Off-Road History: How the Lexus LX Became the Luxury Land Cruiser
As you are reading this, the release of the next generation Lexus LX SUV is imminent, and for many, heavily anticipated. A big reason for that is the current LX platform dates all the way back to 2007.
And while we await the debut of the next gen LX, we thought now would be a good time to take a look back at the history and evolution of the "Land Cruiser in a Suit."
First Gen (LX450)
The Lexus LX450 was first introduced back in 1995 and was the first of what would it be many different SUVs to be sold under the Lexus brand. But rather than a ground-up design, the first generation LX was a rebadged version of the 80-series Toyota Land Cruiser.
As its name attests, it was powered by a 4.5L 1FZ-FE inline six engine, and aside from the expected luxury appointments, it was virtually identical to its less expensive Toyota counterpart.
The mid 1990s were a good time to debut a new luxury SUV, and despite being an expensive and rather niche vehicle in the American market, the LX450 ended up being a big success, especially considering the small amount of resources used to develop it.
This was after all right around the time America's first big SUV boom was going, and buyers of all types flocked to these large, well-appointed haulers. The LX450 checked all of those boxes and just happened to share all of its DNA with the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser.
Second Gen (LX470)
Not surprisingly, a second generation Lexus LX was introduced for the 1998 model year, larger and more refined than the vehicle it replaced. It was once again based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, this time on the 100 series and its name change to LX470 signified a larger and more powerful engine under the hood.
Gone was the old inline six and in its place a new 4.7L 2UZ-FE V8 that delivered both increased horsepower and a velvety smooth character.
While its Land Cruiser origins were still extremely obvious, the second generation LX did have a bit more "Lexus" in its styling, particularly on the front end which looked like a truck version of the Lexus GS sport sedan.
Interestingly, there was even a version of the LX470 sold in Japan called the Land Cruiser Cygnus, which was a luxury version of the many Land Cruiser models sold in the homeland.
Third Gen (LX570)
In 2007 the third generation LX debuted, based on the 200-series Land Cruiser and now called LX570. While not much bigger than the vehicle it replaced, the LX570 did get a much larger engine.
It was now powered by Toyota's 5.7L 3UR-FE V8, which like the previous V8 was also used in other trucks and SUVs like the Toyota Tundra and Toyota Sequoia.
Initially, the LX570 carried on the tradition of being a more upmarket but very similar looking vehicle to the 200 series Land Cruiser, which in the US market was powered by the same 5.7 liter V8.
And while the underpinnings have stayed the same, the LX570 has undergone a series of updates with each one adding more and more Lexus personality.
First the LX received a toned down version of the Lexus spindle grille (sometimes called "Predator face" by critics), and then in 2015 it got a dramatic makeover, with an entirely unique front end, rear end and even a new glass profile in the rear.
The original bones of the tried and true 200-series Land Cruiser were still there, and mechanically it was still very much the same - but the LX has never looked more different from its Toyota counterpart.
One thing that the modern LX most certainly shares with the Land Cruiser is its legendary off-road capability. And for those who can afford the LX has remained one of the best off-road platforms you can get, with all of the same aftermarket support as the Land Cruiser.
So even if might not have the same name recognition as its Land Cruiser counterpart, for 4x4 enthusiasts in America the Lexus LX has long carried the torch of being Toyota's flagship adventure machine.
Looking back at them now. Despite the fact that the LX was more expensive, better equipped and even more popular than its Land Cruiser counterpart, your average secondhand LX is actually priced less than a Land Cruiser in the same condition.
Perhaps because more people prefer the Land Cruiser's adventurous and timeless branding rather than the whiff of American market luxury?
Whatever the case, whether its old or new the Lexus LX has done a great job of taking the Land Cruiser's world famous capability and reliability and packaging it in a more luxurious wrapper.
We'll certainly be excited to see what's in store for the new fourth generation model when its revealed in the coming months.
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