The next-generation Toyota Land Cruiser debuted in these pages last November, and as you probably could've guessed, that meant that an all-new Lexus equivalent would be making an appearance soon afterward. And while it's assembled at the same Toyota Auto Body plant in Yoshiwara, Japan,as the Land Cruiser, the new LX 570 fullsize SUV is not merely a repackaged Toyota. With its own exterior sheetmetal, ultra-lux interior trim, and some trick new suspension technology, the LX deserves to be treated as a force in its own right.
Those familiar with the new LC and Tundra pickup will recognize the LX 570's basic mechanicals: 5.7L iForce V-8 rated at 383 hp and 403 lb-ft for this platform, AB60 six-speed automatic, and JF2A twospeed full-time transfer case with 2.62:1 low-range. The really big news, however, can be found beneath the framerails, where an all-new independent A-arm front/four-link rear suspension system utilizes Lexus-exclusive computer-managed hydraulics to lift and lower the vehicle as much as 3 inches on demand (depending on drive mode; it raises automatically in 4-Lo), and to re-tune spring rates and shock damping on the fly; total wheel travel is claimed at 9 inches in front, 10 inches in the rear. The new system is said to reduce body lean by as much as 30 percent at road speeds via diagonally linked shock chambers-and while we can't vouch for that figure (road feel and lateral stability seemed just a tad spongy on pavement, even in "Sport" mode), the new suspension struck us as far more responsive, and much quicker to react, to undulating terrain at trail speeds than the older (and still quite good) electromechanical Kinetic Dynamic system it replaces. Despite our best efforts to cross up the new LX on some steep and deep-rutted two-tracks, it was much more diffi cult for us to lift a tire off the ground than we would've guessed for a vehicle of this type.
Another good reason for the adjustableheight suspension: the LX's front and rear overhangs are considerable, and even at max suspension height, approach and departure angles-at 27 and 23 degrees, respectively-wouldn't seem exactly optimal for serious trail work. Another thing: You can only get a 20-inch rim with the new LX (argh), though our Toyota engineering sources assure us that 18s (and probably 17s, too) will clear the LX's brake rotors.
On the other hand, with a Torsen center diff-lock, triple skidplates (oilpan, transfer case, and fuel tank), twin tow hooks up front, and solenoid-driven Crawl Control, the Lexus is certainly not unequipped for the trail, and with all this technology-as well as a claimed fording depth of 28 inches and a max sidehill angle of 43 degrees-the LX will happily tackle a lot of trails that most vehicles in this class can only dream about. As with the Land Cruiser, the Crawl Control ultra-low speed-holding system is loud and rattly, and it'll shake the seat of your pants (but thankfully not the well-isolated steering). It also, however, indisputably works, so just think of it as the automotive equivalent of one of those Magic Finger thingies you used to find in many of America's finest motels, and enjoy the occasional lower-back massage while you're crawling. And you don't even need to feed it any quarters.
The LX is also set up to work with a 9.5-inch solid rear axle sourced from the Tundra pickup, standard auxiliary transmission and steering-box coolers, and seven-pin connector for the Class IV rear hitch; tow rating is a claimed 8,500 pounds, and while there's no integrated trailer brake controller offered, the LX comes already prewired for one. We spent an hour towing a twinaxle flatbed loaded with some 8,000 pounds of weights, and while the 5.7L labors slightly under initial throttle, cruising speeds are easy to maintain once achieved, and the Lexus's superior brakes-which tend to be a bit grabby under normal conditions-showed predictable amounts of fade and were easy to modulate. We also appreciated having the backup warning camera to aid in lining up the hitch with the trailer tongue-we don't tow too often, but even we were able to get it right the first time.
And of course, inside, the LX offers a quiet and seductive blend of leather and walnut trim, along with a mind-boggling array of pushbuttons and toggles to control the drive modes, suspension, Crawl Control, airbag disable, roll stability, the diff-lock, the traction control, and so on. The Luddites among us will doubtless be dismayed, and all that switchgear does take a bit of time to get acquainted with, but anyone familiar with current Toyota truck interiors won't find the LX's cockpit layout hopelessly unrecognizable.
The new LX wasn't available in time for our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year test last February, so we'll include it in our field for 2009. As impressed as we were with its sister Land Cruiser, we'd have to admit, upon first impression, that Lexus seems to have dialed up the LX's Trail Quotient a notch above the new Cruiser's. And yes, it'll likely sport a sticker price that reflects its abilities. Models should be rolling into dealer showrooms by the time you read this.
Impressive adjustable suspension; strong-pulling V-8; handy front- and sideview cameras; flowing body lines; pimpin' on 20s; hey, it's still got a low-range gear!
Shake, Rattle, & Crawl Control; mega-electronics require a slightly steep learning curve; iffy approach and departure angles; pimpin' on 20s; price likely to be non-journalist-friendly.
Not your typical fullsize luxo-ute, the new LX is far more capable in the rough stuff than you'd imagine-and it'll make you look mighty good getting there, too.
Vehicle/model: 2008 Lexus LX 570
Base price: $73,800
Engine: 5.7L DOHC V-8
Max Hp & Torque (Lb-Ft): 383/403
Transmission: AB60F six-speed automatic
Transfer case: JF2A full-time two-speed
Low-range ratio: 2.62:1
Frame type: Boxed steel
Suspension, f/r: Electrohydraulic IFS, double wishbones, coil springs, active height control/Toyota 9.5-inch solid axle, electrohydraulic four-link, trailing arms, coil springs, Panhard rod
Max crawl ratio: 34.1:1
Steering: Variable power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13.4x1.3-inch vented disc/13.6x.71-inch vented disc
Wheels (tested): 20x8.5 aluminum alloy
Tires (tested): 285/50R20 Dunlop PT24 Grandtrek
Wheelbase (in): 112.2
Length (in): 196.5
Height (in): 73.4
Base curb weight (lb): 5,995
Max approach/departure angles (deg.): 27/23
Min ground clearance (in): 8.9
GVWR (lb): 7,275
Max cargo volume (cu. ft.): 83.1
Max towing capacity (lb): 8,500
EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): 12/18
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6