Reviewing Lexus' Off-Road SUVs in Civilization
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Published on Sat, Jan 7, 2017
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
On a recent trip to Rowher Flats with the SoCal Trail Buds off-road group, I was floored watching my friend’s LX570 on stock suspension easily conquer a hill so steep it gave everyone (myself included) pause (it also generated some NSFW exclamations when he succeeded). On the way back I wondered how it would be to pilot Lexus’ pair of off-road machines in the confines of suburbia. Lexus was kind enough to oblige my curiosity by supplying me with a GX460 and LX570 to try in the asphalt jungle of the 626.
2017 Lexus GX460 Luxury with Sport Design Package
The GX is situated in price, form and function somewhere between the dedicated crossover RX and the off-road warrior-in-a-suit LX. Unlike most of its direct competitors like the Acura MDX, Mercedes GLE and BMW X5, the GX is still built using body-on-frame construction that lends durability for off-roading & towing. The list of other off-road credentials is impressive - full-time four-wheel drive, TORSEN® limited-slip center differential with electronic differential lock, hi-lo transfer case, optional CRAWL control and Multi-Terrain Select.
Driving around city streets and freeways, where I’m convinced 99.999% of trucks and SUV’s live, the GX is quite capable and comfortable. As a Toyota-leaning family with an RX, Highlander, and two Tundra’s under our belt it makes sense that the GX felt more like a extremely well-behaved Tundra that went off to finishing school than one it’s car-based brethren.
While not at all car-like, the GX gives the driver confidence to tackle SoCal’s on and off-ramps at speed. Lexus’ Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) work together to minimize body-roll.
Power comes via a 4.6-liter V8 good for 301 horsepower and 329 lb.-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed transmission. With a 0-60 just north of 7 seconds, the GX is not out to win any drag races. However thanks to its power output, built-in tow hitch and Vehicle Sway Control (VSC) towing up to 6,500 pounds is doable – something it’s unibody competitors cannot claim.
Selectable driving modes are all the rage, and the GX is no exception. Left in Sport + mode the GX offers a spirited driving experience, but at a heavy premium. I looked down to see after a stretch of freeway driving that I’d managed 16 mpg on the highway and decided to quite literally dial it back to Normal mode. That being said it’s always nice to have the option to channel your inner Andretti, even in a giant SUV.
Interior: Comfort & Technology Most GX buyers are looking to be coddled and the GX does not disappoint. Despite feeling a little more cramped than I expected given the exterior dimensions, a week in the GX flew by too soon for my family and I. The heated front and second-road seats were a nice touch, especially in this trim that featured the available second-row captain’s chairs. Despite not having snow, it does get cold for us in SoCal (everything’s relative people!) so I appreciated the heated wooden steering wheel as well.
Since we were getting ready for Christmas when the GX was delivered, I had the opportunity to do a ton of holiday driving – which means kids in tow and alternatively every cubic inch of the GX’s 64.7 cubic-inch cargo capacity filled with decorations. While at times a little tight on space, the GX performed as required. The interior is sometimes panned as old school since the center stack hasn’t changed that much over the years. That didn’t bother me very much as I tooled around the usual suspects of big box retailers going about my St. Nick routine, rocking out to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album. Yes, that is very definition of suburbia – and the GX is the perfect SUV for us on-roaders who could at any moment decide to pull a Thelma and Louise and enter the Baja 1000. Specifications 2017 Lexus GX460 Luxury with Sport Design Package Price as Tested: $72,460 (Base Price: $63,380) EPA fuel economy rating: 15 city/20 highway/17 combined miles per gallon Engine: 4.6-liter V8 engine Horespower: 301 hp @ 5500 rpm Torque: 329 lb-ft @ 3,500 Towing Capacity: 6,500 lbs. Cargo Capacity: 64.7 cubic feet
If you have about 100k to spend on a SUV, then pay close attention – the LX570 is worth every dime. My wife says I’m really good at spending other people’s money, to which I say: yes I am a marketer, that’s what we do. The LX is marketed as having the ability to conquer “demanding terrain from remote off-road vistas to black-tie premiers.” I would say, having seen it do the former and having driven it to the Foothill Boys & Girl’s Club Annual Festival of Trees, the LX lives up to the hype…and then some.
As in the GX, the LX features body-on-frame construction and a veritable smorgasbord of off-road specific features including CRAWL control, Multi-Terrain Select, Hill Start Assist, four-wheel Active Traction Control, as well as a locking center diff and two-speed transfer case. In the city handling is improved thanks to KDSS and AVS.
The LX’s 5.7-liter pushes out 383 horsepower and 403 lb.-ft. of torque, good for a 0-60 time in the low 7’s. The LX can tow up to 7,000 lbs. in smashing style.
I found the LX to be a blast to drive in Sport + mode. Not in the absolute sense compared to say, a 911S – but in the sense that I found myself surprised that I was having fun on freeway on-ramps in a 7,385 lbs. SUV.
As in the GX, the downside of this fun is the hit you take in the wallet with mpg in the 13 city/18 freeway range. But let’s be frank: if you’re in the market for the LX or any of its competitors you’re well beyond the penny-pinching phase.
Interior: Comfort & Technology
The LX has the off-road road chops, but in the ‘burbs what matters is how comfy can you make my wife, my clones, and me? The LX’s answer so comfortable you want to fall asleep. Maybe one day when it’s fully autonomous you will!
I absolutely fell in love with the interior of the LX, from the plush seating to the optional coolbox (yes kids, that’s a refrigerator in the center console!) and everything in between. The massive 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display felt larger than my home television and the kids loved the dual-screen Rear-Seat Entertainment System.
But my hands-down favorite feature inside was the Mark Levinson® Reference Surround Sound Audio System. While I love music, I’m no audiophile – and even I could hear the difference. Featuring 19 speakers and powered by a 450-watt amp, I dialed in SiriusXM and relived every great 1980’s concert in amazing quality thanks to this $2,350 upgrade.
Like the GX some things in the LX are dated, such as the LX’s folding third-row seats. They fold at the push of the button but still take up precious cargo room, as they do not fold flat into the floor.
Judging from its limited sales volume of just shy of 4,000 units in 2015, it’s fair to say that many customers in this market look at the LX’s price and move on to the top competitors like the Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover, and Mercedes GL.
While all those are fantastic choices, for the money I’d have a harder time saying no to the LX’s unique combination of off-road mastery and country-club manners.
It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye After two weeks being spoiled by Lexus’ “rougher” SUV’s I was loathe to give up the keys, and my kids keep asking me where their perfectly chilled juice boxes are. As the wider auto industry moves towards more and more variants of car-based cross-overs, it warms my heart (and hands!) that Lexus still offers a pair of black diamond trail-worthy SUVs to suburbanites waiting for their IPO to hit. Specifications 2017 Lexus Lx570 Luxury Price as Tested: $96,695 (Base Price: $90,355) EPA fuel economy rating: 13 city/18 highway/15 combined miles per gallon Engine: 5.7-liter V8 engine Horespower: 383 @ 5600 Torque: 403 @ 3600 Towing Capacity: 7,000 lbs. Cargo Capacity: 45 cu. ft. (2nd and 3rd row folded down)