By on January 28, 2011


Car enthusiasts have been apt to criticize SUVs as irrational because few owners ever take them off-road. But, by the same token, how many owners of high-performance sports cars drive them at anything approaching their full potential? Venturing beyond cars, how many owners of diver’s watches actually scuba dive? And how many dSLR cameras are being used just like a $99 point-and-shoot? Clearly people are psychologically attracted to high-performance objects, even if they won’t actually utilize the potential of these objects. This doesn’t mean that the objects themselves don’t make sense. And yet, during my week with a Lexus LX 570, I struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.

The problem is one of coherence, or rather the lack of it. The LX 570 is heavily based on the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser, and so has the proportions of a hardcore SUV. As such it has a short (for a large SUV) 112.2-inch wheelbase and is nearly as tall (75.6 inches) as it is wide (77.6 inches). The chunky body rides well off the ground. But the 20-inch wheels and Lexus-level of glitzy trim are distinctly not hardcore SUV. Beyond this incoherence, the latest LX 570 simply isn’t an eye-pleasing vehicle. The attempt to “L-Finesse” a Land Cruiser loads too much visual mass into the overhangs. The simpler, purer lines of previous generations were more attractive. Among competitors, the new, much sleeker Infiniti QX56 will easily win a beauty contest, while the Range Rover will never go out of style.

The interior is similarly that of a utilitarian SUV Lexus-ized (if you spend $3,740 for the Luxury Package) with generous amounts of premium “semi-aniline” leather and “African Bubinga” wood.  So outfitted, the cabin is luxurious, but not stylish. Here as well the Infiniti and Range Rover score easy wins. The LX 570’s ergonomics are pretty good considered the number of controls, with large buttons, knobs and switches for frequently used features. This said, those on the close-at-hand center stack would be easier to operate if said stack weren’t so vertical. As it is, operating some controls is a pain in the wrist.

You sit very high behind an upright windshield, so forward visibility is excellent in the conventional SUV fashion. Rearward visibility is augmented by a camera, with side and front-view cameras optional (but not on the $87,274 vehicle tested). Entry is aided by fixed running boards—none of the motorized silliness you’ll find in a Cadillac or Lincoln, but ground clearance suffers. The large, well-padded heated-and-cooled front seats are very comfortable, but the new QX56’s better-shaped, more adjustable buckets are even better. Some nice touches: the temperature controls for the seats maintain their settings when the vehicle is restarted and on the Luxury Package steering wheel even the spokes are heated. (Though the manual warns that during extreme off-road driving your fingers should remain outside the rim.)

With an overall length of 196.5 inches, the Lexus LX 570 isn’t exactly compact. But the heavy-duty live-rear-axled chassis borrowed from the Land Cruiser takes its toll on packaging efficiency. Second-row legroom is just adequate for adults, and the cushion is a tad too low, while the “knees high” third row seat is mounted only a few inches above the floor. Given the very limited amount of combined legroom to pay with, the second row’s power fore-aft adjustment seems a bit silly. The Land Rover LR4 is packaged much more efficiently. On the other hand, the 208.3-inch-long, IRS-equipped Infiniti has a roomier, more comfortable second row but no more space than the Lexus in the “way back.”

Behind the LX 570’s third row there’s room for only a single row of grocery bags. Need more? The third row seats power up against the sidewalls. Tumble the second row forward and a bicycle can be transported nearly upright with the wheels still attached. Loading is hampered by the height of the cargo floor, though. The tailgate is split horizontally, with the upper portion power.

As in other large Toyota trucks and SUVs, power is provided by a 5.7-liter DOHC V8, in this case good for 383 horsepower and 403 foot-pounds of torque. Even with three tons to motivate, this engine is more than up to the task, and never sounds strained. The six-speed automatic isn’t quite as smooth as Lexus’s newer eight-speed, but it’s still slicker than most. Toyota knows how to refine a powertrain. Fuel economy? Of course not. My driving confirmed the EPA ratings of 12/18.

