Lexus is also fitted with crawl control, a system that automatically maintains a slow, steady pace over rough terrain. A multi-terrain select system allows you to choose between five modes: rock, rock and dirt, mogul, loose rock, or mud and sand - the amount of traction is then adjusted based on the selected mode. A locking center differential, a two-speed transfer case, and excellent approach/departure angles combine to create a formidable off-road vehicle, all while keeping passengers comfortable in the plush interior. Unfortunately, the LX's on-road flaws are too easy to expose, especially relative to the competition.
The LX has all the ingredients to make it a gas-guzzler and, unfortunately, that's exactly the case at the pumps. According to EPA estimates, the Lexus can only return 12/16/14 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, a poor performance even in the segment. By comparison, the much more powerful BMW X7 M50i returns 15/21/17 mpg from its 4.4-liter turbocharged V8. Despite a large 24.6-gallon gas tank, the LX's combined cruising range is only around 344 miles.
One facet in which the LX doesn't fall short is in the typically Lexus-like fashion that its interior has been designed and built: it's a classy - if rather dated - environment featuring supple leather and loads of soft-touch plastics. There are lots of buttons to manage, though, with the 4WD system's controls taking up a fair amount of space below the shifter lever. Although seating comfort is excellent, models equipped with a third row don't offer an abundance of space back there. Shorter drivers may also struggle with the upright driving position, although it's as commanding as you'd expect in such a hulk of an SUV. There isn't a broad range of trims to choose from, so every LX is well-equipped with features like power front seats, four-zone climate control and a power-sliding second row of seats.
There are two versions of the LX 570 to choose from: a two-row five-seater or a three-row variant that can seat up to eight. The driver and front-seat passenger get the best deal thanks to power-adjustable and super comfortable seats with loads of space. The driver's chair is 14-way adjustable and only some shorter drivers may struggle to find an optimal seating position. Visibility, however, poses few problems. There's sufficient leg- and headroom in the second row, too, but the seats themselves are mounted rather low to the floor. The third row is better suited to children and will be cramped for adults - accessing this third row is also a bit of a cumbersome affair, despite the second row's power-sliding mechanism.
The LX 570's classy cabin gets standard perforated leather trim, but by upgrading to the optional Luxury Package, you get semi-aniline perforated leather trim. Without this package, you can choose between black leather with Linear Espresso wood trim or Parchment leather with Linear Dark Mocha wood trim. The luxury package adds additional trim and color options like open-pore Brown Walnut trim and smart Cabernet (red) leather. The Sport Package (only available on three-row models) also gets exclusive color and trim combinations such as Moonlight semi-aniline leather with Linear Espresso wood trim.
In the eight-seater LX 570, there's 16.3 cubic feet of space behind the third row of seats which is sufficient for the weekly shop, so these seats can be left in place most of the time. Fold down the third row and a much more versatile 41.6 cubes will be freed up. The five-seater has a more generous trunk, with 53.7 cubes of space behind the second row and 81.3 cubes when the back seats are folded flat. Unlike most three-row SUVs, the LX's third row of seats fold to the side, not into the floor - the benefit is a flat cargo floor, but the downside is reduced width in the cargo area. The second row of seats is a 40/20/40-split design, while the third row has a 50/50 split.
The door pockets are deep but could be broader, while there's more space for smaller items in the center console. When the second-row middle seat isn't in use, an armrest with additional storage can be folded down. All rows feature cupholders.
Before adding on any options, both versions of the LX ship standard with heated front seats (14-way power-adjustable for the driver and 12-way for the passenger), four-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof and a power tilt/telescopic steering column. A power-sliding second row of seats is standard on both models, while the eight-seater gets a power-folding third row. A power rear door is also included, while both the running boards and outside mirrors are fitted with integrated courtesy lights. If used by more than one driver, the memory system for the seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors will be much appreciated. Among the standard safety features are blind-spot monitoring and a multi-terrain monitor.
If there was one aspect of the Lexus LX that was in need of urgent attention, it would be the woeful infotainment system. The Remote Touch controller is a mouse-like device situated on the center console, but this isn't your home office - it's 6,000 pounds of fast-moving metal and dividing your attention between the vitally important task of driving while trying to work through this system's menus is terribly frustrating. It's a pity, because the 12.3-inch display is otherwise well-sized and sharp. Standard inclusions are Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), subscription-free traffic and weather updates via HD radio, Siri Eyes Free, navigation, Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity, the Lexus Enform Remote with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility and Lexus Enform Destination Assist. A nine-speaker Lexus premium audio system is standard, but buyers can upgrade to the phenomenal 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system. A dual-screen rear entertainment system is also available and installs an LCD screen on the back of each front seat.
The 2019 LX has a superb predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five stars, boding well for this year's model. It's perhaps not really surprising, considering that the LX shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Land Cruiser, not to mention the Lexus marque's sterling reputation for quality. At the time of writing, no recalls had been announced for the 2020 LX, although the 2019 model was recalled for two issues according to the NHTSA. One was for a fuel pump that may fail, potentially leading to a vehicle stall, and another problem was for airbags which may not activate in the event of a crash.
If anything does go wrong, the LX is covered by the brand's four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a corrosion perforation warranty for six years regardless of mileage covered.
Crash ratings are currently unavailable for the Lexus LX, as local authorities have yet to evaluate the big SUV. Still, with a sturdy structure and all the essential safety gear, the Lexus should hold up well in the event of a crash.
The LX can seat up to eight people, so it's comforting to know that ten airbags are fitted to protect occupants. The Lexus Safety System comprises pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, and intelligent high beams. Driver safety aids include blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while the LX also gets a panoramic view monitor and multi-terrain monitor - the latter system includes an under-vehicle camera for extra awareness when traversing off-road terrain. Parking assist is also standard.
