Test Drive:2020 Lexus LX 570

Ron Sessions | Sep 30, 2019
2020 Lexus LX 570 Rear View Mugshot Photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Introduction

Years before Lexus struck SUV sales gold with its car-based midsize RX crossover SUV, the brand dipped a toe in sport-utility waters with the big and brawny, truck-based LX 450. Based on the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser, the big LX gave Lexus an entry with unquestioned off-road chops. Closing in on a quarter century later, the full-size LX 570 is the flagship of a sport-utility lineup five vehicles deep that includes the top-selling RX, midsize GX, compact NX and tiny UX. The LX 570 is available as a two-row SUV with seating for five or a three-row that can carry eight passengers.

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an eight-passenger version equipped with a Luxury package that includes softer semi-aniline leather and heated and cooled first and second-row seats, an upgrade Mark Levinson stereo system, 21-inch alloy wheels and dual-screen DVD entertainment for the second row, a wireless charger, a console-mounted beverage cooler, head-up display and heated leather-and-wood steering wheel. Including the $1,295 destination charge, the total came to $100,260.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Front Mugshot Photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

What Owners Say

Prior to delving into the details of our Lexus LX 570 evaluation, here are some insights into who buys this sport-utility and what their most and least favorite features of the vehicle are based on the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

J.D. Power categorizes the LX 570 as a large premium SUV along with the BMW X7, Cadillac Escalade, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, and Toyota Land Cruiser. In the segment, the Lexus LX 570 has the highest percentage of female owners at 46% compared to just 31% for large premium SUVs as a whole. Otherwise, the Lexus LX 570 owner demographics align closely with those of the other large premium SUV buyers with an average household income of $318,182 (vs. $341,679 for the segment) and a median owner age of 54 years (vs. 55 for the segment).

Most Lexus LX 570 owners (80%) agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd, aligning with large premium SUV owners (87%) as a whole. And most Lexus LX 570 owners (76%) disagree that fuel economy is the first consideration in choosing a vehicle, also in line with 73% of large premium SUV owners in general.

Where Lexus LX 570 owners diverge from large premium SUV owners as a whole is in their interest in quality of workmanship, reliability and low maintenance costs. A full 86% of Lexus LX 570 owners agreed mostly that quality of workmanship was their first consideration (vs. 59% for the segment), 82% agreed mostly that reliability was a primary consideration (vs. 55% for the segment), and 52% agreed mostly that they avoid vehicles with high maintenance costs (vs. just 38% for the segment).

LX 570 owners indicate their favorite aspects of the vehicle are the navigation system, quietness, engine smoothness, adjusting the rear seats, visibility and ride quality. Conversely, owner’s least favorite things about the LX 570 are its driving range, fuel efficiency, front-end styling, acceleration and passing power, third-row seats, cargo space, door closing sound and front cup holders.   

2020 Lexus LX 570 Front Side Angle
Photo: Ron Sessions

What Our Expert Says

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the Lexus LX 570 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2019 J.D. Power APEAL Study.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Side Angle Mugshot
Photo: Ron Sessions

Exterior

There’s nothing subtle about the look of the Lexus LX 570. It’s big and square-jawed with slab sides and generously-sized 20- or even larger optional 21-inch wheels. Running boards are standard. The blocky look is broken up, however, by a huge spindle-shaped grille with horizontal slats that will not be ignored. LED lighting is used for the headlamps, tail lamps, daytime running lamps, turn signals and fog lamps. New for 2020 is a Sport Appearance package with a Sport grille with asymmetric latticework and more aggressive-looking front and rear fascias.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Interiors Front Dashboard
Photo: Ron Sessions

Interior

Open a door and the LX 570’s interior is as luxurious and inviting as the exterior is stern and imposing. As it was with SUVs in the 1980s and 1990s, owners get their exercise using the running boards to climb in. You ride tall in the saddle in the LX 570, lording over lesser SUVs and cars on the road with good visibility to the front, which, of course, is part of the appeal of this vehicle, according to APEAL study owner feedback. Despite its Land Cruiser origins, the LX 570’s cabin is hushed.