The LX 570’s $78,630 base price is so lofty that you’re clearly not paying just for leather, wood, and enough power accessories to fill a 760-page owners’s manual.  Rather, some serious—and expensive—hardware lies beneath all the glitz and gismos. Beyond the heavy-duty frame and suspension, the LX 570 includes an array of on- and off-road handling aids. The multi-functional electronic shocks alone likely account for a few grand, and I’d hate to have to replace one out of warranty. They’re cross-linked to steady the ride, have three firmness settings, and can vary the ride height by a couple of inches in either direction. (Though the lowest setting is only used to ease entry and exit with the vehicle at a dead stop.) A center Torsen differential splits torque 40/60 and can be manually locked. Oddly, given the extreme spec, the front and rear differentials are open, and advanced traction control is relied upon to shunt torque to the wheel with most traction. Finally, three-speed “crawl control” facilitates slow, steady movement across especially challenging terrain. In the slowest speed the brakes are rhythmically applied a couple times a second, rocking the vehicle in the process. Finally, there’s a 2.61:1 low range.

So, how does it all work? In deep snow (and likely on many types of off-road terrain as well) the huge, 285/50R20 Michelin Latitude tires are the weakest link. With a quiet ride even on grooved concrete, these “mud and snow rated” but non-knobby treads were clearly specified to suit the typical Lexus buyer. While it’s hard to fathom why these tires and the three-speed crawl control are on the same vehicle, nothing’s easier to mod than wheels and tires. Not that the LX 570 as-is doesn’t have good traction through deep snow. The combination of all-wheel-drive, 8.9 inches of ground clearance, and a three-ton curb weight virtually guarantee this. But with more aggressive treads it would be virtually unstoppable. (Unless, of course, you high center the vehicle on something like a ridge of packed snow.)

On pavement the electronics work surprisingly unwell. Despite the cross-linked adaptive shocks the LX 570 bounces and bobbles in a very un-Lexus-like manner over all but the smoothest pavement. Even my kids found this misbehavior irritating, and none of the settings do much to reduce it. My suspicion: the shocks are being called upon to do too much. The conventional coil springs must be very soft. With the shocks set to “comfort” or even “normal” there’s a massive amount of lean in turns. (My kids got a hoot out of curvy roads taken in “comfort.”) “Sport” reins in the amount of lean to livable levels, without substantially degrading ride quality. The Toyota Land Cruiser includes active stabilizer bars instead of these fancy shocks; perhaps these restrain roll better? To the LX 570’s credit, it’s surprisingly willing to rotate, perhaps because of the relatively short wheelbase and the active steering system that varies its ratio based on vehicle speed. Unfortunately, as in the Toyota 4Runner I reviewed a few months ago the rear end sways more than the front, provoking premature oversteer that the stability control must quickly step in to counteract. Ultimately handling is safe but slow, and to the extent it’s entertaining it’s for all the wrong reasons.

So, we have an expensive, glitzy-but-homely, luxuriously appointed large SUV with hardware (if not tires) suitable for aggressive off-roading. Try as I might, I could not make this odd combination of attributes make sense in suburban America. If you want a luxury vehicle capable of carrying 6+ people in any type of weather, there are many alternatives that do just about everything save rock-crawling better while costing much less. But perhaps there are places in the world where luxury is a primary want while off-road capability is a must? I wouldn’t be surprised if they sold quite a few of these in the Middle East.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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60 Comments on “Review: 2011 Lexus LX570...”


  • avatar
    mazder3

    Great photos Michael! What percentage of the owners manual were devoted to warnings?

    • 0 avatar

      You mean like this one from p.276?

      “It is not designed for cornering at the same speeds as ordinary passenger cars any more than low-slung sports cars are designed to perform satisfactorily under off-road conditions.”
      But there’s also a lot of necessary information in there. I couldn’t figure out how to operate all of the 4WD tech without it.

       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      @ Michael.
       
      One of the problems with this type of vehicle is that the type of owners who purchase them aren’t the kind to read the manual.
       
