For years, the Lexus LX has been a difficult SUV to understand. Unlike the ES and the Toyota Camry, the Lexus LX wasn’t significantly nicer than the Land Cruiser. It also cost about the same as the Land Cruiser, making it hard to figure out who the LX was for. In theory, it was the buyer who wanted a large, reliable, comfortable off-road SUV but also insisted that it have a luxury badge.
On the other hand, maybe the LX was actually the one that made sense, and the Land Cruiser was the odd one out. After all, if you’re going to spend close to $100,000 on an SUV, why not get a Lexus instead of a Toyota? Sure, the Land Cruiser has history and nameplate that the LX can’t match, but was that really enough to justify its continued existence in the U.S.?
Apparently, not anymore. When it redesigned the Land Cruiser for the first time in almost 15 years, Toyota made the decision not to bring it to the U.S. That doesn’t mean Land Cruiser-wanters in the States are completely out of luck. It just means they’ll have to head to the fancy side of town for the freshly redesigned Lexus LX 600.
Oh, who am I kidding? They’re about to spend six figures on a luxury SUV. They already live on the nice side of town. Or in a town that doesn’t have anything but nice sides.
Recently, I got to spend a day driving the 2022 Lexus LX 600 in a wide variety of conditions. Does it usher in a new era of off-road luxury? Or is it still, as Jason Torchinsky wrote back in 2016, “a big lumbering idiot-mobile”?
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(Full Disclosure: Lexus wanted me to drive the new LX 600 so badly, they bought me a round-trip ticket to New Mexico, a place that ended up not being nearly as warm as this recent Detroit transplant had hoped it would be in January. They also paid for lodging, meals, and drinks in an obnoxiously fancy hotel that rich people like to name drop.)
The 2022 Lexus LX 600 sits on a new platform that it shares with the new Toyota Tundra. The two also share a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 that’s tuned to make 409 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. If you’re looking for a V8 option, you’re out of luck. Paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission, you’re able to tow up to 8000 pounds.
Fuel economy is up significantly, coming in at an estimated 17/22/19 mpg (city/highway/combined). These days, those numbers look pretty bad, but remember, the outgoing LX 570 was rated at 12/16/14 mpg. It’s not often you see a redesigned vehicle’s city mileage top its predecessor’s highway mileage. Then again, I guess that’s easier to do when the vehicle you’re referring to hasn’t been redesigned since 2007.
Those fuel economy figures are even more impressive when you consider there’s no gas-saving 2HI mode — the LX 600 only offers full-time 4WD. Lexus also made sure to point out that the off-road features such as crawl control are standard so former Land Cruiser owners aren’t forced to pay for higher trim levels to get the features they want.
Speaking of trims, there are currently five to pick from:
- Lexus LX 600 – $86,900
- Lexus LX 600 Premium – $95,000
- Lexus LX 600 F Sport – $101,000
- Lexus LX 600 Luxury – $103,000
- Lexus LX 600 Ultra-Luxury – $126,000
While there are still some options packages you can add depending on the trim, there really aren’t as many as you might expect in a $100,000 luxury SUV. You more or less pick your trim level, paint color, interior color and not much else. That’s probably good for simplifying Lexus’s manufacturing process, but it does make it a little more difficult for customers to order their LX exactly the way they want it.
From the outside, the Lexus LX 600 is what it is. Some cars look different in person, but the design presents about the same as it does in photos. Few people will love it, most will accept it and some will truly hate it. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. White paint and a black grille look the best to me, but you do you.
One controversial decision Lexus made was to drop the split tailgate in favor of a more traditional one. It reduces complexity and likely makes it easier to load cargo, but I have to say, it does make the LX 600 feel a little less special. Whether it will matter to actual buyers, though, I have no idea.
The biggest improvements, though, are inside, where you get a cabin that’s significantly more modern and luxurious. This time around, you get actual touchscreens. Not just one, either. Two touch screens! The 12.3-inch screen at the top is the main infotainment display, while the 7.0-inch one beneath it is for vehicle settings. So if you hated the remote-joystick-thingy that Lexus has used for years, you’re in luck. But if you hate screens, I guess just wallow in despair as the automotive world passes you by?
Considering we’re talking about a modern luxury SUV here, it makes sense that Lexus would make tech features a big part of its redesign. Bigger screens were going to happen. And while I totally understand preferring knobs and buttons in an off-roader, that’s not really where the market is headed. The infotainment system can feel a little overwhelming at first, but after playing around with it a little more, I found the learning curve wasn’t nearly as high as I initially thought.
