by Jared Rosenholtz
When we were given the opportunity to test Lexus’ flagship SUV, we just couldn’t pass it up. That's because the LX 570 finds its origins in the Toyota Land Cruiser, an SUV that's earned a reputation as one of the most capable, reliable off-road vehicles in the world. To drive that point home, Lexus sent us this 2017 model wearing some battle scars from previous off-roading excursions on its Nightfall Mica paint. Yes, it’s a year old, but it’s identical to the 2018 model sold today.
What better way to assess the LX 570’s reputation than by driving one that’s endured nearly 12 months of abuse? The LX 570 is aimed at the full size SUV market, which had previously suffered from a period of high gas prices (at least in the US). Now, gas is cheap again and large SUVs have experienced a massive resurgence in popularity.
The Infiniti QX80 and Lincoln Navigator both recently received major refreshes to stay competitive, and models like the top-selling Cadillac Escalade, the runner-up Mercedes-Benz GLS, Britain’s resilient Land Rover Range Rover, and (to a lesser extent) the Toyota Land Cruiser are still gobbling up sales, year after year. Buyers interested in a large and rugged SUV may also look at the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which tops the LX in off-road ability, but will set back buyers an extra $35,000. The LX isn’t a model that sees much generational change. Unlike other more popular vehicles that might get a full redesign after seven or eight years—sometimes fewer—the third-generation LX debuted in 2007. That’s 11 years ago.
Thankfully (or not, depending on your option regarding Lexus’ massive grilles as of late), the LX received a thorough refresh in 2015 to keep it current. While the look may be new, what’s under the hood is decidedly old school: Toyota’s venerable 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8. This under-stressed V8 puts out 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque, neither of which are very impressive numbers by today’s standards. Lexus has left this engine fairly untouched since 2007, which may sound like an oversight, but the benefit here is reliability. The LX is one of the most bulletproof cars money can buy.
Still, there are plenty of downsides to having such an enormous V8 under the hood. The LX 570 is rated by the EPA at 13/18/15 mpg city/highway/combined. During our test, it struggled to top 13 mpg. At least the 5.7-liter V8 is practically silent thanks to an eight-speed automatic, which keeps engine revs low and helps the LX cruise comfortably at about 1,000 rpm, rarely exceeding 2,000 rpm during acceleration. I mashed the throttle a few times and experienced the LX’s angry V8 roar. It had all the aural theater of a muscle car at full tilt and almost none of the speed. Lexus says the LX 570 can hit 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, but forcing it to do so seems cruel.
The eight-speed automatic refused to shift quickly when using the paddle shifters and cut timing heavily if it even approached the redline. It’s best to keep the transmission in automatic mode and let it do its thing. Lexus gifted the LX with drive modes—six of them to be exact. The modes can be triggered using the familiar rotating dial, but I couldn’t figure out why Lexus even bothered. The LX can be put in ECO, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport + modes, which range from least to most aggressive. There is also an individual mode, which lets drivers define different aspects of the driving experience to their liking.
No matter what mode we selected, the LX seemed to only want to do one thing: drive comfortably and smoothly. If doing highway pulls in your massive three-row SUV is your end goal, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 might be more your speed. The LX 570 starts at $85,380, so it’s no cheap date. Our tester was the optional three-row model, which starts at $90,380. Even a “base” LX 570 comes well-equipped with full-time four-wheel drive, HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, Lexus Enform Services, genuine wood interior, navigation, a nine-speaker premium audio system, power front seats with memory and easy access, power-sliding second-row seats, and illuminated running boards.
Our tester also had a few options, like a wireless charger, 21-inch wheels, head-up display, and a heated steering wheel. The biggest additional packages were the Luxury Package, which includes a semi-aniline leather interior with front and rear seat ventilation ($1,190), and the Mark Levinson audio with 19-speakers around the cabin ($2,350). As-tested price of our LX 570 came in at $95,765. I certainly loved driving it around town, but don’t know if it is worth its current price tag in today’s market. Lexus has been outclassed by rivals on the in-cabin technology front and the LX 570 is starting to feel its age.
I found myself constantly overshooting menu items using the Lexus Enform mouse, which made me wish Lexus would go back to using touchscreens or switch to the more intuitive track pad from the RC and LC coupes. The 12.3-inch screen was massive, but still lacked Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility. The Enform system handled the basics, but I wished I could have used intelligent voice commands—like “find me a coffee shop”—instead of looking one up on my phone and plugging the address into Enform’s navigation for turn-by-turn directions.
Technology aside, the LX 570 is a wonderful place to relax. Almost every surface is appointed with sumptuous leather or real wood. The tester was trimmed in a rather lovely unfinished wood that felt more natural than most interior trim. The LX 570 is very roomy in all three rows, although second- and third-row occupants have no USB ports to charge their devices. The recently refreshed Lincoln Navigator has USB ports in almost every nook and cranny, making it great for long distance trips with children. Despite its massive size, I found the LX 570 to be poorly laid out in terms of storage space.
Up front, controls for off-road settings take up most of the center console, so the only storage spaces are two cup holders and a poorly accessible wireless charging pad. If the front seat passengers both have drinks, good luck finding an place to keep a phone. The LX 570 rides beautifully thanks to an adaptive variable suspension with an independent double wishbone front layout. This SUV can also tackle almost any terrain thanks to a Torsen limited-slip center differential and several off-road settings. The LX 570 comes equipped with electronically controlled shock absorbers to iron out road bumps, too.
These shocks can be raised and lowered to go off-road and to allow easier ingress and egress. I found the ride to be excellent except for when traversing low-speed bumps where the LX would bounce around due to its high center of gravity. The LX 570 is an old school SUV, few of which exist anymore. Anyone who drove an SUV back in the ‘90s and early 2000s will remember a time when SUVs would slosh around from side to side at the mere mention of a corner. Lexus sold over 100,000 units of the RX in 2017, but barely over 6,000 units of the LX. This is mostly due to price, but I think it’s also because people have simply moved past SUVs like this.
There will soon be a three-row version of the RX, and we fear the time of the LX may soon be over. The smaller GX had higher sales last year—over 27,000—but fewer and fewer people seem to be looking for a full-size, gas guzzling SUV like the LX 570. Lexus continues to sell the LX because it is a heritage product like Ivory soap, a Procter & Gamble product dating back to the 1800s. P&G has plenty of better soap brands in its portfolio, but it continues to make Ivory because there are some customers who just won’t buy anything else.
The LX 570 is the Ivory soap of large, luxury SUVs; there are better products on the market today, but some people like to do things old school. The LX 570 feels like a click wheel iPod in a world filled with touchscreen iPhones; it has served its purpose in the past, but maybe it’s time for Lexus to move on. Apple no longer sells a click-wheel iPod and those who want one do so simply for nostalgia. The LX 570 is perfect for buyers looking for some '90s SUV nostalgia, but a more modern Lincoln Navigator will do the job better.