By Derek Price
Quick. Check your calendar. Is it 2003 again?
Judging from all the brawny, luxurious, gigantic off-road SUVs that are available at the top end of the market, it’s starting to feel a bit like a repeat of George W. Bush’s first term.
Bentley has unveiled the beefy Bentayga; Rolls-Royce is rumored to be working on one of its own called the Cullinan; and this week I’m driving the most over-the-top SUV Lexus has ever made, a heavily revamped LX 570 that feels like it could help you invade Iraq in the lap of luxury.
The LX has always been a wildly indulgent off-roader. It’s based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, so it’s designed to drive anywhere, on pavement or off, in Lexus’ wonderfully cushy and reliable fashion.
For 2016, the LX reaches a whole new level of excess.
It’s restyled, first of all, with the biggest-ever take on the brand’s “spindle” grille, making it the boldest caricature of off-road SUVs since the Hummer H2. With its new grille, the LX looks like it could eat the rest of Lexus’ lineup.
It’s raised the bar for luxury inside, too, with a TV-sized digital display in the middle of the dash that measures more than a foot diagonally and, optionally, two huge screens in the back seat for watching movies. The amount of digital space in this vehicle could be measured in acreage.
Its price tag is equally on the rise, with a starting point over $89,000 and an as-tested price close to $100,000.
For that amount of money, you’ve got to expect a lot, and the LX delivers. It’s one of the most capable and sumptuous vehicles on Planet Earth.
If you don’t believe that, well, just drive it all around Planet Earth. It’s designed to travel pretty much anywhere, with lots of ground clearance and a sophisticated four-wheel-drive traction system to get you out of the muck.
When Lexus gave me the chance to take it rock climbing and barreling through cow pastures in the Texas Hill Country, I couldn’t say no. I was also under no illusion that many people buy a $100,000 SUV to beat it up on the trails.
For what it’s worth, the LX handled the terrain exceptionally well, then transitioned to highway driving with a grace that few people outside the British royal family can pull off. It’s brilliantly quiet and silky at speed.
Believe it or not, taking a luxury vehicle off-roading isn’t the craziest thing I did in the LX 570. The wildest, and perhaps funniest thing about this SUV is one little button that lets you choose “Sport+” mode, sort of like the BMW M5, as if you’d take this huge SUV to the track.
I thought that was hilarious.
It also speaks to the breadth of capability for which the LX has been built. It’s designed to go anywhere and do anything — whatever you can throw at it.
Most of the time, it will be driving boys to baseball practice or picking up groceries in the suburbs. Let’s not kid ourselves.
But knowing what it can do — just having that insane capability in the back of your mind — is the greatest appeal of driving a go-anywhere SUV like this.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Lexus LX 570 ($88,880). Options: Wireless charger ($75), cool box ($170), 21-inch alloy wheels ($745), heads-up display ($900), Luxury Package ($1,190), Mark Levinson audio system ($2,350), dual-screen DVD system ($2,005), heated walnut steering wheel ($150). Price as tested (including $940 destination charge): $97,405
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 199.4 in.
Width: 78 in.
Height: 73.4 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter V8 (383 hp, 403 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway
2016 Lexus LX 570
Why buy it?
It does everything. It can crawl rocks, cover highway miles in serenity and carry appliances home, all with Lexus’ signature attention to detail.