SAN DIEGO Just when you thought luxury SUVs couldnt get any bigger, Lexus has increased the length of the redesigned LX 570 by nearly 4 inches and widened it by more than an inch.
Evidently, when you buy a luxury SUV that tops $80,000 fully optioned, added size and weight dont matter. It helps that the LX 570, despite the 405 pounds of added bulk and 115 more horsepower under the hood, gets the same claimed fuel economy as the LX 470 it replaces.
The basics: Its big 196.5 inches long though still 6 inches shorter than a Cadillac Escalade.
The LX 570 shares many of its underpinnings with the new Toyota Land Cruiser body-on-frame platform. That includes the 5.7-liter engine, front independent suspension and rear solid axles.
The larger engine and new six-speed automatic transmission can propel the three-ton LX 570 to 60 mph in seven seconds. More impressively, the LX 570 has best-in-class towing capacity: 8,500 pounds. Putting the brakes on all this weight are 13-inch ventilated disc rotors at all four wheels.
Notable features: Lexus upgraded the off-road capability of the LX 570. It features crawl control for more precise low-speed maneuvering down hills as steep as 45 degrees. The crawl control can be adjusted to 0.6, 2 or 3.2 mph in either forward or reverse gear.
In addition to full-time four-wheel drive, the LX 570 comes with active traction control and a Torsen limited-slip center differential. Adaptive variable suspension and variable ride-height controls are also part of the package. The antilock brakes adjust if they sense the vehicle is driving off-pavement.
Inside, all three rows of seats are powered. Second-row seats are heated and have 4 inches of slide travel. The front and rear blind spots are covered with cameras that display images on the navigation screen. Standard features include 20-inch wheels, four-zone climate control, adaptive front lighting, 10 airbags, power rear tailgate window and SmartAccess key fob.
The Yoshiwara, Japan, assembly plant where the Lexus 570 is built is plenty fussy. One stop on the line has four sensors to test the sound of the doors being closed. Toyota wants to assure an ear-pleasing thunk.
What Lexus says: The line between four-wheel-drive super chassis and plush, luxurious sedan has been blurred more than ever before, Lexus Division boss Mark Templin said at the media introduction here.
Compromises and shortcomings: The crawl control actuators are bolted to the master cylinder assembly, which is bolted to the firewall. As a result, there is a tremendous clattering in the cabin whenever the crawl control is working. Also, the rear tailgate is unhelpfully split, rather than being a one-piece design.
The market: Lexus needs the LX 570 to turn around its premium-SUV sales. In 2006, Lexus sold 5,595 LX 470s, and sales are down 54.0 percent through November in its sell-down year. Templin hopes to sell about 8,500 units of the new model.
Lexus says current LX owners have had household incomes of $380,000, double that of their competitors. The marketing campaign will use the slogan, The Driver Empowered.
The skinny: If any of these vehicles ever sets foot on dirt, Ill eat my hat. Too bad, because the Lexus is a very competent off-roader. But its the opulent interior that really wins the prize.