The 2021 Lexus LX 570 certainly feels like it’s a stand-in in a Jurassic Park movie when you see it in person. Based on the recently axed Toyota Land Cruiser and created in an era where off-road prowess and four weather capability trumped any notion of fuel economy and pavement friendly handling. The LX 570 was the answer to a simple question, what would happen if you took the rough and tumble Land Cruiser and swapped out its khaki shorts and T-shirt for a formal tuxedo. But the segment has flipped in terms of what people want, and hauling the family and having good fuel economy has become just as important as having the rugged capability to crawl up tricky obstacles. But can the LX 570 still hang with the big players in the luxury SUV segment? We hopped behind the wheel and were eager to find out.
Aging LX Exterior Styling Goes All In On Butch, Loses Poise
The exterior styling of the Lexus LX 570 certainly screams for attention but not for necessarily all the right reasons. The front fascia is still big and brawny with Lexus’s trademark spindle grille (obviously super-sized for this application) working in concert with the large headlights and the bumper-mounted LED foglights. The side profile is an obvious reminder of its Land Cruiser DNA, and the raised wheel arches are a clear sign of the massive amounts of ground clearance that this bruiser has to offer.
The rear styling is perhaps its wildest attribute, with the large taillights being infused into the rear liftgate. The styling here reflects current Lexus design tropes, but the LX feels like it’s stuck in a temporal time pocket. If you were to look at an LX from 2020 or even from 2016, the design has effectively become stagnated. And with the LX sternly following the Brezhnev doctrine, as a result, the SUV has quite literally been leap-frogged by many of its rivals. The Cadillac Escalade, for example, has gone through two different design updates, and the Lincoln Navigator has seen its fair share of lipstick and refinement.
Things only get more obvious when you look at European rivals like the Land Rover Range Rover and the Mercedes GLS, which have also benefitted from younger tech and slicker styling. While the blackout package on our Luxury grade tester added a sinister character to its clothes, it did little to hide the age-related wrinkles the LX carries around.
Old School Interior Brings Little New School Refinement To Luxury Seekers
The red-on-black color combonation on our tester helped bring some extra sportiness into the cabin, with vivid blood red seats being infused with contrasting black elements as well as the warm splashes of wood trim on the steering wheel and the dashboard. But with the LX effectively riding on an old platform, some of this DNA bleeds into the interior, too, with the LX bringing some truly old-school technology to buyers.
The 12.3-inch infotainment system, for example, is not controlled by Lexus’s slightly less annoying touchpad but rather by the antiquated joystick it replaced. The graphics on the screen are woefully out of date, and the cramped menus make navigating around an arduous and expletive-filled nightmare (cover your ears, kids.) Oh, and with a platform that was made back when Apple CarPlay and Android Auto didn’t exist, it seems ironically fitting that neither of them is offered here. The lone albeit curious exception is Amazon Alexa integration, a new addition for the 2021 model year.
But look past the infotainment system, and the cabin does manage to redeem itself in other ways. The front leather seats offer a high viewing position and are relatively comfortable places to spend time in. The LX also offers plenty of charging options with two charging ports, a wireless charging pad, and a 12-volt outlet. Second-row passengers also get charging options, but they are limited to only a standard 120-volt outlet and a 12-volt plug. The second row is also comfortable for shorter occupants, but taller passengers might find legroom a bit restrictive. As for the optional third row, it’s best folded down. The seats back there offer no room whatsoever and are best left folded down to help enhance cargo room.
Smooth LX Performance Is At Its Best Out On The Trail
According to Lexus, the big payoff for buyers willing to tolerate the old-school theme is the V8 that lurks under the hood. Unlike other SUVs in this segment, the LX 570 is a one-size-fits-all affair with a 383 hp 5.7 liter V8 being the lone engine here. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic, and while the transmission is pretty smooth, the combination has 6,100 lbs of SUV to lug around. That immense girth caused our tester to record a rather leisurely 7.3 second 0 to 60 time which is far behind a few of its rivals. The Mercedes-Benz GLS450, for example, is noticeably lighter than the Lexus and comes with less power too, but advanced turbocharging and electrification technology allows the Benz to make the same sprint in 5.3 seconds. The Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator also have quicker acceleration and have too benefitted from newer technology.
In addition to the weight preventing the LX from being a corner carver, it also prevents it from doing a good impression of a Prius, with the big Lexus averaging only a mere 12 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the freeway with an equally meager 14 mpg in combined driving. In a segment where the Navigator and the Range Rover both return 16 mpg in city driving, and the fore-mentioned Benz can achieve 19 mpg, the Lexus is noticeably much thirstier, and with the SUV preferring to drink premium-grade spirits, that translates into wallet-busting trips to the local gas station. On-road handling is a bit of a mixed bag, with the glass smooth ride quality being balanced out by steering that is heavy but way too vague for its own good. That helps create a disconcerting experience, with small corrections being needed to keep the big SUV straight on the freeway.
But while the LX will never have that aspect of its driving experience proudly posted on Lexus’s figurative refrigerator for all to see, the mood changes when you take the LX off-road, and it’s then that the madness starts to make sense. Taking our tester out on some light trails revealed a very capable billy goat with the center locking differential, two-speed transfer case, and a nifty air suspension, all allowing the LX to dominate many types of trail driving. That air suspension also helps give the LX 11-inches of ground clearance, allowing it to go places that many other SUVs can only dream about and make the Lexus into a formidable opponent for the equally capable Range Rover.
Pricing for the 2021 Lexus LX 570 starts at $86,830, which will get you a base two-row model with base three-row models starting higher at $93,350. Our lightly optioned tester came with several thousand in optional extras, which caused the price to climb to a total of $100,605 with taxes and fees factored in. While this is in the lower tier of the segment, that $100,000 figure is a lot for a vehicle this full of compromises and out-of-date technology.
Many of its rivals are double the LX’s figure when similarly equipped, but as mentioned prior, they also come with modern technology and, in some cases, slicker performance as well. However, the LX 570 has something many of them don’t, and that’s the ability to truly tackle rough terrain, with that trait gradually being smoothed out in the name of higher fuel economy and on-pavement performance. The Range Rover is just as capable as the LX, but it does suffer from glitchy electronics and does not have the baked-in reliability that Lexus’s gear has obtained through years of refinement.
With the next-generation Toyota Land Cruiser just now entering dealer supply in international markets (the U.S. is excluded), the next-generation LX could perhaps serve as an indirect representation of that model here in the U.S. It would benefit from the smaller turbocharged V6 that powers the latest Land Cruiser and some of the novel electronics and features that will help bring the big Lexus back in line with others in its segment. In the meantime, the current generation LX 570 is a very interesting diversion for luxury SUV buyers, but unless you’re the type that seeks old-school adventure, or if you need to go through uncharted lands to get to work, we cannot recommend it for the majority of buyers.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.