DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: A dying breed, this body-on-frame beastie; and while I'm the last to shed a tear at the extinction of the full-size traditional SUV, I'll confess to coming away impressed with what Lexus accomplished: The LX 570 is remarkably easy to handle, reasonably agile for its size and downright quick when you put your foot into it. But everything about this thing, from its size to its switchgear, just feels dated.
If you need to carry seven folks relatively short distances, insist on Lexus luxury and have to pull a Navy battleship, the 2014 Lexus LX 570 is a solid choice. If, however, you're basing your consideration solely on the fact that the Lexus has a third row of seats, trust me when I say your needs will be better served elsewhere. I hauled six around for the better part of a weekend, and despite the LX 570's massive girth, there is very little room in the third row, and what's there is less comfortable than in most crossovers. The reason is simple: there's a truck frame and powertrain under there, so the third row passengers essentially get a very short, carpeted truck bed with leather seats. Cargo capacity is equally compromised -- at 83.1 cubic feet max, the LX 570 has only slightly more cargo room than a Ford Explorer (a crossover that weighs 1,500 pounds less and also has 5 more inches of third-row legroom).
No, I'm not suggesting full-size Lexus SUV customers are cross-shopping the Explorer. I am, however, making a point about the inefficiency of these monster SUVs, even taking fuel economy completely out of the equation. They're pointless unless you regularly tow large loads with seven or eight people aboard. A family of four would be much better served with a nicely optioned crew cab pickup, a combination which would give them more passenger space, cargo space and towing capacity.
Not listening, are you? Nope, you're convinced the only thing between your family and certain freeway annihilation is road-hugging weight, or perhaps “size” for you is better expressed in cars than…elsewhere. Well then, far be it for me to talk you out of an LX 570, a perfectly good example of full-size luxury. Before you buy, do take note of the redesigned Cadillac Escalade which should be in showrooms later this year. The fully redesigned GM SUVs should offer the latest in big-rig luxury along with better mileage, tech and space efficiency.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: You don't expect to find any vestigial Toyota Land Cruiser off-road features on a Lexus this big, luxurious and modern-looking, yet there they were: those funky flip-out rearmost third-row seats, the myriad 4x4 drivetrain options (low range!) and the body-on-frame chassis. All those things are holdouts from the days when Toyota made real off-road-capable wheelers to conquer the worst that Mother Nature and the laws of physics had waiting. After Jeep Wranglers and Rubicons, the old Toyota FJs and old, old Land Cruisers are the most common things you see way, way out in the wilderness, in places where nobody's going to save you but yourself and your transfer case. This 2014 Lexus LX 570 reminds you of the heritage Toyota has in the deserts and mountains of the world.
That is both good and bad.
It's good because the modern LX 570 could probably get you into and out of many places a typical contemporary crossover utility vehicle could only download on its LED screen. The LX 570 has almost nine inches of ground clearance and with a height-adjustable suspension it offers approach, departure and breakover angles that'll see you through the worst of the zombie apocalypse.
But while more modern unibody SUVs have sensible, practical interiors that offer fold-flat seats, the Land Cruiser clings to those flip-up seats that require they be secured to the interior walls or to the grab handles. With second and third-row seats down, you can carry eight people in the LX 570, as well as 15.5 cubic feet of cargo. With all rear seats awkwardly stowed you still only get 83.1 cubic feet.
That proved awkward for a mountain bike and a week's worth of gear when I took the LX to Las Vegas. With the seats are flipped up the second row tended to squeak against the first row, something you wouldn't want to hear in a nearly $90k anything. And getting the bike into the back without chaffing the nice interior was a delicate operation.
There was power aplenty from the 5.7-liter V8 -- 383 hp and 403 lb-ft of torque to move its 6,000 pounds down the road -- it got me pulled over for speeding once, so it'll go pretty fast, but it wasn't a sprightly feel by any means. There aren't too many things left on the road that weigh 6,000 pounds and have only two axles. The Lexus here outweighed the Bentley Mulsanne I had a couple weeks ago by only a few pounds.
So, yes, it's inefficient. In 600 miles of driving I got a measly 15.8 mpg. Granted, that was mostly on Interstates at what you would call “high” speeds, but even the EPA says you'll only get 17 highway and 12 city. So it's inefficient there, too. Plus, you can easily see a price increase of four or five grand or so over the cost of what is the all-too-similar Toyota Land Cruiser.
So what are you going to do? Certainly not buy a Range Rover and spend your driving life on a flatbed. Maybe buy a Ford Expedition or even a Jeep Grand Cherokee with one of those hitch-mounted bike racks? Or how about a Toyota Sequoia for half the price and more room?
I'm sure I'd have felt differently about this if I'd gone off-roading. So in that respect, this is an incomplete report. So send in the hate mail. But how many of you are going to go off-roading in a modern, $90,000 luxury SUV, anyway? None of you, that's who. Which leads me to wonder who buys these? OK I looked -- Lexus sold 4,625 of these last year in the U.S. At $90,000 each, that's over $41 million. OK, so I guess it makes sense now. Being basically really old and therefore requiring no R&D investment anymore, the LX is profitable.
Still, I hope there are some owners of these who do occasionally put them in 4L, and not just when it rains.
2014 Lexus LX 570
Base Price: $82,690
As-Tested Price: $88,555
Drivetrain: 5.7-liter V8; 4WD, six-speed automatic
Output: 383 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 403 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Curb Weight: 6,000 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 12/17/14 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 14.6 mpg
Options: Mark Levinson audio system with 19-inch speaker reference surround sound audio system featuring DVD-audio and DVD-video playback ($2,350); Dual-screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones, audio/video inputs ($2,005); luxury package including semi-aniline leather-trimmed interior with contrast stitching, driver and passenger heated/ventilated seats with second-row heated seats, center console-mounted cool box, smart access card key, wood-trimmed door switch plates/rear center armrest cover ($1,510)
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