Review: 2021 Lexus LX 570
If you’re in the market for a luxurious SUV with the spaciousness of a modest New York studio apartment and seating for seven, you’ve never been more spoiled for choice. The Grand Wagoneer just returned from a wood-grained grave as a ritzy, six-figure behemoth with an out-of-this-world interior. General Motors recently breathed new life into its three-pronged punch by giving the Suburban, the Yukon, and the Escalade a cushy independent rear suspension and monolithic styling. Lincoln’s Navigator continues to set the benchmark for palatial interiors. For the same money, you could turn to ze Germans just as quickly; BMW’s X7 carries seven with aplomb, and the Mercedes GLS has arguably never been better. All of these are brand-new or substantially updated in the last half decade—some within the last year.
Where, then, does a 14-year-old Lexus fit into this picture? Since its 2007 debut at the New York International Auto Show, a good sales year for the LX 570 has equated to nearly 8000 units. The Cadillac Escalade sells more units in a single quarter than the LX does in a calendar year. In one month during what is a decidedly down year, Lexus’ RX—the next step down the size ladder—will move more units in a single month. What are a handful of buyers still seeing in the LX that they couldn’t find elsewhere?
To find out, and to reacquaint myself a vehicle that is bowing out next year in favor of the new LX 600, I spent some time with this Land-Cruiser-in-a-tux during a recent trip to Seattle. At $106,845 out the door, this tester landed just north of six figures—a price bracket that seems to be the new normal for this class of vehicle. It wore an Atomic Silver paint job, and the window sticker denoted nearly $14,000 in options tacked on to the three-row SUV’s $92,875 base MSRP (including destination). Of note on that options list: a $1190 Luxury package which nets fancy leather for the front seats, heating and ventilation for the second-row seats, four-zone climate control and, puzzlingly, a heated steering wheel for an extra $150; a $2350 Mark Levinson 19-speaker sound system; and a $6110 Sport package, which tacks on front and rear lower spoilers and 21-inch alloy wheels.
That Sport package noticeably drops the visual heft of the high-riding LX. Those scouring the pre-owned LX market for their next overlanding build will scoff at this package, as the the thin tires and the front and rear bumpers don’t do this rig any favors off-road. I can’t say I’m all too fond of the look—I’m preferential to the now-dead Land Cruiser’s simpler, more honest styling. However, considering 95 percent of my time with the vehicle was spent on paved roads–and that’s likely the norm among LX buyers—the street-ready appearance makes sense.
The bones of the LX date back to 2008, and while the vehicle has undergone a few facelifts—the most substantial one came in 2015 and traded the rounded, blasé styling of mid-2010s Lexus for the angular affair seen here—there’s no denying that the platform is showing some age. In a sort of Jeep Wrangler-like way, that’s a good thing for longtime LX fans. A Wrangler has to carry certain proportions at all times, because the shape is what sells. In the LX, that means sharing the same 112.2-inch wheelbase as every iteration since 1996.
A survey of the LX’s cabin reveals some compromises, amenity-wise, that have been made in favor or certain capabilities. Cup holders—in many ways the American measuring stick of a good interior—are awkwardly jammed ahead of the shifter, owing to the plethora of off-road switch-gear just below the PRNDL. Every touchpoint feels solid, but maybe not as sturdy as in the LC 500 Convertible I’d tested just a few weeks prior. The LX’s interior design just feels outdated; step from this brute directly into a Lincoln Navigator, and you’ll have trouble understanding how the two can command similar price tags. But if Toyota buyers are any indication, however, old-school just means “proven.”
No matter what was falling from the sky as my wife and I trotted around the Puget Sound, the cabin had the amenities to bring us from weathered and wet back to warm and cozy. The massive front seats welcomed our weary behinds like your dad’s favorite La-Z-Boy, supple and supportive in all the right spots. The second-row bench was plenty spacious for grown adults, but that’s more than I can say of the power-folding third row. These seats fold up and to the side against the D-pillar, a Land Cruiser hallmark, but are so cramped I can’t imagine putting anyone but children back there. Again, compromises from the platform—the LX has to stuff three rows into that short wheelbase and maintain a modest overall length to preserve off-road metrics like approach and departure angles. GMC’s Yukon AT4 gets to stuff three rows into a space with 8.7 inches more wheelbase and 10 more inches of overall length—and the AT4 is based on the smaller of the two Yukon sizes.
