You can't buy a new Toyota Land Cruiser in the U.S. The legendary off-roader was discontinued here at the end of the 2021 model year, which happened to be the last year for the 200-series, introduced in 2008. The rest of the world gets the new, 300-series Land Cruiser for 2022. We get this: The Lexus LX600, a vehicle that attempts to be the flagship of the Lexus luxury lineup while simultaneously serving as the only way Americans can buy a new Land Cruiser.
Talk about conflicting orders.
Like all previous Lexus LX models, the LX600 is luxuriated and lightly restyled vehicle built on Land Cruiser bones. For 2022, that means the new TNGA-F platform, a conventional ladder frame setup that also underpins the new Tundra pickup. Engineers claim that the new TNGA-F-based LX sheds nearly 450 pounds compared to the previous model, achieving a lower center of gravity, better weight distribution, and a roomier interior without meaningfully changing the vehicle's dimensions.
That's right. The LX is perhaps the only full-size luxury SUV in modern history that hasn't grown larger with a new generation. The 112.2-inch wheelbase is identical to the outgoing model; overall length and width are within an inch of the previous generation. Way back in 1998, Toyota enshrined the 100-series Land Cruiser's wheelbase, track width, and suspension travel dimensions in a "golden ratio," idealized for off-road performance; the new Land Cruiser adheres to the golden ratio, and thus, so does the LX.
So don't expect Escalade ESV roominess when you hop inside. Slide behind the Lexus's button-festooned steering wheel, and you're greeted with a high, upright seating position facing a rather shallow and steep dashboard. There's plenty of headroom, but the wide, squared-off center console pushes the seats outward, sitting you strangely close to the door panels. The passenger footwell is oddly shallow, too—the dashboard hangs down pendulously, and you end up sneaking your feet up into a carve-out that hides your toes from view. I was able to sit comfortably behind my six-foot self in the second row, though with the front seats adjusted where I like them, my knees grazed the seatbacks. The third row has a tiny indented footwell and an inch less headroom than I'd need to fit comfortably.
The new LX has two touchscreens: The landscape-oriented one up top controls infotainment and navigation; the smaller one beneath it handles HVAC and vehicle settings like drive modes and off-road features. The dashboard holds a slew of old-fashioned physical buttons in Toyota-traditional matte black, and while they're not particularly stylish to behold, you'll be grateful for them, because that upper touchscreen—the one you'll interact with the most—is almost impossible to reach with your seatbelt fastened. It's as far away from the driver as the gauge cluster, and the right-hand edge is completely outside the breadth of most people's wingspan. You'll end up using voice activation for most functions (assuming you've got the cellular coverage necessary for the car to compute what you're requesting); your front-seat passenger will struggle to take control of the volume knob, which might just be why Lexus put it where they did.
There's a strange, pectoral groove running down the hood. It gives you a nice, clear look at what's looming ahead of the front bumper (something sorely lacking in every full-size GM pickup and SUV), but mostly it made me wish Lexus had skipped the weird power-bulges entirely. The A-pillars are chunky enough that I sometimes needed to peer around them on tight mountain switchbacks.
There's one fun perspective trick at play in the new LX, and it has to do with the doors. From either front seat, the doors feel impossibly thin, like what you'd find in an Eighties 4x4. It helps the cabin feel more airy, and encourages you to hook your elbow over the window sill like your grandpa used to do. It feels like a throwback to early-days Land Cruisers, before sound deadening and side-impact regulations. It's a ruse: Just a few inches below the sill, the exterior door panel bows out into the thick, hefty cross-section you expect of a modern car. It just happens low enough that it's entirely out of sight from inside the car. It's a nifty little trick.
That power-pec hood may be visual compensation for the secret lurking beneath: The new LX ditches the venerable 5.7-liter, 383-hp V-8 for a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6. It looks a little lost in there, hunched up against the firewall and almost completely obscured by plastic paneling. There's about two feet of space between the front of the engine and the nose of the car, most of it filled with crumple-zone structure. Hate to break it to you, but only about 30 percent of that chin-to-forehead grille is actually open to airflow.