Everything about the Lexus LX is bold: from its glaring weaknesses to its imposing design, it's not an SUV that operates with much in the way of subtlety. On the plus side, there are a few traditional Lexus strengths that have been maintained, such as the comfortable seats, the impressively quiet cabin, the premium materials used inside, and the high level of dependability associated with most of the marque's products. It's also a genuinely capable off-roader, not just a poser. But in too many other aspects, age has caught up with the lumbering giant. Its infotainment system is unbelievably fiddly to operate and will be a constant source of frustration. The engine lacks the grunt to provide really brisk performance, but is also thirsty. And then there's the sub-par driving experience - the vague steering doesn't inspire much confidence and the LX feels unwieldy too much of the time. If you really will be spending a lot of time tackling rough terrain and want a tough SUV that can handle it, then the LX may still make sense. Otherwise, pick the BMW X7, Mercedes GLS or Land Rover Discovery, these SUVs are all far superior on-road and more modern inside than the aging LX.
The LX range starts with the two-row LX 570 at an MSRP of $86,480, exclusive of tax, licensing, registration, and a delivery/handling charge of $1,295. Above this is the three-row LX 570 at $91,480. By comparison, a base BMW X7 xDrive40i (less powerful but significantly quicker and more modern than the LX) costs $73,900.
There are just two LX 570 trims to choose from: the two-row model and a three-row variant. Both are nearly identically equipped and make use of the same 383-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and full-time four-wheel-drive with an adaptive variable suspension.
The models only differ in terms of seating, with the two-row accommodating five passengers and the three-row model up to eight, thanks to the addition of a power-folding 50/50-split third row of seats. The three-row also has access to more options like the 19-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Otherwise, both feature the same bold exterior styling with 20-inch alloy wheels, triple-beam LED headlamps, a power moonroof, a power rear door, running boards with integrated courtesy lights, and aluminum roof rails. In the cabin, perforated leather upholstery is standard, although upgrading to the Luxury Package introduces even more luxurious semi-aniline leather. The driver's seat features 14-way power-adjustment (including a cushion extender) and a memory system, while the front passenger seat has 12-way power adjustment. Other amenities include four-zone automatic climate control, a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen for infotainment and navigation, a power tilt/telescopic steering column, a nine-speaker sound system, and a power-sliding second row of seats. On the safety front, there are ten airbags along with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and the Lexus Safety System which encompasses a pre-collision system.
There are only two primary packages to choose from: the Luxury Package at $1,190 and the new Sport Package (only available on the three-row variant) at $2,510.
The Luxury Package comprises upgraded semi-aniline leather upholstery (with additional color options), four-zone climate concierge, heating/ventilation for the front and second-row outboard seats, and LX projector door lamps. This package also requires adding the heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel option for $150. The new Sport Package endows the three-row version with a striking sport grille and front spoilers, a sport lower rear valance, sport design side mirrors with chrome detail and a black headliner. The Sport Package isn't as affordable as it seems, though, as it requires adding wireless charging, 21-inch wheels, a color head-up display, the Luxury Package, heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel and the Mark Levinson sound system, taking the total to over $100,000. It's not clear why buyers can't select the Sport Package on its own.
Individual options available on both models include the heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel ($150), and a refrigerated 'cool box' integrated into the center console ($170). The standard wheels can also be upgraded to 21-inch alloys with a black and machined finish for $745.
Exclusive options for the three-row model include a color head-up display ($900), the fantastic Mark Levinson surround-sound system ($2,350), a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system ($2,005), and a wireless charger ($75).
At over $85,000 for the Lexus LX, the three-row model's $5,000 price premium doesn't seem all that bad considering that you get a third row of seats when you need them, plus access to a range of appealing options. For large families, the rear-seat entertainment system can be a real advantage on long road trips. We don't think that either of the primary packages are essential: the Luxury Package isn't really needed over and above the already comfortable standard cabin, and the LX doesn't require the Sport Package to stand out. Plus, the latter can't be specified without adding virtually all the other options, too. Instead, we'd go for the convenience of the head-up display and add the Mark Levinson audio system.
Like the LX, the smaller, mid-size GX has been around for some time and is fighting a bit of a losing battle as more modern competitors have hit the market. Starting at $53,000, the GX represents a significant saving if you don't require the LX's ability to seat up to eight (the GX can seat seven). Both models feature naturally aspirated V8 engines, but the GX's smaller 4.6-liter has a lower power output of 301 horsepower - both of these SUVs aren't especially sparkling performers and they gulp lots of fuel in the process. While both SUVs are well-built and likely to prove reliable over the long term, they feel old when it comes to interior tech and the poorly implemented infotainment systems that continue to be a Lexus bugbear. If you want an old-school, off-road focused SUV with a V8 engine, then both the GX and LX will still fit the bill. But the brand's slowing sales of these outdated SUVs is proof that the segment has moved on.
Sharing the same basic underpinnings and V8 engines with almost identical power outputs, both the LX and the Land Cruiser offer similar on- and off-road performance, which means that they're a bit clumsy in traffic and on the highway, but perform admirably when confronted with the rough stuff. As expected, the Lexus is the more luxurious offering, both in terms of its cabin materials and its general appearance. The LX also gets a more generous standard specification; for instance, where the Land Cruiser gets a ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, the LX gets 14-way adjustment. The Land Cruiser is a better towing machine, though, with a maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds exceeding the LX's 7,000-pound maximum. Considering the similar abilities of each SUV, we'd go for the more upmarket Lexus LX.