Pop quiz: Name an automaker famous for vehicles that are at once luxurious and capable off-roaders. If you said “Land Rover” you would be in the majority; but there is another brand that offers a vehicle as lavish as it is capable. That’s Lexus, and the model is the LX570.
Since 1951, Toyota has offered the FJ as an alternative to the Willys Jeep, and later, the Wrangler. In 1980, the Toyota 60 Series FJ was unveiled, which paved the way for the Toyota Land Cruiser that we know today. As Toyota’s Lexus division expanded in the 1990s, it rolled out a more luxurious version of the Land Cruiser in 1996. It was called the LX, and it featured a 6-cylinder engine that made only 210 horsepower, but delivered competent off-road chops in an upscale package.
Flash forward to 2014, and the formula has not changed, just evolved. The engine has grown larger and the tech is more advanced, but the blueprint for the LX remains intact. Driving this full-size, three-row, luxury SUV with legit off-road chops is like wearing a fitted suit with work boots.
The LX570 makes quite a statement when it arrives on the scene. The spindle grille design, which is sharp on smaller Lexus vehicles, is downright loud on the massive front section of the LX570. Some may find this outward appearance ostentatious, considering the rest of the vehicle is very conservative by comparison. If you find the LX too brash, then you can go with the Land Cruiser; it’s $80,000 price tag is only $2K less than the roughly $82,000 LX570.
Any hang-ups about the exterior will be forgotten once you hop behind the wheel and take in the cabin of the LX570. The seating is upright, providing a very commanding view of the road. You’ll feel closer to big rigs then you will to other passenger cars.
The standard leather seats are supremely comfortable for long drives, and the seat backs bolster occupants through turns. Heated front seats are standard, but we would recommend the optional Climate Comfort seats. The $640 option upgrades the front seats to heated and cooled and adds heated second-row seats.
Many new Lexus models have a proprietary Remote Touch system for the navigation screen, which replaces the touch screen with a joystick/trackball device that controls the screen. In contrast, the conventional touch screen found in the LX570 seems simpler than this more complicated control and is far easier to use. A one-year subscription to Lexus Enform comes as a standard feature, providing updates for traffic, weather, stocks, sports, and fuel prices.
As the number in its name suggests, the LX570 comes equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 engine. It delivers 383 horsepower and 403 lb.-ft. of torque and sends its power through a 6-speed automatic transmission with sport and manual shift modes. The LX570 employs a full-time, four-wheel-drive system with a limited slip center differential.
Below the gear selector in the center console is a quartet of toggles. These switches control 4HI and 4LO modes of the four-wheel-drive, as well as the downhill crawl control, which is like cruise control for the trail. The other toggles soften and stiffen the suspension, and can raise and lower the entire vehicle using an adjustable suspension. When you want to take to the trail, you can raise the suspension, but in normal driving conditions the suspension is active and constantly self-leveling.
This off-road kit packs pounds onto the big Lexus SUV, which is evidenced by the EPA fuel economy numbers of 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. The window sticker claims 14 combined mpg, but in mixed driving it’s closer to 13.5 mpg.
On the road, the LX570 is surprisingly composed. It is smooth on highways, takes corners well on back roads, and negotiates inclement weather well. Because of the robust chassis, the LX570 does not have a particularly great turning radius, and to combat the poor three-point turning abilities, our test model came equipped with the Intuitive Park Assist with wide view monitor, a $1000 option.
The LX570 will not spend much time on the trail, but we imagine the off-road gear is there to take a family to a remote ski resort or onto the beach in the summer. Simply put, the LX570 is built to exceed 99 percent of the conditions that it will see in its lifetime, just like the Range Rover.
So is this a car worth buying over the iconic Range Rover? It depends. The Range Rover has more classic lines and does a better job exuding class—but not by much. On the other hand, if you are looking for a vehicle that has all the attributes of a Range Rover, but marches to the beat of its own V8 drum, the LX570 is a sharp, capable SUV, with the reliability of Toyota in its DNA, and styling that will announce your arrival in style.
2014 Lexus LX570
Price: $81,780. As tested: $84,590. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 12/17 (premium fuel). Fuel economy, Globe observed: 13.5 mpg. Drivetrain: 5.7L V8, 6AT, full-time, four-wheel-drive. Body: Full-size, three-row SUV.
Horsepower: 383. Torque: 403 lb.-ft. Overall length: 197 in. Wheelbase 112.2 in. Height: 75.6 in. Width: 77.6 in. Curb weight: 6,000 lbs.
Powerful V8, built like its ready to invade Sevastopol. Lavish enough for the oligarchs.
Thirsty V8, cumbersome parking in tight spaces.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A fantastic alternative to the Range Rover.
Land Rover Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Cadillac Escalade.George Kennedy is a freelance auto writer. He can be reached at George.Kennedy@Boldride.com. Follow him on Twitter @GKenns101.