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Driven: 2014 Lexus LX570 proves its mettle out in the wild

Today we got some time with the top-of-the shelf 2014 Lexus LX570, an SUV which along with its corporate cousin the Toyota Land Cruiser, is institution in the SUV world. It's arrival in any venue represents a heritage of well traveled lore and off-road legend.

The 2014 Lexus LX570 proves its mettle out in the wild
The 2014 Lexus LX570 proves its mettle out in the wild
Sam Haymart
The 2014 Lexus LX570 proves its mettle out in the wild
Sam Haymart

When you get into this price range for the ultra-luxury SUV, it's rarefied air. There are few competitors, a couple from Germany, and one from Britain. None of them are really at all apples to apples, each bringing their own band to the parade.

While shared with the Toyota Land Cruiser in most areas, the Lexus has unique styling up front in the headlamps and grille as well as around the sides and rear quarters. Tail lamps and wheels, trims and features set the LX570 upscale just a bit.

The LX570 isn’t as large as American full-sized SUV’s like the Cadillac Escalade or even the Toyota Sequoia. Instead its footprint and profile remain narrower and a more petite despite its place at the top of the category in pricing.

This size and silhouette are part of its long standing international market presence in places like Africa, the Middle East, and in Europe where size doesn’t mean everything. There, the ability to navigate truly rough terrain and narrow paths is a must.

The interior of the LX570 is a different space than that found in the Toyota Land Cruiser. A unique dash, door panels, hides and features list make the LX570 a true luxury SUV. Ours was fully optioned with a price tag hovering at about $90,000.

What you get for that price is sumptuous leather seating, genuine wood trim virtually everywhere, and a level of fit quality commensurate with the class. All the expected technology was present including voice activated navigation system, Lexus Enform app suite, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Comfortable power seating and telescoping tilt wheel are all tied with with memory settings. Those seats are both heated and cooled. The center console is large and full of controls for the LX570′s adjustable suspension height and stiffness levels as well as its myriad of all-wheel drive system features.

In that console can also be found a large stowage area which offers cooling, perfect for water bottles, soda or fruit on days like ours here in the Arizona desert. It's not a refrigerator but can keep things from warming up.

Our tester had the top-end Mark Levinson audio system with its seemingly over the top 19 speakers and 450 watts of sound – as I always say, a must option in any Lexus. We also had the dual screen rear seat DVD entertainment system which allows two separate video sources to be viewed at the same time.

Rear seat room and space is exceptional as expected and the seating sumptuously comfortable. Rear seat passengers get full HVAC controls for their zone as well as heated cushions as ours was optioned. Second row seats are also power adjustable and offer a 40/20/40 split fold down.

While our LX570 came with features like a back-up camera which was quite helpful, we were surprised that at this price the SUV comes with none of the latest radar based driver aids like lane keeping, blind spot, or collision warning assistance.

The top portion of the lift gate is power operated but the lower tail-gate portion still requires manual opening to load heavier objects. Inside, the third row seats take up much of the cargo space here, but can be power folded out of the way.

Under the hood is a 5.7 liter DOHC V8 mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. The power-train is shared with many Toyota products including the Tundra pickups, Sequoia and Land Cruiser.

It’s got a wonderful sound when prodded and is far more refined that its truck based roots might suggest. Its 383 horsepower is delivered effortlessly through its automatic transmission, a well matched drive-train for this SUV.

The V8 is of course a bit thirsty but driven well it can be responsible. The EPA rates the LX570 at 12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. We actually achieved a respectable if not impressive 17.8 mpg combined in our testing.

Where this SUV also impressed us was in its off-road capabilities. The LX570 is virtually the last of its class to offer a ladder frame, a solid rear axle, and the kind of off-road suspension and drive-train capability that goes beyond the soft trail.

The air suspension is height adjustable either manually or automatically. The all-wheel drive system features several automatic and manual modes including the ability to lock it up tight as a drum for challenging situations.

In our standard teeter-totter test where we get on front and one rear wheel off the ground to test the all-wheel drive system, the LX570 passed with flying colors. This is because the suspension was so articulate we couldn’t get the wheels off the ground on a spot that gets most SUV’s teetering.

In the end our off-road course shown here is almost a joke to the LX570 who’s abilities are well more suited for perhaps even the Rubicon. But alas our friends at Lexus wouldn’t much appreciate us returning it with scrapes and battle scars of such a run.

The ride on pavement is as Lexus says, “silken”. The suspension is full adjustable with three modes, comfort, normal and sport. The suspension can lower at a stop to allow for ease of entry and exit. It also lowers at highway speeds for better stability, and can automatically raise in certain off-road situations.

The only area where the handling let us down was where the ladder-frame and solid axle truck based SUV lost got a bit skittery on rougher pavement. The chassis gets a bit nervous over potholes giving us kickback through the steering and some axle skate out back.

In the final analysis, the LX570 is a stand-alone product in its class. It really is the only one who remains a true off-roader with the hardware to be taken seriously in the roughest of the rough. You pay a price for this capability on the pavement by giving up some refinements however.

The list of interior and tech features standard and which are available is a little thin compared to what which much of the mainstream latest competitors offer up. In the end, that likely wont matter to most buyers, as the Lexus LX570 is a buy based on brand reputation and unique capabilities, and not so much the comparison sheet.

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