Inside, there’s no mistaking the LX 570 for a top-tier luxury vehicle. Materials, fit and finish are top-notch.  Leather trim and real wood cheers the dash, doors, center console and the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Other luxury touches include a retro analog clock with GPS time zone synchronization, a power moonroof and a cigar lighter. Also available is a wireless phone charger for Qi-enabled devices and a head-up display in the windshield.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Back Seats
Photo: Ron Sessions

Seats

In the APEAL study, owners rated the first- and second-row seats as one of the LX 570’s best features. Once ensconced in the cabin, the driver and passengers are coddled in generously proportioned seats with ample comfort and support. The soft, sumptuous power-adjustable leather-clad front buckets offer ample bolstering for thighs and lower backs. The front seats are heated and there’s a standard memory feature for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and side mirrors. No massaging front seats are available, however. A $1,190 Luxury package upgrades the already sumptuous standard leather seats to buttery soft semi-aniline leather with contrasting stitching and adds ventilation to the front and outboard rear chairs.

The same superlatives apply to the second-row seats with plenty of stretch-out room. The power-operated three-across second-row bench seat slides fore and aft and the 60/40 split seatbacks recline individually and fold flat for toting cargo. A fold-down armrest houses a pair of jumbo-size cup holders and when the Luxury package is ordered, the climate and seat heating/ventilation controls for the outboard second row chairs as well. Amenities include rear door pull-down window shades and USB ports for charging mobile devices.

In the APEAL study, LX 570 owners ding the third-row seats in eight-passenger versions for seat comfort and roominess.  Access to the three-across third-row seat requires squeezing past the lowered outboard second-row seatbacks. And folding the third-row seats to gain more cargo space is a multistep process that involves hanging the seats along the sides of the cargo area, not flat on the cargo floor as in most other SUVs.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Climate Control System
Photo: Ron Sessions

Climate Control System

The LX 570’s automatic climate control is easy to operate with simple hard buttons for modes and fan speed and individual up/down arrows for individual driver/front passenger temperature controls. There are no screens and menus to access. A Climate Concierge included with the Luxury package automatically monitors the front seats and outboard second-row chairs and adjusts for temperature and fan speed.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Infotainment Controller
Photo: Ron Sessions

Infotainment System

The top of the LX 570’s dash is dominated by a large, landscape-format 12.3-inch infotainment screen housing a navigation system that received high marks by owners in the APEAL study for usefulness, attractiveness and ease of use. Above the climate controls are easy-to-use analog buttons and knobs for audio functions. Our test vehicle was fitted with the pricey but sensational-sounding $2,350 Mark Levinson surround-sound system with 19 speakers,15 channels and DVD video and audio playback. For navigating around the large infotainment screen, there’s a mouse-style controller on the console that’s equipped with a handrest to prevent clicking mistakes when on bumpy roads, plus voice control. As the LX uses an older Enform platform, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity isn’t available. But HD Radio and SiriusXM with a year of NavTraffic, NavWeather and TravelLink services are, plus the Lexus Enform suite of apps such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, Slacker, destination assist and more. Lexus Enform Safety Connect enables remote cellphone, smart watch or Alexa-enabled device access for vehicle start/stop, door locking/unlocking, climate control settings and more. There is no onboard Wi-Fi, however.

For those long trips with the junior set, there’s an optional $2,005 rear-seat entertainment system with dual, front seatback-mounted 11.6-inch screens and wireless headphones.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Storage & Cargo Space
Photo: Ron Sessions

Storage and Space

With the five-passenger LX 570, there’s a generous amount of cargo room behind the rear seat and a ton of space if you lower it. The cargo door is split, with a power-operated top liftgate and a fold-down lower tailgate, handy for loading bulky items. If you pack your LX 570 floor to ceiling, the two-row version offers a generous 49.5 cubic feet of stowage behind the second-row seat, expandable to 79.7 cu ft with the rear seat folded.

The three-row LX 570 shown here is a different story. Owners listed cargo space as a weakness in the APEAL study. There’s just 12.1 cu ft of luggage space behind the rearmost seat. That increases to 43 cu ft when the third-row seats are folded up and away along the sides of the cargo area, but doing so is a lengthy, multistep process that leaves the folded third-row seats stealing valuable cargo space and hindering rearward visibility.  

2020 Lexus LX 570 Backup Camera
Photo: Ron Sessions

Visibility and Safety

The tall seating position affords good outward visibility out the front and sides, but a sea of headrests, thick roof pillars and in eight-passenger versions, third-row seats folded up along the sides of the cargo area impinge on rearward vision.

Helping address that situation, however, is a full roster of standard safety features, including blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, plus a panoramic view backup camera and sonar-based rear parking assists. The panoramic overhead image of the LX 570 is displayed alongside the conventional backup camera image with trajectory lines and Lexus Park Assist image with nearby obstacles highlighted on the 12.3-inch infotainment screen. Handy for venturing over challenging terrain, the camera system can also be configured to display an under-bumper view of the area immediately in front of the vehicle.

