The verdict: Despite being refreshed this year, the Lexus LX 570 still feels like an old-school SUV, with sluggish road manners that reflect its portliness.
Versus the competition: As far as big, three-row luxury SUVs go, the Lexus is mostly competitive, lacking few amenities aside from some of the more advanced safety technologies, but its dated SUV design and behavior won’t appeal to some buyers.
The Lexus LX 570 is the flagship SUV of Toyota’s luxury brand and a rarity on American roads. Lexus doesn’t sell many of these battlewagons, and for good reason: They’re extremely expensive.
Built off the Toyota Land Cruiser and sharing that SUV’s many, highly capable electronic 4×4 systems, the LX 570 represents an upgrade of sorts. It can do everything the already expensive and luxurious Land Cruiser can do (and arguably more, thanks to its air suspension), but does so while swaddling passengers in a cocoon of leather, wood and sound insulation.
The LX received a refresh for 2016 (compare it with the outgoing 2015 model here), gaining new styling, a new transmission, a new multimedia system, some interior refinements and a bunch of new electronic safety systems. The price has gone up a hair, as well. But with the Toyota Land Cruiser’s price landing within just a few thousand dollars of the fancier Lexus, the question becomes: Is the LX different enough to justify paying even more?
Styling & Exterior
On some Lexus models, the new spindle grille and Nike-swoosh headlights work. On others, like on the LX 570, they look like the angry helmet from a Battlestar Galactica Cylon robot. With the long overhangs, relatively short wheelbase and styling that doesn’t know when to quit, it just has to be said: The LX is a special kind of ugly.
You can’t fault Lexus for making it distinctive, but the Toyota Land Cruiser is a far more attractive, elegant and clean-looking design. I guess when one isn’t terribly worried about fuel economy, one can do crazy things with slats, creases, folds, grilles and strakes — and Lexus certainly has.
You’re not likely to mistake the LX 570 for anything else on the road, except perhaps the Infiniti QX80, which somehow manages to be equally odd-looking. The Cadillac Escalade, by comparison, is oversized but elegant, with sharp creases and clean lines, while the newly refreshed 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class successfully brings the S-Class sedan’s sweeping lines to a more upright vehicle. Anything from Land Rover is better-looking, as well. It just didn’t need to look like this, Lexus.
How It Drives
Your first clue that this is an old-school SUV is the short wheelbase and big overhangs at the front and rear. The second clue is the way it drives, which is slow and ponderous. It feels like a heavy truck because it is. Though smaller than the Escalade, GLS or QX80, at 6,000 pounds it’s the heaviest of the four. Combine that with the least-powerful engine in the group — a 383-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 — and you have an SUV with lazy around-town acceleration and a general distaste for changing directions quickly. The LX 570 isn’t underpowered, but it’s tuned toward relaxed responses: acceleration is only moderate unless you really plant your foot, gear shifts are smooth but come early, and the steering behavior is slow and highly boosted.
Highway travel is subdued and stress-free, unless you happen to be driving through a windy environment, where crosswinds play havoc with the Lexus’ straight-line stability. The LX 570’s air suspension provides for a remarkably smooth and quiet ride, and it can also be set to automatically lower the truck when parked and keyed off, which is helpful when it comes to getting in and out of the tall SUV.
Braking performance is also strong, with a firm pedal that brings the heavy truck to a halt with confidence.
The LX 570 has a host of electronic four-wheel-drive features that reportedly make it quite the mountain goat in rough stuff, but the idea of going off-road anywhere but the fields of the local polo club in an SUV this big and expensive seems unlikely.
All-wheel drive is provided via a Torsen limited-slip center differential that can be locked by the driver. A Multi-Terrain Select system then allows the driver to choose a setting for the all-wheel-drive system that matches the environment: Rock, Rock and Dirt, Moguls, Loose Rock, or Mud and Sand. A low range is also available for serious off-roading, as is the electronic Crawl Control that’s been so ably demonstrated on other Toyota SUVs. But all its fancy plastic cladding will still limit the LX’s abilities over more challenging terrain.
The LX 570’s competitors all feature luxurious, quiet motoring experiences similar to the Lexus, but they all feel nimbler and quicker. The new Mercedes-Benz GLS offers four powertrains, but in price and equipment, the GLS550 matches up best with the LX 570 thanks to its 449-hp, twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 and nine-speed automatic transmission. The Cadillac Escalade Platinum also compares favorably, with its enormous 420-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic. Even the Infiniti QX80 outguns the LX with its 400-hp, 5.6-liter V-8, but it makes do with just a seven-speed automatic.
The LX 570 is the heaviest of this group and possesses the aerodynamics of an apartment building, and it shows at the pump. Its gas mileage is rated 13/18/15 mpg city/highway/combined, and it delivers on that rating; my week in the LX included a jaunt from Detroit to Toronto during which I netted 15 mpg overall. That’s about the same as the four-wheel-drive Infiniti QX80, which is rated 13/19/15 mpg, but the Mercedes-Benz GLS550 is rated slightly better, at 14/18/16 mpg. Topping them all, surprisingly, is the biggest truck with the biggest engine: The four-wheel-drive Cadillac Escalade is rated 15/21/17 mpg, which still isn’t very good.