The good news is, you still get physical controls for most of the important stuff such as volume control and driving modes. Lexus also skipped out on rotary or push-button gear selectors in favor of a more traditional shift lever. In general, the cabin does a good job of feeling modern and luxurious without going all-in on a futuristic feel that wouldn’t fit with the LX’s rugged-ish mission.
The last time I drove an LX 570, I remember everything about it felt tired. Not just old or out of date. Tired like it had hundreds of thousands more miles on the odometer than were actually there. It was comfortable enough on the road and capable enough off-road, but it gave me the impression that it just wanted to turn on a baseball game, sit down and take a good, long nap in its La-Z-Boy.
The new LX, on the other hand, feels much sharper. It’s still not what I’d call fun to drive, but it’s certainly more enjoyable. You still feel its body-on-frame bones, but they’re fresh bones. You still get a lot of body roll in the corners, but it’s a refined, controlled kind of body roll, if that makes any sense. Similarly, it still feels big and wide, but it’s pretty easy to drive and park once you get used to it.
On the highway, I’d even go so far as to call the new LX great. The cabin is quiet and isolated, and the engine has plenty of torque, making it an incredibly comfortable luxury cruiser. Just keep an eye on how fast you’re going because it’s almost too easy to blow past the speed limit without realizing it. Are you going 55 mph or 80 mph? The speedometer will tell you, but the rest of the car prefers to keep it a mystery.
That cabin isolation, along with the comfortable seats, meant that even after hours of driving by myself, I got back to the hotel feeling surprisingly fresh. And that was after barely touching the adaptive cruise control and other driver assist features, too.
So if you want to take the Lexus LX on a cross-country road trip, go ahead. I get the feeling it’ll eat up the miles no problem. And with an 8,000-pound tow rating, you should be able to take your boat, horses or travel trailer along with you for the adventure. Your gas mileage probably won’t be so great, but it’ll at least be better than in the last-gen LX.
Both Torch and I have plenty of complaints about the old LX 570, but there’s no denying it was an incredibly capable off-roader. You might balk at the idea of taking such an expensive SUV where dents, dings and scratches are inevitable, and there are plenty of trails that will be too narrow for such a big vehicle, but its capability made it one of those off-roaders where you’d have to look hard and go way off the beaten path to find something it couldn’t handle.
Unfortunately, in the interest of driver safety and vehicle preservation, Lexus didn’t choose a particularly challenging off-road course for us to test the new LX 600 on. Bad things can happen when you off-road alone, I get it, but that also means I can’t tell you much about its off-road limitations.
To be fair, it wasn’t a total cakewalk. I probably wouldn’t take a Subaru Forester on the trail we drove, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it in a Honda CR-V. It was just clear that the LX 600 was capable of handling far more serious trails, which meant I basically pointed it at an obstacle, and it drove over/through without any issue whatsoever.
One thing I can tell you for sure, though, is that both crawl control and the camera system are much better than they were before. Toyota’s and Lexus’s crawl control was already plenty competent, but in its latest form, it feels much more refined. I don’t know if a lot of people were demanding improvements, but they’re still appreciated. Especially in a 6,000 pound vehicle on road tires.
On the other hand, the LX 570’s camera system was in dire need of an update because the resolution was so low, it was almost useless. I’d still like to see higher-resolution cameras on the LX 600, but at least we’re talking “not as good as they could be” now as opposed to “completely unacceptable.” They get the job done, and when you’re trying to figure out where to place a wheel on the trail, that matters.
The forward-facing camera isn’t exactly a groundbreaking feature. Other off-roaders have had them for years. But it’s still incredibly useful on a narrow trail or when climbing a steep incline. As I mentioned before, the LX 600 is pretty wide, and I was by myself, so I appreciated being able to easily check my wheel placement, especially in the sections where I had to worry about possibly tumbling off the side of a ridge.
(We were provided walkie-talkies, so if something actually had gone wrong, I would have been fine. Probably. I just prefer to err on the side of not finding out how long it would have taken an emergency team to get to me as I hung upside down in a $100,000 SUV. I’m sure Lexus appreciated that approach, too.)
Aside from actually being able to see what I was looking at, the best part of the LX 600’s new camera system might be the setting that digitally erases the vehicle from the screen, showing you only the wheels and an outline of the vehicle itself. It’s still no replacement for spotters in a truly hardcore off-roading situation, but I still found it helpful. Also, it’s just generally a cool feature.