The V-6 serves up 409 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 479 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm, fed through a 10-speed automatic to a full-time four-wheel drive system. The drivetrain is charmless, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. You barely hear the engine, even at full throttle, when a slight murmur of synthetic sounds wafts through the speakers. Shifts from the 10-speed automatic are glassy smooth—gear changes are not accompanied by any physical sensation, only a change in engine note. You'll never hear a whisper of turbo noise, either.
The acceleration is sufficient but certainly not quick. What you get with every prod of the accelerator—aside from a clunky second-to-first downshift, the truck preferring to start in second, ostensibly for fuel economy—is a Sixties muscle-car's worth of suspension squat. The LX's body control is borderline goofy. You don't even need to drive it aggressively: Simply bending it into a sweeping curve, accelerating to pass a trundling truck, or slowing for a short off-ramp will bring spring-horse body motions. I get it. This is a high-clearance vehicle, built on a platform designed for serious off-road performance. I'm not saying it should corner like a sports car, and to its credit, the Lexus feels light for its size, never out of control. But the pitching and rolling motions will have you slowing down long before you even hear a whimper from the tires. This vehicle does not encourage you to break the speed limit.
Despite the soft springs and dampers, the LX has a habit of telegraphing small, low-amplitude pavement imperfections to the seat of your pants. It's the same thing you'll find in most full-size pickup trucks: that subtle shiver that runs down the rig's spine as you drive across cracks or ripples in the road surface. At first, I thought it was just the roads I was driving: Lexus held the media drive of the new LX600 in the high desert outside of Santa Fe. Most of my driving was on beautiful rural two-lanes with neglected pavement. But traversing those same roads in a current Lexus RX crossover (unibody, with pavement-tuned four-wheel independent suspension) produced none of that shuddering sensation. I would blame it on the LX's body-on-frame construction, but GM and Mercedes both manage to basically eliminate this quiver from their ladder-frame SUVs.
How does the big Lexus do off-road? The automaker provided a short, simple dirt two-track to demonstrate the LX's off-pavement prowess. Suffice it to say, the example I was driving, which rode on 22-inch wheels and street tires, had no trouble traversing the small handful of steep hills and tight turns. Lexus gave the new LX a suite of electronic off-road aids, including an off-road cruise control that automatically plays the throttle and brake to maintain a steady crawl up to 3 mph. During my 15 minutes of light off-roading, I found it smoother to simply handle the speed controls myself. There is one helpful digital aid, a turn-assist system that locks the inside rear brake to help pivot the rig around a tight turn. In an impromptu test on a dirt lot, I found the turn assist reliably shaves about 2 feet off the truck's turning radius, though the system gets unhappy and disengages if it thinks you're just turning circles pointlessly on a flat patch of dirt.
The LX600 comes in five trim levels: Standard, in 5-passenger layout for $86,900; Premium, with seating for 7, for $95,000; F Sport Handling, at $101,000; Luxury, at $103,000; and Ultra Luxury, for a whopping $126,000. That top trim eliminates the third row of seats, and gets two massaging captain's chairs in the second row. Plop yourself in the right-rear seat, and with the touch of a button, your chair will recline up to 48 degrees and the front passenger seat will motor forward, with a leather-trimmed footrest emerging. It's the chauffeur-spec vehicle, with the stretch-out seating you'd find on a business-class flight.
And that's the conflict at the heart of the LX600. It's built on the bones of the new Land Cruiser, a vehicle painstakingly designed for off-road capability. It's meant to serve those U.S. buyers who still want a Land Cruiser—note that the $86,900 base price is fractionally cheaper than the $89,110 starting price you'd have paid for a 2021 model-year Cruiser. And yet, the very same vehicle, in slightly different trim, is meant to be the top-tier luxury flagship of the Lexus lineup, a private jet on four wheels—despite being locked into the same dimensions as the previous two generations.
It's a tall order to try to make one vehicle achieve both of those disparate goals. What you end up with is a compromise: A luxury vehicle with an off-roader's dynamics, an off-roader with a limousine price tag. I'm not convinced that the LX600 excels at either.
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