2017 Lexus LX570 Review: the Rolling Throwback-Thursday of the SUV World

Sport-utility vehicles have come a long way in the last decade. The LX570, not so much.

Lexus

Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2017 Lexus LX570.

In automotive terms, the 2017 Lexus LX570 is something of a living fossil. It's an anachronistic sport-utility vehicle, a body-on-frame giant with a naturally-aspirated engine living in an era filled with unibody crossovers packing forced-induction or hybrid powertrains. It has full-time four-wheel-drive with low range in an era when the number of customers looking for such features in a $90,000-plus SUV is practically nil—and, to be fair, those few who seek those capabilities at that price point are likely going to buy a Range Rover). 

The current third-generation version of the Lexus LX dates back to 2007; the current look, first offered for the 2016 model year, is the third facelift the mammoth sport-ute has received in its lifetime. And considering the automotive rumor mill doesn't have much to say about a potential replacement for it, or for the Toyota Land Cruiser with which the Lexus shares everything under its skin, it seems likely the existing model will keep on kicking around well into its second decade in production. 

So what, exactly, are buyers getting when they drop close to $100,000 on a sport-utility vehicle that debuted the same month as the movie Hot Fuzz? (Seriously: April, 2007.) Your humble reviewer spent the better part of a week driving around Colorado to find out. 

Lexus LX570 - Front View

Lexus

The Pros:

  • It may be on its fourth rendition, but the LX570 still looks pretty good. Especially from the front, where what must be the largest version of Lexus's spindle grille ever made dominates this rig's squinty-eyed face. The truck retains the overall boxy proportions the LX has boasted since the first-generation model showed up during Bill Clinton's first term, with a towering greenhouse that cants inwards like the sides of an M1 Abrams's turret.
  • The LX570 bridges size and off-road capability in a way few vehicles do. The Range Rover, as previously mentioned, comes closest—but it's a good half-size smaller, and only has room for five compared to the Lexus's eight seats. The Cadillac Escalade is closest in terms of size and prestige, but it doesn't offer the all-terrain prowess of the LX. A top-tier Chevy Tahoe is probably the closest in terms of dimensions and ability, but that proletarian bowtie doesn't command nearly as much envy from the neighbors as the italicized L on the snout of this big rig.
  • There's a cool box in the center console that's roughly big enough for a six-pack. Not that I'm advocating for imbibing while riding (let alone drinking and driving), but it certainly makes it convenient if you're picking up supplies for a barbeque. 

Lexus LX570 - Side View

Lexus

The Cons:

  • Nowhere does it show its age more than from behind the wheel. The steering is about as communicative as the joystick of a Nineties-era flight simulator: slow, sloppy, and remote. Likewise, the brake pedal doesn't offer anywhere near the level of control you'd hope for from a three-ton SUV in 2017; the first inch or two of travel produces little effect, other than causing your heart rate to rise as you speed towards the tail end of the stopped car ahead.  
  • Not helping matters: the engine. While 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet may sound fine on paper, with those numbers, this 6,000-pound SUV is left struggling to accelerate, especially at the mile-plus heights of Colorado where I spent five days driving the LX. It was a handy reminder of a couple of the reasons so many carmakers have switched to forced-induction engines for their trucks and sport-utes: not only do they provide much-needed torque off the line, they're less influenced by dropping air pressure at altitude. 
  • Lexus already has one of the industry's least-impressive infotainment systems, and the version in the LX is even crummier, having been shoehorned into an interior designed in the knob-and-button era that predated reliable touchscreens and ubiquitous iDrive-style controllers. The widescreen 12.3-inch display looks fine, though the graphics are a bit outdated, but the user interface is a confusing mashup thanks to the free-floating mouse control pad and the split-screen layout. 
  • In spite of its size, it's not the best for loading up with cargo. The second and third rows fold almost flat, but once flopped down, they still sit high above the loading floor, and leave plenty of small nooks and crannies for things to disappear into. 

Lexus LX570 - Rear 3-4 View

Lexus

The Lexus LX570, Ranked:

Performance: 2/5

Comfort: 4/5

Luxury: 3/5

Hauling people: 5/5

Hauling stuff: 4/5

Curb appeal: 3/5

“Wow” factor: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

Lexus LX570 - Interior

Lexus

The Bottom Line:

Big, bulky SUVs still have plenty of value in this day and age, as is evidenced by their continued success in the market. In spite of its age, sales of the LX570 were up 14 percent in July year-over-year, according to Lexus; the brand's sales overall were up just 3.6 percent. Clearly, buyers are still finding this leather-lined rhinosaur of a sport-ute appealing, in spite of its faults. And indeed, it's not hard to see the appeal of this monstrosity when plowing through traffic, looking down on the poor saps in their compact crossovers and sedans. 

But that's true for any big sport-ute or truck, of course, not just this Lexus. And pretty much any other SUV in this price range is guaranteed to drive better, or be easier to use, or be more luxurious—or all three simultaneously. The only reason to drop the big bucks on the LX570 above one of its competitors is if you need a giant luxury SUV with with both the room to fit six to eight people and the off-roading talents that come with a four-by-four packing low range and manual locking differentials—which applies to, maybe, several dozens of people across America.

But hey, people bought Hummers they didn't need in huge numbers, too. Sometimes the heart just wants what the heart wants. 

Lexus LX570 - Interior

Lexus

2017 Lexus LX570, By the Numbers:

Price (as tested): $91,075 ($98,660)

Powertrain: 5.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8, 383 horsepower, 403 pound-feet; eight-speed automatic; full-time four-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 13 city, 18 highway

Top Speed: 137 miles per hour, incredibly

Amount of off-roading I did in Colorado: Six feet