During the first six months of 2013, Lexus sold to well-heeled buyers some 2,016 examples of the restyled 2013 LX 570, while Toyota moved 1,484 units of the essentially identical Land Cruiser. These figures pale in comparison to all Land Rover models except for the LR2, and during that same time period, Cadillac moved 9,504 Escalades. Even Lincoln coaxed nearly double the number of LX 570 buyers into choosing the Navigator, at 3,829. Indeed, what you see here is a relatively rare beast.
Yet, as fate and wealthy zip codes would have it, I found myself in the company of two identical LX 570s while running around Southern California gulping premium fuel at an alarming rate. The first was on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, and the second was in a parking lot in Thousand Oaks. Both of them were spotless, immaculate, spindle-style grilles twinkling in the summer sunshine, SUVs clearly not purchased for their original intent, which is to go anywhere, at any time.
So why do a handful of people buy a Lexus LX 570 (or a Toyota Land Cruiser) over other luxury SUVs? I spent a week with this Mercury Metallic example to find out.
The base price of a 2013 Lexus LX 570 is $82,245, while a Toyota Land Cruiser starts at $79,550. Aside from styling, the main difference is that the Lexus can be loaded up with extras while the Toyota comes one way and in a reduced number of colors. Frankly, I fail to see the point of the Land Cruiser, except that it wears an iconic name that Toyota doesn’t want to flush down the U.S.-market toilet.
My Lexus test truck had a Mark Levinson Reference surround sound audio system, a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system with wireless headphones and audio/video input jacks, and a Luxury Package including semi-aniline leather, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a center console cool box, a Smart Access card key, and nicer interior trim. The window sticker read $88,775.
The price tag might be one reason people buy the LX 570. Loaded up, the Lexus runs just more than $230 more than a Range Rover HSE before options are added. Comparatively speaking, the Lexus offers more stuff, more power, and more seating for the same price.
Spending a couple of grand extra over the Toyota Land Cruiser for the Lexus LX 570 is worth it for no other reason than styling. The Lexus looks good. The Toyota resembles a refrigerator on wheels.
Say what you want about the latest Lexus styling philosophy, but I think the new spindle-style grille gives the lineup personality and a strong unifying characteristic that’s identifiable from a distance. The LX’s wheels also have more character than the Land Cruiser’s, and the tail is tidier and more refined in appearance.
Still, parked next to the tailored new Range Rover, the LX looks like a paunchy, middle-aged guy wearing an old, frumpy suit.
The LX 570’s interior also lacks character, especially in comparison to the Range Rover. Except for the artfully curving dashboard, soft leather, and shimmering wood trim, this could be a garden-variety Toyota. The use of parts-bin switchgear here and there doesn’t help. In the Range Rover, if anything is shared with another model, that other model is a Jaguar.
Lexus says the LX 470 provides 8-passenger seating, and it’s not kidding. While I wouldn’t want to be the guy squeezing into the center location in the third-row, every other chair in the LX is roomy enough, and comfortable enough, for a sizable human being. I know. I checked. And I am sizable.
That said, the front seats remain the best in the house, the driver’s chair providing 14-way power adjustment, two ways more than the front passenger’s chair. My test truck had soft, supple, semi-aniline leather and seat ventilation that effectively fought summer heat. Illuminated side steps and thick grab handles mounted to the roof pillars help everyone to clamber aboard.
The second-row seat is wide, soft, and supportive, with plenty of leg and foot space. Thanks to a 4-zone automatic climate control system, everyone should be comfortable, and models equipped with the Luxury Package include heated rear seats. Power adjustments slide the bottom cushions forward to help improve third-row seat legroom, and the seats tumble forward with a quick release of a lever in order to load passengers numbered 6, 7 and 8.
There will be less complaining if those extra people are smaller in size, though the LX 570’s rearmost 50/50-split bench seat is more comfortable than, say, a Cadillac Escalade’s. When the seats are not required, they fold in half or can be stowed against the walls of the cargo area. Buttons in the trunk power them up and down for convenience.
A split tailgate is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, the lower portion provides a seat when there are none, such as when watching your kid play soccer. The design also makes it possible to carry longer items without worrying that they’ll slide out. On the negative side, if your bag of fruit tips over and a bunch of oranges, apples, and plums roll forward to the base of the second-row seat, you won’t be able to reach them unless you climb up and hunt around on all fours.
Generally speaking, the Lexus LX exudes quality in that generic sort of way that is common to the brand. Nothing really looks or feels cheap, but then you realize that your $88,000 chariot has hard plastic upper door panels and switchgear that is shared with a Toyota Sienna, and your definition of luxury shifts to one that includes the word “tailoring.”
Switchgear shared with Toyota isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everything inside of the Lexus LX 570, which is a fairly complex SUV, is clearly labeled in English, is relatively easy to find, and is sized so that even people with big fingers can use them with ease. Nobody ever said that about a Land Rover, did they?
I would, however, like to lodge a general complaint about rear-seat DVD players. My kids are old enough now to recognize those little screens for what they are, and regularly request repeat viewings of all their favorite princess movies whenever I have a test vehicle so-equipped. It would be nice if, just once, I ran across a DVD entertainment system that recognized when a DVD was loaded into the system and then automatically assumed that it should A.) play the movie and B.) show the movie on the rear screens. That’s not a huge leap of faith, is it?
