Let's say you like the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser for its people and cargo space, towing capacity, and off-road pedigree, but you live in America so you're not too keen on the idea of explaining to your Range Roving buddies at the boat club that you paid almost $80,000 for an SUV with the Toyota ovals on the grille. Well, allow me to introduce you to the 2014 Lexus LX 570.
The Lexus LX is, for all intents and purposes, an almost $82,000 Land Cruiser (before options). It's got the same power train and chassis, the same robust all-wheel drive and sophisticated braking and traction systems, and the same off-road cred that make the current Land Cruiser 200 Series the vehicle of choice for NATO Armed Forces. Only, this SUV has a Lexus badge up front and a generous dose of luxury throughout.
Traction and all-wheel drive systems
Like the legendary Land Cruiser, the LX 570 sits atop a rugged chassis and a robust all-wheel drive system.
Torque leaving the single-option, eight-speed automatic gearbox passes through a two-speed transfer case, giving the driver the choice of a high-ratio mode for daily driving and a low-ratio mode for low-speed, high-torque off-road and slow-towing applications. Next the power is sent to the front and rear axles via a Torsen (Torque-Sensing) limited-slip center differential. The differential will automatically vary the fore-to-aft torque split around the nominal 40:60 ratio, but the driver can manually lock it in for crawling.
Helping the driver to choose among the options is Toyota/Lexus' Active Traction Control with Multi-Terrain Select system, which gives a variety of presets for off-road conditions and says which settings to use for the transfer case and differential. Once selected, the LX's braking system steps in to assist the drivetrain with maintaining optimal grip over almost any terrain, helping to shuffle power from left to right across the two axles with its electronic brakeforce distribution and controlling ascent and descent speeds with the Crawl Control with Turn Assist and Multi-Terrain Anti-lock Braking systems. The brake assist features also come into play on the road with the standard Vehicle Stability Control and Trailer Sway Control features.
The LX differs the most significantly from the Land Cruiser in its suspension. Both SUVs use fully independent double-wishbone suspensions with rear four-link trailing-arm solid-axles, but where the Toyota's spring rates are fixed, the Lexus upgrades with an Adaptive Variable Suspension and Active Height Control System. With the flip of a switch, the LX's ride height can be raised to increase its ground clearance over uneven terrain or reduced to clear low-hanging obstructions. The Low rolling mode can only be used up to about 10-12 mph and the High only to about 18-20 mph, and a feature called Easy Access Mode automatically lowers the LX to its lowest setting when parked to make it easier to climb in and out of the behemoth.
Additionally, the LX features electronically controlled shock absorbers and stabilizers as well as variable gear ratio steering -- yes, this is a lot of features -- allowing the characteristics of the SUV's handling to also be tweaked between Normal, Sport, and Comfort modes with the flip of yet another switch. I found the Comfort mode to feel just too floaty and disconnected from the road and the Sport mode to be a bit artificially and uncharacteristically harsh, choosing the "just right" of the adaptive Normal mode for the vast majority of my testing.
Finishing out the drivetrain are 20-inch wheels shod in 285/50R20 grippy mud and snow tires. Lexus could probably reduce a bit of road noise by using standard all-seasons here, but the cabin is already pretty darn quiet and the nod to the drivetrain's capability for those who would do a bit of soft roading in their $80,000 toy is appreciated.
Buttery-smooth 5.7-liter V-8 engine
Sending power to that all-wheel drive system is Toyota/Lexus' 5.7-liter V-8 engine. This engine does not feature direct injection, but generates 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of peak torque thanks to the tried and true Dual VVT-i variable valve timing system. It's a strong engine that can effortlessly haul the 6,000-pound Lexus up to freeway speeds and, with considerably more effort and a bit of preparation, tow an additional 7,000 pounds of capacity.
It's also a smooth mill; at highway speeds its slight hum is unobtrusive. The idling speed is so buttery-smooth and quiet that I kept having to double-check that it was actually running.
You'll notice on paper that the output here has been tuned to 2 more horsepower and 2 more pound-feet of torque than the less expensive Toyota Land Cruiser, but that probably makes no difference in the real world.
Mated to the engine is an eight-speed automatic transmission with a sport program that you'll probably never use and manual program that could come in handy when towing.
This 6,000-pound land yacht isn't going to win any fuel economy contests with its EPA-estimated 12 city, 17 highway, and 14 combined mpg, but it is at the very least consistent. I did 14.9 mpg over my highway-heavy, mixed cycle of testing.
Lexus Enform cabin tech
At the center of the LX's dashboard is the Lexus Enform infotainment system, which I was pleased to learn uses a touch screen and not Lexus' weirdo Remote Touch Controller. This is no doubt because the LX's center console is so full of toggles for the suspension and traction systems that there just wasn't room. While the touch display is immediately more intuitive, it's also apparent that the Enform system wasn't really designed with this control scheme in mind.