2022 Lexus LX 600 First Drive Review: America’s Land Cruiser Shines on Streets, Excels Off-Road
The LX receives its first complete redesign in 14 years. It’s been upgraded in every possible way—and it’s quite good.
Those fortunate enough to shop at the pointy end of the luxury SUV segment can be demanding. After all, when you're spending six figures on an SUV, it should deliver an exceptional experience. The old LX didn’t exactly do that. Sure, it rode smoothly, was packed with fine materials, and was a total boss off-road, but it was also overweight, cumbersome to drive, the fuel economy was dismal, and it lacked some pretty basic infotainment functions. How could a luxury vehicle that expensive not have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? The all-new 2022 Lexus LX 600 fixes those faults.
In fact, this new Lexus maintains exactly what was important and admirable about the old one while delivering a vehicle that’s far better to drive in just about every way. In the past, you had to accept the LX 570’s mediocre on-road driving behaviors to gain a little off-road capability. That’s not the case anymore.
2022 Lexus LX 600 Specs
- Base price: $88,245
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 | 10-speed automatic | four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 409 @ 5,200 rpm
- Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
- Seating capacity: 5 or 7
- Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
- Cargo volume: 71 cubic feet (max)
- Towing capacity: 8,000 pounds
- Off-road angles: 21° approach, 21.7° departure
- Ground clearance: 8.27 inches (22-inch wheels)
- Curb weight: 5,665 to 5,945 pounds
- Fuel economy: 17 mpg city | 22 highway | 19 combined
- Quick Take: A highly capable and lavishly appointed luxury SUV with vastly improved road manners.
- Score: 7.5/10
Strong New Bones
The new LX 600 ditches the largely bespoke frame from the last model and adopts Toyota’s New Global Architecture-F (TNGA-F), the same one used on the new Tundra and, of course, the LX’s kissing cousin, the new Land Cruiser—which is unfortunately now forbidden fruit here in the United States. Lexus says the new LX is a whopping 441 pounds lighter than the old one. That’s staggering. The frame is also 20 percent stiffer, too, thanks to the liberal use of ultra-high tensile strength steels. Specific steel plates and reinforcements at crucial locations like the suspension pickup points, steering box, and trailer hitch (which is now incorporated into the frame) were added to further boost the frame’s beefiness. What hasn’t changed are the LX’s dimensions. Lexus has kept what it refers to as the “golden ratio”—the ideal wheelbase for balancing off-roading and passenger comfort. Resultingly, the LX has only grown fractionally longer and wider.
Front and rear suspensions are similar to those of the old Cruiser and Lexus says there’s an extra half-inch or so of wheel travel in the double-wishbone front suspension. Out back, yes, there’s still the venerable solid axle. But engineers have altered the geometry of the upper and lower control arms to provide improved handling.
The outgoing 5.7-liter V8 was a beast. But the new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 delivers more of everything that’s really important. A steep rise in horsepower and torque is at the top of that list with 26 more hp than the V8 for a total of 409 at 5,200 rpm. Plus that peak comes in 400 rpm sooner. There’s a healthy 479 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm—that’s 76 lb-ft more than before and crests 1,600 rpm earlier. Lexus mounted the V6 lower in the chassis and further back, too, for improved weight distribution. It’s paired to a ten-speed automatic and power is channeled through all four wheels with a two-speed, full-time 4WD system and a center differential lock. Lexus estimates the new LX 600 will deliver 19 mpg combined. That’s way up from the LX 570, which returned just 14 mpg combined. But these numbers still trail street-biased luxury SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 and BMW X7 xDrive40i, both of which hit over 20 mpg combined.
That Grille (And Beyond)
Yes, that massive grille is the elephant in the room when it comes to the LX’s styling. It’s not subtle or pretty. But hey, it’s just a grille. And if you’re like me, you’ll be way less focused on it when it’s blacked-out, as it is on some models. The rest of the LX 600’s design is quite handsome. The muscular, squared-off fenders look tough and the rear is simple and understated. The sheet metal seems to hug the LX’s mechanical bits in a tighter way, so the SUV doesn’t look puffed up and bloated as the old one did. It’s a great visual trick because the LX 600 looks smaller, sportier, and tidier than its predecessor, even though they are essentially the same size. That’s no bad thing.
The LX 600’s interior is a clear leap ahead. In the old LX 570, the driver’s sightline was too close to the top of the windshield. That feeling is thankfully gone in the LX 600—outward vision is right through the center of the widescreen, as it should be. And boy, is this LX comfy.
