Driven: 2023 Lexus LX Ultra Luxury Turns Trails Into Tranquility

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Combining opulence with capability, the Lexus LX is a rather niche SUV.

The 2023 Lexus LX makes for an interesting flagship, and while it shares very little with the rest of the Lexus lineup, it's making waves for more than just that in-your-face grille. It's based on the same TNGA-F truck platform as the Toyota Land Cruiser (and the Tundra/Sequoia), which carries the same rugged, body-on-frame capability. But despite its hardy DNA, the LX presents as an opulent cruiser meant to coddle its occupants. The LX entered its fourth generation for the 2022 model year with a new name - now called the LX 600 - and it rolls over to 2023 with just a handful of changes.

CarBuzz recently spent a week driving the most expensive LX 600 Ultra Luxury, which ditches the available third row in favor of an ultra-luxurious four-seat limousine layout. It's unusual to see a body-on-frame truck-based SUV offer such a seating arrangement, and we were eager to see if the fuss was worth it.

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Trading Cylinders For Turbos

The LX 600 ditched the aging 5.7-liter V8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 for 2022, and despite the wails from enthusiasts, we think the V6 is superior in every way. Output is rated at 409 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque, up from 383 hp and 403 lb-ft in the old V8. Power is also available lower in the rev range, making the LX 600's acceleration feel more effortless. The 10-speed automatic is much smoother than the eight-speed of old, further improving the power delivery.

Dropping two cylinders helped Lexus improve fuel economy from 12/16/14 mpg on city/highway/combined cycles with the V8 to 17/22/19 mpg with the new power plant. Towing capability is also increased from 7,000 to 8,000 pounds. Who said there's no replacement for displacement?

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Go Anywhere Capability

Other than the Land Rover Range Rover, few other luxury SUVs can ford a river or climb a steep mountainside to get its occupants to their destination. Like the Land Cruiser it's based on, the LX features a Multi-Terrain Select with Dirt, Sand, Mud, Deep Snow, Rock, and Auto modes. Drivers can monitor the position of their four-wheel-drive system on the lower touchscreen and raise or lower the adaptive suspension.

In addition to a low range mode, the LX also features crawl control with five speed settings and downhill assist control. Even novice off-roaders won't struggle in the LX thanks to the Multi-Terrain Monitor, which captures images in advance using the cameras to create a transparent view underneath the vehicle.

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Old-School Feeling

On the paved road, the LX 600 is a massive improvement over the LX 570 from 2021. The electric power steering feels more precise than the old hydraulic unit and the GA-F platform greatly enhances on-road dynamics. Lexus says the LX 600 is 441 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, and the platform is 20% more rigid. We believe it because the LX no longer feels like it will fall over when you take a highway off-ramp too quickly.

Though it's a big improvement, the LX still rides like an old-school luxury truck. Bumps in the road are heavily damped, but the ride can be a bit jittery over rough surfaces. Buyers looking for a more car-like ride will likely prefer the Range Rover or Mercedes-Maybach GLS, but some drivers might enjoy how the LX feels truck-like.

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The Ultra Luxury Layout

Lexus sells the LX with conventional two-row five-seat, and three-row seven-seat layouts, which will likely make up the bulk of sales. At the top of the range, the LX Ultra Luxury features a four-seat configuration with a center console between the rear seats. The rear accommodations include amenities such as massaging seats, charging ports, a wireless charging pad, entertainment screens, access to the cool box in the front armrest, airplane-style reading lights, and a front seat recline function with a built-in ottoman.

Though this layout is lavish, it's far from the best we've tested. The LX's body-on-frame design yields only 36 inches of rear legroom (43 inches with the front seat pushed up), meaning the supposedly luxurious backseat actually feels quite cramped. For perspective, the long wheelbase Range Rover supplies a whopping 48 inches (40.4 with the short wheelbase), while the Maybach GLS offers 43.4 inches.

We were also unimpressed with the rear entertainment screen, which only provides access to in-car functions like the radio. There is no built-in Fire TV like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Lincoln Navigator or even YouTube and Netflix access like the Kia Carnival. You could theoretically plug a Fire Stick into the HDMI port, but how inelegant is that?

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Ultra Sacrifices

In addition to loss of seating space in the Ultra Luxury, you lose out on storage too. The trunk is obstructed by the reclining rear seats, limiting the cargo area to 41 cubic feet of space, down from 46 cubes normally. This configuration also prevents the rear seats from folding, meaning it's impossible to open the trunk to its maximum 71 cubic foot capacity. The Maybach GLS features an even worse cargo area with only 18.4 cubic feet, but the Range Rover First Edition manages to package its reclining rear seats in a manner that still accommodates 40.7 cubic feet of space with the ability to fold down the rear seats.

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Pricing & Competition

If we were shopping for an LX, we'd stop at either the F Sport Handling for $103,370 or the Luxury for $105,110. Both offer all the features we'd want without the Ultra Luxury's steep $129,250 price and accompanying loss in practicality. The LX does at least hold a price advantage over its two closest competitors. You'll pay upwards of $166k for a Range Rover Autobiography (SWB) or $165,100 for the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600. The British and German options offer significantly more opulence and more power from V8 engines, but the Japanese Lexus should be cheaper to maintain and more reliable to own.

It's a limited market for the LX 600 Ultra Luxury, but we imagine there might be some people out there who want a luxury limo that can also do a bit of off-road work.

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