The Lexus LX came about out of necessity. The early 1990s saw a rise in popularity of sport utility vehicles, and while several brands were offering luxury-oriented trim levels of their SUVs, there was no luxury-branded SUV on the market. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti were all young brands at the time, and all three decided to bring luxury SUVs to the market for the mid-90s. Lexus dipped into parent company Toyota’s model lineup and chose the stout, off-road-oriented Toyota Land Cruiser as the basis for the first Lexus LX. At the time, it was little more than a Land Cruiser with leather seats. Since its launch in 1996, though, the Lexus LX has retained its Land Cruiser roots but does more to separate itself from its more rough-and-tumble sibling.
What Is It?
This is a 2020 Lexus LX 570. The current LX is the largest SUV or crossover offered in the Lexus lineup, with seating up to seven. As the Toyota Land Cruiser has evolved, so has the LX, and both vehicles are in their third generation in the U.S. market. Riding on the “J200” platform, the 2020 LX 570 is still mostly a Land Cruiser. It uses the same 5.7 liter V8 engine found in the Land Cruiser and Toyota Tundra – in LX 570 spec, it requires premium fuel and produces 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque. That big V8 is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel-drive with a Torsen limited-slip center differential and low range gearing. Lexus includes a host of electronics to help with the LX 570’s off-road prowess – multiple terrain modes, low-speed “crawl control,” and Turn Assist (which brakes the inside front wheel to help pivot the LX in tight, loose-surface areas) are all controlled with buttons just aft of the shifter.
So far, the 200-series LX 570 is “just” a Land Cruiser. Where Lexus diverts most, though, is in the LX 570’s suspension. While the Land Cruiser rides on a traditional coil spring setup, the LX 570 uses a hydraulic suspension. Much like an old Citroën or Mercedes-Benz, the LX 570 has globe-shaped spheres that fill with hydraulic fluid to control both the ride height and suspension stiffness. The LX 570 offers three ride height settings, and can be raised three inches from its normal setting or lowered by two.
My particular LX 570 was also equipped with nearly every option Lexus offers for 2020, to include rear-seat entertainment, a fabulous Mark Levinson sound system, a refrigerator in place of the center armrest, and a six-thousand dollar “sport package” that only serves to make the off-road-oriented LX worse at off-roading thanks to bumper extensions and 21″ wheels with street-focused tires. Total MSRP of my 2020 Lexus LX 570 came to an eye-popping $105,000 or so.
Towing with the 2020 Lexus LX 570
I couldn’t say the last time I saw a Lexus LX being used to tow, well, anything – let alone a track car pulling in to the paddock. Lexus gives the LX 570 a 7,000 pound towing capacity, though, so I hooked up my enclosed trailer to see how the big Lexus would do. It’s worth noting that Lexus’ fancy AHC (Adjustable Height Control) suspension limits towing capacity compared to the Toyota Land Cruiser – the Land Cruiser is rated to pull 8,100 pounds by comparison.
Hooking up the trailer was a bit of an adventure. Lexus requires a portion of the rear bumper cover be removed to expose the hitch, which is common for an SUV. What’s less common, though, is having to lay on the ground and fuss with a flathead screwdriver to pop two plastic push-pins out of their homes and allow that cover to be removed. After exposing the hitch, I put the suspension in Low and disabled it temporarily, ensuring the truck wouldn’t try to load-level as I hooked up.
After securing the hitch ball, I plugged the trailer in to my Tekonsha Prodigy RF brake controller, and plugged the Prodigy RF in to the Lexus. This was also a bit of a pain, as the trailer plug is located high under the vehicle (ostensibly for protection while off-roading) and required I pull the bumper cover back a bit for clearance to open the cover and insert the plug.
Once hooked up, I attached my weight distribution bars to the hitch, re-enabled the AHC suspension, and hit the “Normal” setting. If I’d have gone over the rated payload, the LX would have thrown an error message my way and stayed in Low, to avoid damaging the spheres. In any case, my tongue weight was acceptable and the big Lexus slowly rose back up to a level ride height.
On the move, the LX 570 accelerated at a reasonable clip, though I wouldn’t call it “fast” loaded up. Lexus doesn’t offer a Tow/Haul mode, but sliding the shifter to Sport mode was good enough, as it held gears a bit longer before upshifting. Steering wheel paddles were helpful to downshift or hold a gear on grades. The big brakes worked fine to slow the rig for traffic and stop lights.
My biggest concern when towing with the LX 570 was stability. The LX has a fairly short wheelbase for a tow vehicle, at just 112″. Combined with the off-road focus of the AHC suspension, I was admittedly nervous. Enclosed trailers act like big sails in the wind, and the potential to get the rig a bit squirrely was real. I put the AHC in Sport mode to stiffen things up, which kept the LX under me even when some decent wind gusts tried to push me around. AHC in Normal did not offer such confidence.
So yes, the 2020 Lexus LX 570 can tow with reasonable grace. The setup process is annoying, though, if you’re towing with any sort of frequency. While I’d recommend it easily enough for those towing open trailers, I still have some reservations about it with an enclosed. It worked in a pinch, but didn’t leave me excited to tow my trailer a second time.
The LX Lexus Needed is Not What They Need Now
Lots of alliteration in that heading. Not sorry about it. The 2020 Lexus LX 570 is not, fundamentally, a bad vehicle. It’s a seven-seat SUV that has legitimate off-road chops and will be fine towing what many buyers would throw on the hitch. Yes, it feels outdated in several ways – technology being the most prominent – but it feels sturdy and well-built, using a proven drivetrain that should stay reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles.
The first-generation Lexus LX was launched because the brand had two vehicles in their lineup and needed a third, desperately. Making a Lexus Land Cruiser was what worked for the mid-nineties and it worked for a long time following. But as the large SUV market has evolved, especially in the luxury space, off-road ability has given way to better on-road manners with most other brands. If “capability” is mentioned, it comes with a longer wheelbase for better stability while towing.
Lexus doesn’t currently have a large, on-road-oriented seven-seater. Yes, they have the RX “L” that technically has seven seats, but it’s cramped. I believe Lexus has a big opportunity to replace the LX 570 with something new. Unibody construction, sublime on-road manners, true seating for seven, and a reasonable tow capacity out back. The fancy AHC suspension and low-range gearbox could stay, if buyers demand it.
I’m not alone in these thoughts. Many outlets have reported on such a vehicle, supposedly called the Lexus LQ and launching in 2022. As always, rumors are just rumors, and Lexus hasn’t announced any official plans to discontinue the big LX. Regardless, the writing is on the wall for the six-figure off-roader. I’m eager to see what’s next, in 2021 and beyond.