Other standard safety content includes all-speed dynamic cruise control, pre-collision emergency braking, automatic high-beam control, and a lane-departure alert system.

No crash safety ratings have been published by the National highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the Lexus LX 570.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Engine
Photo: Ron Sessions

Engine/Transmission

With 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque on tap, it would seem that the LX 570’s naturally aspirated 5.7-liter V8 has the goods to move the luxury SUV flagship with alacrity. But in the 2019 APEAL study, owners listed the LX 570’s acceleration from a stop, responsiveness and passing power as weak points. Floor the accelerator of the near 6,000-lb (3-ton) SUV and it can get to 60 mph in a little more than 7 seconds. It can tow trailers up to 7,000 lbs. And the LX 570 can burble along effortlessly at highway speeds all day without working up a sweat. A super smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission handles gearchanges with no jerks or hesitations and steering-wheel-mounted paddles are included for sequential manual-shift control on twisty roads and steep mountain grades.

So there really aren’t any performance deficits here other than perhaps some luxury SUV buyers expecting acceleration akin to that offered by lighter, car-based competitors without the LX 570’s bona fide off-road and all-weather capabilities.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Drive Mode Controls
Photo: Ron Sessions

Fuel Economy

Driving range and fuel economy were listed as the LX 570’S two top weaknesses in the 2019 J.D. Power APEAL study. The  LX 570’s EPA fuel economy estimates are a bit Old School at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/15 mpg in combined driving, but not inconsistent with the degree of off-road capability. In a week of mostly suburban driving in sweltering 100+ degree Arizona summer heat with the air conditioning working overtime, I averaged 14.7 mpg. On a full load of the recommended premium unleaded fuel, that would net a somewhat short 360-mile cruising range with the standard 24.6 gallon tank.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Driving Impressions
Photo: Ron Sessions

Driving Dynamics

When you get behind the 3 wheel of the Lexus brand’s most expensive and most exclusive SUV, it’s helpful to understand its Toyota Land Cruiser roots. At its core the LX 570 is a serious piece of equipment that takes the purpose-built Toyota Land Cruiser mechanicals and applies Lexus levels of comfort, convenience, technology and luxury fitments. Under the skin, the LX 570 is basically the same unstoppable, unflappable 4-wheel-drive machine as the Land Cruiser—but one dressed in a tux.

On the road, the LX 570 feels a bit different than most other luxury full-size SUVs. Steering feel, ride quality, and brake response are different. The LX 570’s ride motions feel heavy and deliberate, but not harsh thanks to the standard air suspension. Conversely, steering effort is light, but not darty. The brakes are powerful yet take a while to master with slow response at the top of pedal travel and much more effective deceleration the further your foot travels. With time, you get used to it.

The LX 570’s mission comes into finer focus when driving in poor weather, sketchy roads or off-road. Full-time 4-wheel drive is standard. So is a Torsen limited-slip center differential which delivers 40 percent of the engine’s drive torque to the front wheels and 60 to the rears in normal operation and can vary that ratio to the tires with the best available traction.

On the center console are a bevy of controls that are a gateway to the LX 570’s core features. With the transfer case into low range, activating the LX 570’s standard Crawl Control with Turn Assist becomes an off-pavement cruise control for slow-going over challenging terrain. The driver sets a maximum speed and the system handles braking duties while the driver steers. The Turn Assist feature applies an inside rear brake when negotiating a tight turn around an obstacle, pivoting the SUV and effectively enabling the big SUV to maneuver like a smaller one.

A Drive Mode Select control adjusts engine response with Sport, Normal and Eco settings. The Multi-Terrain Select control offers Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, Loose Rock, Rock and Mogul settings to adjust the LX 570’s traction control for different surfaces and conditions.

There is also Active Height Control that keeps the vehicle level despite how many passengers or how much cargo it’s carrying. It can also raise the LX 570 as much as 3 inches for increased off-pavement ground clearance.

2020 Lexus LX 570 Rear Beauty
Photo: Ron Sessions

Final Impressions

A six-figure luxury SUV with all of the leather-lined luxury and latest comfort, convenience and technology features that can also handle rotten weather and serious off-road excursions isn’t for everyone. Perhaps that’s why Lexus sells its most-expensive and most-exclusive sport-utility in relative small numbers. But for those buyers looking for something different from the SUV norm that offers the same high level of workmanship, granitic durability and low maintenance as other Lexus products, the 2020 Lexus LX 570 is a unicorn worth checking out.

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