      My uncle bought the LX 450 and drove around for days with the diffs locked because he thought that was what engaged the 4WD.  In Dallas.  In October.  During light rain.  And then he complained how badly the vehicle handled.
       
      The closest it ever came to going off road was when his drunk wife drove it over the curb into someone else’s front lawn.

    • 0 avatar

      Who are the kind to RTFM?
      You used to be able to lock both the center and rear diffs. With the LX 570, just the center. Some off-road enthusiast complain, but Toyota claims the traction control makes a lockable rear diff unnecessary. I think Jeep has been saying the same with the new Grand Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      @ Mike,
       
      Apparently, you.  And I try to.
       
      I personally don’t understand the needs of the “off road enthusiast.”  Don’t get the need to recreationally put a vehicle in a situation that it might not be able to handle.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      “I personally don’t understand the needs of the “off road enthusiast.”  Don’t get the need to recreationally put a vehicle in a situation that it might not be able to handle.”
       
      It’s exactly the same principle as taking a sports car to a track day. And if (when) you screw up, you’re typically travelling a LOT slower than you would be on a race track.

    • 0 avatar

      Glad to see that my favorite acronym is gaining popularity.
       
      When all else fails, RTFM!

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      @ Steve
       
      Track days, I get.  Who doesn’t like going fast?
       
      OTOH, I’ve spent too much time digging myself out of what passes for roads in the 3rd world to take any enjoyment in putting myself in the same spot recreationally.  Don’t get camping, either.  Or hiking.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      “going fast”? Or “exploring the limits of yourself and your vehicle”? Rock crawling is a track day. Done at 1.5mph. I don’t get mudding either, but whatever floats their boats. Recreation camping I don’t do, but both camping and hinking are things I would do if it was the only way to get to a place I wanted to be.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC

      I would like there to be an owner’s manual with a hidden “Easter Egg” buried hundreds of pages deep.  Something along the lines of a disparaging, grossly insulting remark directed towards people who don’t bother to RTFM, followed by something smug, something along the lines of instructions to the owner to present that page to their local dealer for something substantially valuable (ie. 50,000 mile scheduled maintenance).  The figure out how many of these rewards went unclaimed…  The page telling you how to check the oil or change a tire would make an excellent hiding spot!
       
      This kind of idea is why I do not and could never make my living working for an auto company.

    • 0 avatar
      jandrews

      Just wanted to put in a word on this:
       
       
      “You used to be able to lock both the center and rear diffs. With the LX 570, just the center. Some off-road enthusiast complain, but Toyota claims the traction control makes a lockable rear diff unnecessary. I think Jeep has been saying the same with the new Grand Cherokee.”
       
      This traction control system also exists on the FJ Cruiser, 2009+ Tacomas with the Offroad Package, the new Tundra, and has been on 4Runners for the last two generations (though the latest iteration is noticably more effective).
       
      I have an Offroad enabled 09 Tacoma, and unlike most purchasers, I bought it specifically for that purpose. It sees more dirt than highway as a weekend toy. The traction control system is excellent. 90% of the time, it eliminates the need for differential locks. The other 10% of the time, I’m glad the rear diff lock is still in there. I am considering adding a front differential selectable air locker.
       
      Toyota’s argument that the traction control makes lockers unnecessary is probably accurate for the vast majority of their customers. It’s that good. But for people who know what lockers are and are for, it isn’t a replacement…just another tool in the box.

  • avatar
    JMII

    How much weight in plastic is in the engine shrouds? Why not fit a secondary hood with a huge label that simply says “no user serviceable parts inside”. Take about wasteful!
    The next gas crunch will render such vehicles to the same rusty grave yard that now holds cars with huge fins surrounding the trunk. Nice job parking in front of “Bling”, because with a set of 22″ chrome rims and multiple LCD TVs on each head-rest along with a brace of subwoofers replacing the third row seats is how most of these things will be fitted for urban duty by pro ball players.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Engine shrouds are more about noise reduction and styling than they are about limiting access. And really, it takes seconds (maybe a couple of minutes if there’s a lot of fasteners) to get them off, and if you can’t figure out how to do that step, you realy shouldn’t be messing around with anything that’s under there anyway.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    What a way to ruin a perfectly good Landcruiser. 87K? Seriously?

