Test Drive: 2016 Lexus LX 570
There are always a few surprises when automotive journalists get together to test the off-road capabilities of outdoor activity vehicles. Usually they are found in the newest ones, like the new breed of subcompact crossovers that are incredibly nimble on forest trails.
But for me, the revised version of a longtime SUV was the biggest surprise at this year’s Mudfest competition. The 2016 Lexus LX 570 handled the toughest off-road course with ease, even though it appears to be the ultimate soccer mom SUV at first glance.
I was just vaguely aware of the LX 570 before the 2016 competition organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association in April at the Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Wash. Over the past few years, only a few manufacturers have even brought vehicles intended for the toughest course to the event. The dominant two have been Jeep and Land Rover, which are both famous for their rugged SUVs.
So when the Lexus factory representative told me to take the 2016 LX 570 over the toughest course, I hesitated. Although I knew it it had all-wheel-drive, up until then, the boxy SUV had struck me as a luxury family hauler better suited for the suburbs. Loaded up with a leather interior and every conceivable comfort and convenience option, I thought that challenging the rutted track, steep inclines and sharp descents of our custom-built “hard” course would end in humiliation and serious repair bills. A short time earlier, one of the better-known competitors had to be be towed out of the mud after a driver misjudged a turn on it.
But then I noticed an array of knobs and buttons on the console that I had overlooked. As it turns out, Lexus, the luxury brand of Toyota, has built the LX 570 on the parent company’s rugged Land Cruiser chasis, incorporated much of its advanced off-road technologies, and added a few more. Among other things, they include Active Height Control to raise the body for extra clearance, Multi-Terrain Select to adjust the traction for five different conditions (Rock, Rock & Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock , or Mud & Sand), CRAWL Control to maintain a slow and steady pace, and Variable Gear-Ratio Steering to adjust the steering angle for better low-speed maneuvering.
Properly dialed in, the LX 570 proved itself easily up to the task of navigating the most serious of our off-road courses, much to my relief. And when the factory representative suggested I drive off an embankment so steep I thought it was a cliff, the Lexus SUV handled that, too, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t been much aware to it before.
In fact, the LX line has been sold since 1996. Three generations have been based on the Land Cruiser. The original LX 450 came with an inline six cylinder engine and seated seven. The LX 470 and its successor, the LX 570, have V8s and seat eight. For 2016, 5.7-liter V8 has been increased to 383 horsepower and both the exterior and interior have been redesigned. It now looks more like a sharply chiseled Lexus SUV and less like a rounded Toyota, especially the front end, with its huge “spindle” grill.
After my experience at Mudfest, I requested a 2016 LX 570 for a week of test driving. As I originally thought, it is very much at home in the suburbs, with a soft ride that belies its off-road capabilities. Weighing in at three tons, it is one of the largest SUVs on the market. It is also whisper quiet, both around town and on the freeway. In fact, the only hint of its Land Cruiser origins are the two jump seats that comprise the third row. Unlike those in the original Toyota SUV, they fold down and pivot from the sides behind the second row electronically.
LX supposedly stands for “Luxury Crossover,” with the emphasis on luxury. Off-road SUVs from Jeep and Land Rover also come with (or can be ordered with) luxury features, but the LX 570 feels much more plush than those rivals. It also comes standard with a wide array of advanced safety features, including lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and forward-collision warning with automatic braking.
The Lexus is also more sedate on the road, lacking the optional Hemi power of the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the supercharged V8 power of the various Land Rover models. But once it gets rolling, it’s a good thing the LX 570 has powerful brakes to stop it quickly when necessary.
It’s unlikely that many owners of such luxury off-road vehicles ever push them to their limits. Part of the joy of owning them is simply knowing what they can do, after all. But in that category, the 2016 LX 570 may offer its owners an edge — even fewer people will know what they’re looking at, until you start explaining the extra knobs and buttons.
2016 Lexus LX 570
Base price: $88,880
Price as tested: $97,405
Type: Full-size SUV
Engine: 5.7-liter V8 (383 hp, 403 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 13/18
Overall length: 199.4 inches
Curb weight: 6,000 pounds
Final assembly: Aichi, Japan
Disclaimer: Pricing in this article may not be accurate, please speak to our Sales and Leasing Professionals for accurate pricing.