The new interior is filled with soft leathers that pad nearly any place you might touch. And the materials are high quality, especially the beautiful aluminum trim on F Sport models. It’s large inside, but there’s surprisingly little space up front to put stuff. It just doesn’t seem as cavernous as the biggest players from Cadillac and Lincoln. For example, there’s a huge phone charging pad right behind the shifter and a row of buttons next to it. Both hog space that could have been carved out and used as a cubby. I do love the large center console that opens to either side and (in some models) has a cooler, though.
The old-tech Remote Touch infotainment controller is history. The new 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen and secondary seven-inch screen below it work well. I was happy to have plenty of buttons and knobs to control some of the functions. But the radio volume knob is awkwardly placed at the top of the touchscreen and the two largest knobs on either end of the lower dash (that are easiest to reach) control the drive modes and the transfer case. Why not make one of those the volume knob since you’ll use it way more frequently? Still, I like the infotainment experience here more than the somewhat fussier systems used by Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz.
In the middle seat, there’s enough legroom for a six-footer with a few inches of knee space to the seatback. And this seat is comfy, too. But the experience isn’t as grand in the third row—neither is the awkward climb back there. The middle seat release handle feels a little down-market and that second row tumbles forward with a little too much momentum. A $100,000 SUV should have a more elegant seat mechanism. Once back there, larger adult knees will be peaked like little mountains and your hair will graze the headliner. A short trip would be fine, but there’s simply not enough comfort there for say, a road trip from LA to Vegas. This is an area where larger competitors like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator shine. But I’m elated this third-row seat now finally folds flat into the floor. It makes the trunk that much more usable.
Cargo space is slightly less than the old model. And when you have that third row deployed, it does eat up most of that space. Fold all the seats (electronically from a button panel in the cargo hold) and there are 64 cubic feet of space on three-row models and 71 cubic feet of space on two-row LXs. The old one offered 73.2 cubic feet on all models.
On the Road
There was one LX that stood out amongst all the ones available for our drive—a $101,470 Premium model painted plain white with a special appearance package ($1,295) that ditches all the brightwork for black trim and installs thick-sidewall, 18-inch matte grey wheels. It’s like a NATO-spec LX and it’s way cool. Visually, it’s as close to a Land Cruiser as we’re going to get. This is the one I hopped into.
The steering is so much lighter than before, making the big Lexus far easier to steer. The old hydraulic steering was so heavy, it practically felt unassisted at parking lot speeds. Here, the weightiness and on-center feel increases slightly when you move from Comfort to Normal and then on to Sport or Sport Plus modes. And it’s excellent.
Thanks to those 18-inch wheels and 265/65R18 tires, the ride is absolutely creamy over bumps. These are incidentally the same Dunlops that came on the last Land Cruiser, just in a smaller size (the Cruiser used 285/60R18s). On washboard-type rough pavement, this LX might be one of the smoothest SUVs around.
When the roads curve, there’s no denying the Lexus is still a little floaty in Comfort mode. It’s far less so than the old LX, however. When you click over to one of the sport settings, the ride firms nicely, making the LX’s weight loss noticeable. There’s newfound agility and sweetness to the 600’s moves. And yet, even in Sport Plus, the LX 600 never feels like it’s too stiff. While still not quite edging towards the sportier feel of an Audi Q7, the Lexus is on par with a Mercedes GLS or Range Rover and quite a bit better than the full-size domestic SUVs.
Dig deep into the brakes—which are big, 13.9-inch discs up front, and 13.1-inch discs in the rear—and there’s plenty of bite. These discs haven’t grown in size but because the LX has lost so much weight and the chassis is better balanced, it seems like there’s more braking power available.
The twin-turbo V6 really contributes to the LX’s deft moves too. The extra hp and torque, combined with the weight loss and snappy 10-speed automatic, make it far quicker than before. Lexus says 60 comes up in a reasonable 6.9 seconds. The Mercedes GLS 450 and BMW X7 can both reach that speed about a second quicker. But the real beauty of this powertrain isn’t in a stoplight sprint, it’s when you’re already on the move and simply toe into the throttle. The V6 produces its peak torque way down at 2,000 rpm. So on mildly steep grades, I was able to ride that wave of torque without needing a downshift. The old V8 could never deliver an experience this effortless. I don’t miss it.
Back at home base, I switched into a $107,805 LX 600 Luxury model. It was a brief drive but even with 22-inch wheels, the ride was comfy—soaking up the worst chuckholes and sharp rocks on the semi snow-covered fire road. In my experience, a Range Rover wouldn’t have ridden as smoothly over the same surfaces. This one had the optional ($1,300) Active Height Control (AHC) suspension that provides a four-inch range of height adjustment through the hydraulically assisted dampers from total pancake entry height to a tip-toe, off-road stance. Raised to its maximum height to negotiate a quick drive up to a viewpoint, not only did I have enough clearance all the way around the vehicle, but it also took very little time to get to the desired height.