Bravo, Lexus, for installing a three-prong power outlet for the entertainment system, which makes hooking up a video game system a no-brainer. My test truck also had the optional Mark Levinson Reference surround sound audio system with 19 speakers. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC sounded, umm, like Fox, CNN, and MSNBC through them. I probably should have pumped some Jack White into the system to give them a proper torture test.
If you’re looking for crash-test ratings for a Lexus LX 570, you’re not going to find any. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) don’t spend their budgets testing expensive vehicles, or vehicles that sell in low quantities. Therefore, you will need to trust that its 6,000-pound curb weight supplies enough heft to crush almost any car that might dare to collide with it.
The LX 570 is equipped with 10 standard airbags, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera, and an Adaptive Front Lighting System, which swivels the headlights in the direction the SUV is turning. Also, every LX 570 includes one free year of Safety Connect telematics with Automatic Collision Notification, which automatically activates in the event of an airbag deployment and helps to speed rescuers to the scene of an accident.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with a Pre-Collision System is optional for the LX 570, as is a Wide-view Front and Side Monitor system with front and rear parking sensors. Lexus does not offer features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, or rear cross-traffic alert systems.
Countless car reviewers have subjected the Lexus LX 570 to severe off-roading tests, and since my only access to terrain that might challenge this SUV involves a day-long road trip, driving through a fence, or trespassing, you’ll need to trust that this Lexus is exceptionally capable should you venture far from the pavement.
Standard equipment includes a 383-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 engine bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission with sequential manual shifting that routes power to the wheels through a full-time 4-wheel-drive system with a Torsen limited-slip differential. Power is split 40% to the front wheels and 60% to the rear wheels under normal conditions, but as the wheels slip the system directs motive force to the wheels with the most grip.
An Adaptive Variable Suspension with three height settings is standard, and the double-wishbone front suspension provides 9 inches of total wheel travel. Hill Start Assist, Turn Assist, and Crawl Control systems are standard, the latter automatically regulating vehicle speed while the driver steers. A Multi-Terrain Select system optimizes powertrain performance based on one of 5 terrain settings. Though rarely used by owners, there is serious hardware underneath this luxury SUV.
During my week with the LX, and like the majority of the people who own one, I saw no dirt, no mud, no ruts, no rocks, no sand, and no snow. I drove around Southern California with my family, conducting the business of daily living, and used thusly, the LX 570 isn’t particularly impressive.
I’ve got no problem with the powertrain. Lexus says the LX 570 accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, but honestly, it feels stronger than that, especially when considering this SUV’s three-ton curb weight. Stab the gas a little too hard, and the LX leaps off the line with enthusiasm. Keep your foot in it and a refined but aggressive V-8 rumble accompanies engine revs, the 6-speed automatic upshifting flawlessly.
As might be expected, fuel economy isn’t a bragging point for this Lexus. The EPA says it will get 12 mpg in the city, 17 mpg on the highway, and 14 mpg in combined driving. I averaged 15.6 mpg, and drove the LX primarily on the highway. Still, that’s not bad for a heavy truck that tows up to 7,000 pounds and hauls up to 1,280 lbs. of payload.
Dynamically, the rest of the LX 570’s mechanicals are clearly tuned for safari trails, not suburban boulevards. Electronically controlled shock absorbers offer Comfort, Normal, and Sport settings, but even when placed in the latter mode, the suspension feels woozy in turns and wobbly over uneven pavement. Acceleration squat, brake dive, and body roll are constant companions when driving the LX, and steering feel through the enormous leather-and-wood wheel is heavy and syrupy, while response is slow.
Combined with 8.9 inches of ground clearance, the soft, absorbent suspension and the slow steering are positive characteristics when driving a difficult, infrequently traveled trail. Even the mushy brake pedal is a benefit in this environment, where a slow and soft stop is often preferable to digging a tire into soft terrain.
Unfortunately, when crawling along in bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic, the pedal’s lack of initial bite often caused momentary panic in the driver, followed by a deeper stab of the brake pedal, followed by sudden and forceful application of the ventilated 4-wheel-disc brakes.
Generally speaking, the LX is not pleasing to drive in the city, or on the highway, or along a two-lane country road. I guess I should have taken it into the mountains to find some property without fences or watchful park rangers.
Believe me, I understand the appeal of a luxury SUV designed to tackle worst-case scenarios. At one point in my life, back when gas was really cheap and I had a “better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” mentality, I actually thought a Chevy Suburban 2500 was what I wanted to own. Y’know. Just in case. Now I know better.
Like many top-of-the-line luxury SUVs, the Lexus LX 570 and the Toyota Land Cruiser upon which it is based are trucks designed to excel at tasks totally unrelated to cruising over to the mall ensconced in comfort and surrounded by premium materials. The reason so few LX 570s are sold is that they’re not much good to drive on pavement, or in cities, or in suburbs, or on long, winding estate driveways where most luxury SUV buyers spend the majority of their time.
Lexus provided the 2013 LX 570 for this review
2013 Lexus LX 570 photos by Christian Wardlaw