I once criticized the Toyota Land Cruiser for being an excellent $50,000 SUV that costs $80,000, and a big reason for that was its plain, if well-built, interior. The Lexus comes a lot closer to being worth its price ($96,905 for the loaded version I drove) than the Toyota, with significant upgrades to the cabin that make it more competitive with other luxury SUVs. Real wood and lots of leather abound, but it’s more than just slapping on some expensive materials; the dash is completely different, as is the multimedia system. The second and third rows are both power-folding affairs instead of being manually manipulated, and gazing around the interior of the LX 570 is far more pleasant than beholding the SUV from the outside.
The interior is comfortable, too, with big seats up front that have standard heating and optional cooling. The second row has plenty of legroom and even a power sliding function, but the third row remains fit for children only due to a lack of legroom. Lexus says you can fit three abreast in the third row, but that would likely be three children.
Visibility is good thanks to a high seating position and tall windows all around. But that same high seating position also makes for an unusual driving setup, with the steering wheel angled more horizontally than in newer SUVs — like that of a city bus or an RV. You get used to it, but it’s a little disconcerting at first.
While the Lexus’ interior is upscale, it’s still outdone by the latest from Mercedes-Benz. The new 2017 GLS-Class also feels far more premium than the Infiniti QX80, and it gives the posh Cadillac Escalade (which is let down by touch-sensitive controls) a run for its money.
As for overall interior room, the Lexus is quite large. Only the Cadillac offers more passenger space, rated at 172 cubic feet versus the Lexus’ 159 cubic feet. The Infiniti is third, at 152 cubic feet, while the Mercedes-Benz is rather small, with only 144 cubic feet to play with inside.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The update to the LX brought a new multimedia system, which, sad to say, includes the reviled mouse-like controller we’ve come to hate in other Lexus products. To say that it’s hard to use and a massive distraction while driving is an understatement. Imagine trying to use a laptop and mouse on the center console while you’re driving 70 mph, or negotiating a busy city street. That’s essentially our impression of Lexus’ multimedia system; it’s in dire need of a rethink. When compared with the multidirectional knob in the Mercedes-Benz or even Cadillac’s touch-screen CUE system, the Lexus system falls well short of being competitive. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered, either.
Cargo & Storage
The LX 570 is a big truck, but its cargo area is compromised by the design of its third row. Like in the Land Cruiser, in order to store the third row the seatbacks must fold forward, then the split seats fold up against the sides of the cargo area. This leaves a decent space in the middle and plenty of height for larger items, but not much width. Cargo volume is rated 15.5 cubic feet behind the third row and is expandable to a maximum of 83.1 cubic feet. Most of these big, three-row SUVs have similar cargo room behind the third row, but the Lexus shows a deficiency in max room — the GLS comes with 93.8 cubic feet of total cargo space, the Escalade is expandable to 94.2 cubic feet and the Infiniti QX80 has 95.1 cubic feet.
The 2016 LX 570 has not yet been crash-tested, but results will be posted here if and when it is.
The LX has received a number of updates to its electronic safety systems for 2016, including the arrival of Lexus’ Safety System Plus, which now includes a pre-collision preparation system, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, all-speed dynamic cruise control, and an intelligent high-beam system for the headlights. A panoramic around-view camera and parking sensors are standard, but more advanced systems like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking are not available. See all the LX 570’s standard safety features here.
Value in Its Class
Like the Toyota Land Cruiser, the fancier Lexus LX 570 does not come cheap, but nor does it need much added; almost everything comes standard. The LX 570’s base price is $89,830 including destination fee, and there are just a few options you can add, including a Mark Levinson 19-speaker audio system; a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system; a luxury package with upgraded leather, cooled front seats and heated second-row seats; and a head-up display. All those options brought my as-tested price up to $96,905.
There are several competitors in this price class, each with varying levels of off-road ability and luxury content. The Mercedes-Benz GLS550 is a solid competitor, featuring a more powerful twin-turbocharged V-8, a more luxurious interior, a better multimedia system and more interior cargo room than the LX 570. It can also tow more, with a maximum 7,500-pound trailer rating versus the Lexus’ 7,000-pound rating.
The Infiniti QX80 has a similar pedigree as the Lexus; it’s based on the Nissan Patrol SUV, which competes internationally with the Toyota Land Cruiser. Like the Lexus, the Infiniti has been considerably upgraded, with a much nicer interior, a powerful engine and a higher price, though it isn’t quite as dear as the Lexus’ sticker.
The Cadillac Escalade is one of the original big luxury SUVs, and in recent years its price has been creeping up, along with its sophistication. You can option one up to just shy of $100,000, but it’ll include features such as Cadillac’s outstanding Magnetic Ride Control suspension, a Driver Assist Package of safety tech including automatic emergency braking, a four-color head-up display and more. Compare all four competitors here.