Feisty third row aside, I was a fan of the cargo area, which comes with a split rear hatch that offers a truck-like fold-down tailgate, creating a pleasant spot to kick back and wait for the worst of Mount Rainier National Park’s weather to break, revealing the grandeur of a 14,000-foot mountain that towers over anything else in the area. (Seriously, if you haven’t been, put it on your bucket list.)
Just one engine is offered in the LX—an unburstable 5.7-liter V-8, good for a modest 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same mill as in the outgoing Toyota Tundra, and there are multiple documented instances of vehicles with this engine rolling over a million miles. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full-time 4×4 system including a locking center differential and a two-speed transfer case. There’s a double-wishbone suspension layout up front, and a four-link solid axle arrangement in the rear. The LX boasts an electro-hydraulic suspension that can hoist the ride height by three inches or drop it by two, depending on your required clearances.
On the go, the powertrain is more workhorse than showboat. The LX lumbers away from stoplights with a rush of unpleasant intake noise endemic to these Toyota V-8s, and things don’t come alive as the speedometer climbs. I wouldn’t call it slow, but garbage-truck drivers probably won’t struggle to dust LX drivers at a stoplight. Body motions through turns and under braking are more prominent than in any of the GM offerings, even with a load-leveling suspension working hard to keep three tons and change in check.
We saw white-out snow in mountain roads, powerful rain on the highway, and slick, frosty country roads, all in the same day, and never thought twice about the LX’s sure-footedness. Should you venture off-piste, some combination of the knobs and switches for the off-road equipment—some software, some hardware—should carry you over whatever’s in your way. If not, humankind probably wasn’t meant to get there without air-locking Dana 60s and 37-inch rubber.
This, as you might expect, is not a fuel-efficient package. We saw maybe 16 mpg at best, but we’d bet on that drivetrain for 300,000 fuss-free miles before almost any other offering out there.
Every other button, knob, and switch is straightforward, clearly labeled, and within reach. This is a vehicle—unlike many newer and more posh-appearing alternatives in the segment—in which the design demands little of the occupants. In a luxury machine, that should be the point. Headspace cleared.
No, the LX might not have the latest Amazon integration, but that means you don’t have to spend time configuring those settings somewhere deep in the car’s infotainment system. What the LX’s drivetrain lacks in tech and torque it makes up for in decades-long, workhorse reliability. This is an old product guided by old Lexus virtues: Nail a competent, luxurious experience that’s as repeatable as the day is long, with no hidden surprises. There are misses along the way—see infotainment—but there’s a reason that Lexus products have such strong resale values even decades after rolling off the showroom floor. The LX 570 is arguably the strongest example of this staying power.
Some of what we’ll lose when the LX 570 exits stage left in a few months won’t be missed—the incoming LX 600’s interior looks quite good, and even a mild bump in engine efficiency will be appreciable at the gas pump. But a new driveline will set the reliability clock back to zero. In a market full of vehicles that feel increasingly disposable, the LX stands proud.
2021 Lexus LX 570
Base Price/As-Tested: $92,875 / $106,845 (Note: The base MSRP of the LX 570 three-row has increased $350 and the destination fee has increased $50 to $1345. Building this same car in the online configurator will result in an out-the-door price of $107,245. Prices above reflect the figures posted in this test car’s window sticker.)
Highs: Unkillable driveline, all the luxury one needs for decades of relaxed motoring, outstanding resale value. Neat rear hatch setup. Sure-footedness in spades.
Lows: Headache-inducing infotainment system. The Sport pack ruins some of the off-road worthiness. Third-row seats only useful for the interior colors they grant access to on the configurator.
Summary: A Land Cruiser with a Lexus badge is not a bad thing, at all. Predictability and reliability are underrated luxuries, and every current LX owner is in on the secret.