Conquering the landscape in the Lexasaurus
The truly gargantuan nature of the all-new Lexus LX 570, the flagship of Lexus’ SUV line, is immediately obvious in a couple of ways.
Besides being about three times as large as a Prius, you can see clearly into second-story windows, looking down on a Lilliputian world, as you roll along in a vehicle that feels like the most finely detailed cement truck ever built by man.
This comes, I know, as a rather crass overstatement but, after two separate occasions to drive the newest generation of the LX, both at an on- and off-road press earlier this year at Lake Las Vegas, and again for a week in the middle of the Colorado winter, the big Lexus’ sheer largess takes on a whole character of its own.
No doubt about it, the Lexus is an especially well-refined, attractive and superbly outfitted SUV that, unfortunately, has a ride that is just a bit more squirmy on dry pavement than I’d like, revealing all 6,000 pounds of its stature.
Reaching over to adjust any of the 3,000 or so electronic doodads in the cockpit while cruising at highway speed, the LX 570 began to not-so-graciously begin to drift, and that felt disconcerting, especially for $80,000 of automobile.
As well, its extremely high center of gravity, combined with all of that vehicular mass, meant that any sudden on-road maneuvers threatened to cause unrestrained items (sunglasses on your face, or dogs, for instance) to go flying about the cabin like one of those NASA weightlessness simulators.
However, in the commodious, eight-passenger friendly Lexus’ defense, should you opt to fully explore its rather well developed off-road capabilities, that heavy-handedness doesn’t seem as big a deal.
I drove up to an old desert mine site near Lake Mead and was impressed by the LX 570’s low-speed agility, its healthy 8.9-inch clearance (with automatic ride height adjustment) and a multimodal crawling/descent control system, plus a locking center differential. It really can handle a surprising degree of Jeep-like tasks and can ford more than two feet of water. It was unstoppable in the snow, as well.
Unfortunately, simply driving around on plain old pavement, where it will spend most of its time, was a little more of a chore than I’d hoped.
A fantastically powerful 5.7-liter V8, repurposed from the Tundra and providing up to 383 horsepower, also calls for premium gasoline. While the engine will allow you totally effortless 90 mph sprints up steep hills or an electronically limited 137 mph top speed, such behavior will generate about 11 mpg, on, as I mentioned, many gallons of premium gasoline.
The best I could do was to take it easy on the highway (switching off the high-revving “PWR” button), and get figures approaching 20 mpg, which Lexus claims is a 20 percent improvement over the previous model. The big engine and frame also allows the vehicle to haul up to 8,900 pounds of trailer.
The new looks are also a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, as they are with the LX’s sister, the all-new Toyota Land Cruiser. The Japanese-built Lexus, seen from a rear aspect, has a shape and an LED taillight configuration that feels like it’s straight out of the 1980s, while the nose and side panels share the undulating flow of stablemates from the RAV4 to the Highlander, which becomes a bit overstated with this much sheet metal.
The interior, however, is predictably stunning and comfortably spacious, suitable for as many as eight (with an electrically folding third row which splits and stacks up against the sides of the cabin, when not in use).
Polished hardwood paneling, shiny plastic and a beautifully glowing electroluminescent display panel, plus a much improved touchscreen navigation system, all contribute to total automotive comfort and perfection.
Heated and cooled, sporty and supportive front seats and the huge, electronically articulated wheel provide great driving comfort; the oversized shifter, put into manually selected automatic mode (which instantly drops the LX into fourth gear), helps in giving the big Lexus a little brake-free slowing assistance on steep highway grades.
A bank of toggle switches on the center console is a tad overwhelming, but allows you full control of high and low four-wheel-drive range (the vehicle is in 4WD mode at all times), the crawl function, ride height and shock damping.
Navigating the navigation program, as mentioned, is better than past Toyota/Lexus generations, with voice controlled operation and the ability to integrate XM Satellite traffic in urban centers ” there’s also the astounding audio blast of the optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Heat and air controls are, again, aggravatingly contained inside a touchscreen; temperature controls are thankfully externalized, at least.
The console is mighty poke-worthy with 20 other buttons controlling the folding mirrors, power liftgate, differential locks, stability control modes, etc. etc.
New is a peculiar wide view and side view monitor system that allows not only a standard backing camera view (crucial with this size of automobile), but also a convex/wraparound video view of the front of the vehicle and a curbside view underneath the right side mirror. Also, the sonar parking system senses objects on all four corners, making parking a tad safer.
Accessing the cabin takes a bit of a leap, but large running boards and handles in both the A and B pillars can help you hoist yourself aboard.
In the back, the tailgate is a two-piece affair, with a lower subgate that still seems pretty high; in a pinch, you can drop the LX 570’s suspension about 2.4 inches to help load passengers and cargo.
An odd mix: overwhelmingly pretty on the inside, fully modern on the outside, extremely capable in rough conditions, but more than a bit of a brute in day-to-day driving. If you’re ready to tackle the challenge and need the biggest Lexus available, it will certainly take care of business.
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