  • avatar
    Wagen

    Priceless positioning in front of the “Bling Boutique.”  I’m sure it won’t be long before we see these on the street with a wheel/tire package even larger and more impractical than 20″ set this model had.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    This car is for the middle east. Huge petrol V8, good handling on straight smooth tarmac, superb sand dune climbing capability and great Lexus service.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Mike, any developing country, really.
     
    These things make sense all over Africa, the Mid-east, Central Asia, SE Asia, as well as huge swaths of South and Central America.
     
    For example, I just got back from Haiti and in Port-au-Prince, the wealthy are slowly retreating up the mountains.  The roads are actually in much worse shape than the already bad roads in PAP so the aristocracy need off road capability in the luxury rides.
     
    Here in the US?  Useless.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Absolutely correct.  Along with the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Pajero (called the Montero in the USA), the vehicle of choice for third-world ruling classes, or more pejoratively, MREs (morally repugnant elites). 

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    This monstrosity has the tragic looks of a botched plastic surgery. It has all the recent unpleasant Toyota styling cues, but amplified to the power of L.

  • avatar
    spyked

    I kid you not, on pic #3 of the article, of the drivers seat, IP, and steering wheel, the Lexus is doing it’s best to further cement Toyota’s rep as cars with unintended acceleration issues.  Look at the tach – no feet on the gas pedal and it’s at least revving to 1500 rpms all by itself.  My old Lexus IS250 AWD was the same way.  For whatever reason, it idled that way too, engine temp didn’t make a difference (I know some cars idle high at initial start-up for emissions reasons). 

  • avatar
    bryanska

    So the seat temps are “remembered” when the car shuts off? Nice feature!

    I love the memory feature on my 2002 Caddy STS, where the mirrors, radio stations, seat and steering wheel positions are set to the owner’s key. Too bad all the Caddys from that year blew their heated seat elements.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      The seat temps are remebered on my car through an ignition cycle. They’re on 6-position rotary controls, so wherever I leave them that’s where they come back up. Not really a breakthrough, considering mine’s a 1998.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, not new. But after hunting for the seat heater button on the other side of the Kia Optima’s gear shift every time I got in the car for a week, and drilling through a couple pages to get to the touchscreen controls every time in the Lincoln MKX, these were welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Meh, my ’00 9-5 was smart enough to turn the butt heat on automagically when the temp was below a certain level.

      But seriously – $87K for THIS THING????

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Mike, anybody who can afford 90k for a suburbanite mommymobile isn’t going to worry about how much it would cost to replace a few shocks that aren’t in warranty.

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    To be honest ,  if I had “money to burn” I’d have one of these in my stable..

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    +1 for this car not making any sense.

    If you want a huge, luxurious Japanese SUV, get the QX; it’s equally hardy, more refined, and Infiniti dealers are always down for cutting deals.

    For snob appeal and off-road capability, nothing beats a Range Rover.

    For carrying six-plus to soccer practice, the Q7 and GL450 provide the requisite space and shiny badge at significantly lower prices.

    And if you simply must have that *EXACT* car, do yourself a favor and buy the Land Cruiser; cheaper and equally presitgious (despite sharing floor space with Corollas, no plebe is driving off in a new or even remotely-new LC).

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      I would say the Toyota Land Cruiser is *more* prestigious than the LX570, with a legendary, glorious history behind it.  The LX570 is just a forgettable re-badge for people with too much money and too little taste.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      I don’t know if I’d say the QX is equally hardy.  I don’t know much about the latest generation of Patrols that the QX is based on.  Patrols are great, but there’s a reason Land Crusa Numba One, Joe.
       
      In the developing world where these things do make sense, no one takes Range Rovers or their capabilities seriously.  The break way too often.
       