Later, I found a $105,005 LX 600 F Sport for the drive to the off-road course. The F Sport package is mostly cosmetic but does include a Torsen rear differential (the only LX 600 with a mechanical traction-adding diff), a rear stabilizer bar, and re-tuned dampers. Driven back-to-back with the other LX 600 models on a twisty road, it was tough to feel much difference.
The LX has always been known for its off-road capability. And this new one doesn’t alter the formula. In fact, when you look at the specs and equipment, it’s clear Lexus didn’t really try to improve the LX’s off-road skills. First, AHC is now optional on most grades. Without it, the body sits a bit too low for hardcore trail work. Depending upon tires, the LX 600’s ground clearance maxes out at 8.3-inches, down from almost nine inches in the old LX.
To that point, the provided off-road course was tame. That was a good thing because the F Sport wasn’t optioned with AHC. Still, once I shifted into low range, the big Lexus went everywhere I pointed it without even needing to lock the center differential. It’s tough to say if this Lexus is more or less capable than the old one. But it’s certainly no direct replacement for the Land Cruiser in terms of dirt prowess.
Much of the LX’s off-road tech is carried over but it’s been updated. The next generation of Crawl Control—Lexus and Toyota’s off-road cruise control system and pioneered on the 2008 Land Cruiser and Lexus LX 570—is so much better than it was before. It’s way quieter and does an excellent job of smoothly modulating speed. Turn assist isn’t a new technology either, but it’s revised here and allows the big LX to cleanly weave its way around tightly spaced trees and brush by gently braking the inside wheel for tighter turns.
The LX’s greatest strength is how effortlessly it will transition from the pavement to dirt. The modes for Multi-Terrain Select (Auto, Dirt, Sand, Mud, Deep Snow and Rock) are now available in high range. So the LX driver can peel out and quickly select one of those modes (maybe lock the center diff and get through some fairly slippery conditions) without even stopping to engage low range. That provides a level of off-road driving ease and confidence few luxury SUVs can match. Still, to explore more serious 4WD trails, I’d sure like to have the Japan-only off-road package that includes front- and rear-locking differentials, knobbier tires, fender flares, and more.
Luxury in Many Trims
Lexus has really widened the breadth of offerings in the new LX, starting at the lower end with models that have a bit less equipment than before and stretching up into the uber-luxe end of the segment. There are now five trim levels of LX 600: Standard, Premium, F Sport, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury. Here are a few highlights, with all prices including the $1,345 destination fee:
The Standard model ($88,245) is slightly less expensive than the 2021 LX base price and comes with 20-inch wheels, five-passenger heated leather seating, power tailgate, moonroof, and more, including the company’s Safety System + 2.5 suite of tech which includes Rear Cross Traffic Alert with automatic braking, Rear Pedestrian Detection, and Lane Tracing Assist to help keep the LX in the center of the lane.
The Premium ($96,345) adds seven-passenger seating with a powered fold-flat rear seat, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and adaptive variable suspension.
The F Sport ($102,345) adds sport seating, ventilated rear seats, a unique steering wheel, an F Sport suspension, Torsen limited-slip rear diff, 22-inch wheels, and some specialized interior and bodywork trim pieces.
The Luxury model ($104,345) brings its own 22-inch wheels, semi-aniline leather, a heated leather and wood steering wheel, one-touch auto-folding seats, rear manual sunshades, and a Mark Levinson audio system.
The top Ultra Luxury model, as seen above, raises the Luxury’s sticker by a whopping $23,000 ($127,345) and is a limo-like experience, rivaling the back seats of posh machines like the Range Rover Autobiography or even the Maybach 600 GLS. This trim includes second-row reclining captain’s chairs with massage function and power footrests. I had a chance to spend a few minutes relaxing in those seats and they’re absolutely dreamy.
The Bottom Line
No matter the trim level, the new Lexus LX 600 is a better road vehicle—period. It’s still exceptionally smooth-riding and quiet but handles with far more agility. Plus it’s quicker and the fuel economy has now moved up into the more reasonable zone, as compared to other SUVs of this size.
Like before, the LX occupies a place in the SUV landscape that few still do. Save for the domestic leviathans from Cadillac and Lincoln, as well as the Infiniti QX80, every one of the LX’s rivals rolls on a modern unibody chassis. Sure, the robust body-on-frame design makes the LX a bit of a dinosaur in this class, but it’s one I like very much. And with a starting price right around that of the old Land Cruiser (and slightly cheaper than the old LX), Lexus should have no trouble attracting past LX owners, a few Land Cruiser orphans, and plenty of new customers, too.
Ben Stewart resides in Southern California and has been an automotive journalist for nearly 30 years. He specializes in reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs.
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