Test Drive Review: The 2022 Lexus LX 600 Tries To Take Over Off-Road Duties For The Toyota Land Cruiser
For 2022 Toyota has consolidated its line-up of off-road friendly, full-size SUVs down to a single option. Gone is the long-running, but slow-selling Land Cruiser, a vehicle whose near-luxury pricing restricted its appeal to that narrow demographic of buyers who craved a go-anywhere family ride with premium pretensions, and who could tolerate a more pedestrian badge on the hood. In its place is a redesigned version of the Lexus LX. Dubbed the LX 600, it continues to twin the Land Cruiser's platform (with the Toyota still available in other parts of the world), and modernizes several aspects of the older LX model that were sorely lacking when compared against other high-end sport-utility vehicles of the same size.
The LX hasn't exactly been a sales champ for Lexus, either, but with its even higher window sticker it's been easier for the Japanese automaker to justify its relatively modest metrics. For 2022, however, the new LX 600 has been tagged to not just compete with other full-size, three-row luxury trucks, but also absorbing any Land Cruiser loyalists who are willing to step up their monthly payment to stay in the family. It's a delicate balancing act that takes the Lexus a little outside of its comfort zone, and in some ways keeps it from truly reaching its high end potential as compared to more successful rivals.
If you're one of the few and the proud willing to defect from the Land Cruiser ranks and transfer your flag to Lexus, then you'll discover that LX 600 certainly puts its best foot forward on the trail. The SUV is loaded with features designed to make short work of difficult terrain, including several off-road driving modes, a low-speed cruise control system, 8.9 inches of total ground clearance (including the option of a hydraulic height control system), an available Torsen limited-slip differential at the rear (as found on my F Sport trim tester), and full-time four-wheel drive with a center differential lock and low-range.
Still, there are some confusing aspects to how Lexus has doled out the above-listed equipment. The base model LX 600 (which retails for nearly $87,000), features 18-inch wheels and tires that are clearly intended to better handle difficult driving conditions, as compared to the 22-inchers found elsewhere, but that Torsen rear is exclusive to the F Sport (MSRP $102,345). You also can't get the hydraulic suspension on the entry-level LX (although it's primary purpose is to kneel the SUV for easier entry). The end result is a 'sport' model with gear that off-road fans covet, and an 'off-road' edition that's somewhat barebones when it comes to specialized equipment.
It's also worth noting how the LX 600 makes few body-related accommodations to the rigors of rock climbing. With low-handing running boards and a low front fascia, you'll stress about catching, cracking, or denting both plastic and steel when exploring any frontier wilder than a muddy two-track, further indication of the compromises inherent in the Lexus' Land Cruiser impersonation.
New Chassis, Familiar Packaging
There is one aspect of the Lexus LX 600 that is a direct match for the Toyota SUV it replaces: the same 'golden ratio' that has governed Toyota's full-size off-roaders since the late-90s, a standard that dictates track width, length, and wheelbase to keep them from getting too unwieldy when venturing off-pavement.
For 2022, that translates into a footprint for the LX 600 that is virtually identical to the model that came before it, even as the entire vehicle transitions to the new body-on-frame platform (complete with rear stick axle) also enlisted by the Tundra pickup. More than 400 pounds lighter than the chassis it replaces, it unfortunately hobbles the Lexus in two key ways.
The first is on-road feel. Even with adaptive dampers, the LX 600 often displays a Goldilocks-level of 'too soft / too stiff' when trying to find a setting that's comfortable in daily driving while also keeping body roll to a minimum. Compared to other large haulers like the unibody BMW X7, or even the full-frame Cadillac Escalade, the Lexus doesn't have the same poise one would expect from such a pricy vehicle.
Equally disappointing is its interior room. While the LX's front seat checks out, the second and third rows are remarkably tight, with the latter especially awkward to access due to the required tumble-forward of the split middle bench. The floor-sitting pop-up at the very rear of the SUV is an improvement over the space-robbing side-mounted jump seats that used to be an LX feature, but with a full load of passengers cargo room in the truck drops to nil.
Both base and top-tier models actually ditch the third row entirely, and considering the competition, its modest interior dimensions are a big black mark on the Lexus' report card.
Where the 2022 Lexus LX 600's interior does pull ahead of its past is on the dashboard, where the brand's borderline-unusable infotainment interface has been replaced by a pair of touchscreens that present well and which are buttressed by a bounty of physical buttons.
Big Power Add
It's also worth handing out kudos to the LX 600 for its new twin-turbo V6. The 3.5L unit is a near-direct lift from the Tundra, and it's good for a healthy 409 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, numbers that put it well ahead of the V8 engine it replaces. Torque comes on at a very low 2,000 rpm, which makes it easy to dole out during a low-speed crawl, and it's far more efficient, too, thanks in part to a more modern 10-speed automatic transmission that boosts miles per gallon to 19 combined.
I was pleased with the punch of the turbocharged six, which responded to calls to pass with vim and vigor, if not much in the way of aural excitement. That makes sense for a luxury model like the Lexus, even if the F Sport trim I drove was meant to evoke a competitive fire. With such a tall ride height, and the aforementioned solid rear axle setup, there's not much call to push the LX 600 past the point of comfort, which arrives much more quickly than one would expect.
Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Where does this leave Land Cruiser fans? Most likely searching second-hand listings for a good-condition example of the previous year's model rather than making the shift over to Lexus land. The LX 600 simply isn't committed enough to either its off-road shtick to make a convincing appeal to deep-pocketed buyers, especially when both the Land Rover Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class are in the offing.
At the same time, the Lexus' muted valet station sashay won't drag customers away from BMW, Audi, et al, with even upstarts like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer presenting a more compelling—and useful—cabin for roughly the same money. Caught between two worlds, despite its positive points the Lexus LX 600 simply isn't able to forge a strong connection on either side of the luxury off-road divide.
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