      BTW, top trim luxo LCs are sold as Toyotas in most of the world.  A couple years ago, I was living/working in a hospital in east Africa when the first ladies of Uganda and Tanzania came for the day and they showed up in tricked out Land Cruisers.  Sprung captains seats standard.  Wish I remembered the model/trim level was.

    • 0 avatar

      The new QX certainly doesn’t have the off-road oriented systems the LC and LX have. In general it seems designed more for the American on-road market, though it’s no longer assembled here.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Personally I prefer the way the 3rd row in my Tahoe removes completely. What I have to get inside of it most weekends we leave town wouldn’t fit in the Lexus the way those seats fold to the side. 

  • avatar
    thesal

    The last time I was on a highway in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, and our car shook violently as it was passed by a speeding barn door, said barn dure usually had the words “Land Cruiser” and V8 on it.

    And if Lexus has got a more expensive version of the same thing, I’m sure Abdul will try to one up Khalid…you’re right Mike, these things will kill in the middle east! (hopefully won’t kill any others while doing their regular 150kmh stints on the desert highways)

  • avatar
    redwood2

    “Car enthusiasts have been apt to criticize SUVs as irrational because few owners ever take them off-road. But, by the same token, how many owners of high-performance sports cars drive them at anything approaching their full potential? ”

    Was anybody pretending a high performance sportscar is rational?

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    In Cambodia, the LX seems like the most common SUV on the road. I can see why. It’s luxurious in a non-stylish way, and it looks very expensive. My problem with it is that the previous version is much better looking, with it being more upright, formal, and masculine. This new version looks like they tried to make it very sleek, curvy, and car-like. The interior of the previous version was nice, too, with more real wood trim on the doors and very nice headliner and massage seats.
     
    Let’s see if the 570 stays modern-looking after 8 years!

  • avatar
    anchke

    Hmmm. It needs something. What could it be? Oh, I know — A can of red spray paint to write P I G across each side, hood and rear (maybe the windshield, too). Surely someone who would spend $80K for this wretched object has sufficient reserves to have the occasional editorial commentary removed from it.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      They would also have the resources to pay someone to follow you around and spray paint your property as they see fit to admonish you for perceived lapses in excess consumption.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      If someone with a spraypainted Lexus is paying someone to follow this fellow around, I have a strange feeling it’s not for retaliatory spraypainting.  I hope anchke has some decent resources of his own if he ever puts this plan into effect……he’ll need them for the hospital bills.

  • avatar
    musiccitymafia

    Nice shot of the Cadillac Bike stuffed into the Lexus

  • avatar
    mags1110

    Thanks again Lexus for another over priced vehicle…..

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Add some chrome to them, and the 20 inch rims will look just like bargain-basement garbage adorning 15 year old Tahoes and Yukons that blast loud rap music and hang around in unsavory parts of town.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Absolutely foolish vehicle.

  • avatar
    gswhiz

    I cannot fathom how a Lexus dealer sells even ONE of these vehicles. It’s so ill-conceived, poorly packaged, grossly obese, and non functional.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      “Non-functional?”  These things are still a Land Cruiser under all the make up.
       
      “Ill-conceived?”  There’s market enough for these things that Toyota keeps churning them out.  For people with more money than good sense, it makes perfect sense because they’re looking for an entirely different set of qualities than you.  I personally don’t think they make any sense, but I have relatives who are repeat buyers.

  • avatar
    inhoc86

    I can’t disagree with any of the objective findings you describe in this review.  However, contrary to your suggestion, this car does “make sense” for me.  It makes as much sense as this computer that is capable of running astrophysical computations while I merely use it as a word processor.  I bought this computer because I am of a generation of people who tend to purchase more than we need, and, fortunately I can afford it.
    The Lexus LX 570 is not for you if you have to stretch the payments over six years, or if you worry about gas prices, or if you, well, just can’t afford it.  There are plenty SUV’s out there that “make sense” for those who care how much they cost.


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