As you can probably tell by now, I generally liked the new LX 600. I won’t go as far as to say I fell in love with it, but it’s a good luxury SUV and far better than the LX 570 it replaces. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine how many buyers out there actually want to spend six figures on a luxury off-roader. And for those who do have the money, will they really want an LX?
The people I talked to at Lexus didn’t appear to be under any delusions about the LX 600 having mass-market appeal. They also pointed out that it’s an SUV that will be sold all over the world, meaning U.S. sales aren’t their only priority. Which is good because if I’m thinking about markets where the LX 600 makes the most sense, they’re not the U.S.
Unsurprisingly, they also named the Land Rover Range Rover as the SUV they’re most focused on stealing sales from. After that, it’s the Infiniti QX80 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS. Of the three, the QX80 buyer seems like the easiest conquest. Styling aside, it lines up the best with the LX on paper, and I don’t remember the Infiniti’s seats being nearly as comfortable. I could also see disaffected Range Rover buyers jumping ship for something that should be much more reliable. GLS buyers, on the other hand, seem like they’ll be much harder to get.
Interestingly, one of the people I spoke to said they aren’t particularly focused on the Mercedes-Benz G 550. Apparently, the $50,000-ish difference in base price puts G-Wagen buyers out of Lexus’s target demographic.
“But wait,” you might be thinking. “What about the Ultra-Luxury trim? $126,000 is pretty close to the G-Wagen’s base price. Shouldn’t that make it a tempting alternative?”
In theory, yes. But I also think the Lexus employee had a point. Mostly because the LX 600 Ultra-Luxury isn’t simply the fanciest version you can buy. It’s actually a four-seater aimed at buyers with a chauffeur. The setup is similar to the reclining back seats found in the LS 500 that we tested recently, although in the LX, you get a footrest that folds down from the front passenger seat for even more luxury. While plenty nice at lower price points, I’m also not sure the interior materials will be nice enough to draw in the kind of buyer who can afford a driver. At least in the U.S.
According to the numbers Lexus gave me, I’m probably not the only one who thought the LX 600 Ultra-Luxury will struggle to sell here. It currently expects about 90 percent of its sales to come from the Premium, F Sport and Luxury trims, leaving only a small number of buyers interested in the fully loaded four-seater.
The other thing that’s interesting about that breakdown is how few people Lexus thinks will actually buy the base model. That’s the one that’s supposed to attract Toyota Land Cruiser orphans. Even if you assume the base model will take the vast majority of that remaining 10 percent, based on recent sales numbers, that could mean Toyota’s leaving thousands of Land Cruiser buyers on the table every year with its decision to stop selling it here. What I suspect, though, is that Land Cruiser buyers willing to make the jump to Lexus will probably be interested in one of the higher trims. After all, if you can reasonably afford to spend $87,000 on a luxury SUV, what’s another $10,000 or $15,000?
If you read this review hoping I’d excoriate the new LX 600, I’m sorry to disappoint. It’s still not an SUV anyone actually needs, but thanks to a full redesign, a modern engine, new technology, and a more luxurious cabin, it’s no longer truly a “big, lumbering idiot-mobile.”
Even if the LX 600 isn’t for you personally, it’s still a newly redesigned Lexus, and I don’t feel bad about saying it’s a good luxury SUV. After all, Lexus doesn’t really build terrible vehicles. It may keep certain low-volume models such as the LX around long after they’ve started to feel outdated, but they’re very rarely uncompetitive right out of the gate.
That said, I’m sure plenty of people in the U.S. who can afford one will take their dollars elsewhere. After all, if you can accept that you’ll never do any serious off-roading, then why not buy something that’s more attractive or has better on-road driving dynamics? And if you actually do do a lot of off-roading, why not start with something cheaper and build the off-roader of your dreams?
As you can probably tell, I’m a little torn here. The styling’s not really my thing, and there are a few different choices I might have made here and there. But there aren’t many flaws I can point to as a reason not to like the new LX. On the other hand, can I say definitively that if you have $100,000 to spend, you should absolutely buy the new LX? Not really. Maybe my best advice is that if you think the new LX 600 might be for you, give it a test drive.
Am I refusing to pick a side here or damning the LX with faint praise? Not really. It’s just that six-figure off-road-capable luxury SUVs are in a pretty niche segment, and we’re talking about a pretty small number of potential buyers with a lot of financial flexibility who are all going to have different priorities.
Well, except for people who are shopping for an Infiniti QX80. They should almost definitely buy a new Lexus LX 600 instead.