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.
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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.
There's also the minor issue of the screen being perfectly perpendicular to the flat dashboard rather than angled slightly toward the driver. While this gives the front passenger better access to the display, the driver (arguably the most important person in the car) has to deal with increased glare and a longer reach for the interface as a result. This seems to be an issue in most large SUVs and trucks that I've tested, so I'm not just picking on the Lexus here.
Navigation is standard and standard fare. We've seen this system dozens of times before in dozens of Lexus models. The visuals of the map have been upgraded over time and have always been crisp and easy to read, but the software that underlies those maps is starting to show its age.
Two-dimensional maps in North and Heading orientations are the only choices. Traffic is provided via the Sirius XM satellite connection, but only for highways. Voice command is rudimentary and prompt-heavy, requiring pauses for street name, street number, city, and so on. And the Enform Apps (such as Pandora, OpenTable, and Bing) live on your Bluetooth-paired smartphone. This is a system that gets the job done and probably won't be too disappointing for the buyer, but is definitely lagging behind the tech in Lexus' competitors.
Our example replaced the standard nine-speaker premium audio rig with an optional $2,350 Mark Levinson Reference surround system. This is what I'd consider an audiophile-level car audio system with 19 speakers and excellent power and clarity. Checking this box adds DVD-Audio and DVD-Video playback to the list of standard audio sources, which includes the Enform audio apps Pandora and iHeartRadio, Sirius XM satellite radio, HD Radio, USB/iPod connectivity, 3.5 mm analog aux-in, and Bluetooth for hands-free calling, audio streaming, and text-t0-speech SMS messaging
We've also go the optional dual-screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system, a $2,005 option that I'd probably skip, but you may choose to add built-in headrest displays to entertain the six passengers in the second and third rows. The system includes two pairs of wireless IR headphones and can tune two different sources (say, a DVD video for the left and another video source for the right). I'd like to see an HDMI input or two for these displays at this price, but analog RCA or DVD playback from the front player are the best you'll get, as it is.
The Lexus is heavy on safety tech to protect the up to eight souls onboard in the event of a crash. There are about a dozen airbags and the Lexus Safety Connect system gives automatic collision notifications and has an emergency assistance (SOS) button. However, it's pretty light on driver aid tech to help the driver to prevent fender benders.
Our example was equipped with an optional $1,000 Intuitive Park Assist system that adds a wide-angle front camera and a passenger side-view camera to the standard loadout of rear camera and front and rear sonar distance sensors. The front camera comes in handy for seeing around corners when nosing out of a blind alley or driveway into traffic, and the side camera has a neat trick. During turns, it overlays trajectory lines similar to those that you'll see on a rear camera that illustrate the path of the inside rear wheel. This is designed to help prevent turning too tightly and cutting the corner with the rear axle, which can upset passengers, damage the wheel's finish if it hits a curb, and make you look plain dumb. I really liked this feature.
The Intuitive Park Assist system also features guides to help the driver to steer the LX into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot and appears to even be capable of measuring whether you can squeeze the big vehicle into your chosen space. It won't park the car for you, but it is supposed to help show you how. I found the system too complicated and difficult to master during my week of testing. It's simply easier to ignore the prompts and trust your eyes.
Lexus' website states that a forward pre-collision system and adaptive cruise control are available, but this midyear update was not equipped on our example. The LX is totally missing a blind-spot monitoring system from its list of available features, which would have come in handy when maneuvering the largest Lexus through traffic.
Every Lexus I've ever driven has one cool feature that makes me go, "Wow." In this case, it was the motorized third-row seats that fold flat and then rotate up 90 degrees out of the way to make room on the floor for cargo in the back. Most SUVs are content to just offer a power liftgate; the LX goes the extra mile.
Our example was also equipped with a $1,510 Luxury package that adds more luxuriousness to this already luxurious luxury SUV. For the bucks, you get upgraded Semi-Aniline leather trim, heated and ventilated front bucket seats and heated second-row seats, smart keyless entry and start, and even a Cool Box refrigerator in the center console.
There's only one trim level/configuration for the 2014 Lexus LX 570 and it'll run you $81,780, according to the window sheet that came with our example. The massive LX isn't available in the UK (though the Toyota Land Cruiser is), but works out to a starting price of AU$121,646 for Australians looking to import. Add the aforementioned options and a $910 destination charge to bring you to our fully loaded, as-tested price of $89,555. Lexus' online configurator lists a slightly higher starting price and a slightly pricier list of options that also includes the pre-collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems for a fully loaded price of $91,905, so expect to pay somewhere in that ballpark.
The great irony of the Lexus LX is that for all of its pedigree and capabilities, most of these cars will spend their lives soaking up potholes with their adaptive suspension and negotiating parking lots with their sophisticated all-wheel drive systems. None of that changes the fact that this is an exceptional vehicle that seamlessly blends utility with luxury. If you need to tow a boat in style or vacation at a mountain chateau, the LX is your workhorse, but at 14 mpg combined, I'd hope you've got a Prius to commute in.
|Model||2014 Lexus LX 570|
|Power train||5.7L V-8, 8-speed automatic, 2-speed transfer case, Torsen limited-slip center differential, full-time all-wheel drive|
|EPA fuel economy||12 city mpg, 17 highway mpg, 14 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||14.9 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard with Entune traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with SMS text-to-speech|
|Digital audio sources||USB/iPod, Bluetooth audio streaming, CD, 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, Entune audio apps, optional DVD-Audio, DVD-video|
|Audio system||Optional 19-speaker Mark Levinson Reference surround|
|Driver aids||Standard rear camera, optional front and side cameras, available Pre-collision System and Adaptive Cruise Control|
|Price as tested||$89,555|