Weekend Wheels: Lexus LX 570 is a blast from the past

That’s disappointing. I really expected to see an 8-track player in the dash. And maybe crushed velour on the seats.

I’m not saying that the 2020 Lexus LX 570 flagship SUV is old, but it’s based on Toyota’s Land Cruiser that, I’m reliably informed, was a daily-driver for Noah when he was building the Ark. 

Yet Lexus loyals love their LXs, and keep on buying them. Over 4,700 last year. The same in 2018. And that’s with a base sticker of $88,775, or in the case of our tester, an eye-watering $100,290 nicely loaded.

I guess once you’ve experienced all that buttery semi-aniline leather, heard Barry Manilow on the 19-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system, and experienced Lexus best-of-the-best quality and reliability, it’s hard to change.

Of course, the LX has had a few nip-tuck-and-Botox facelifts since its 2007 debut. The last one — in 2015 — grafted that polarizing and truly huge “spindle” grille to the nose. There are Peterbilts with less flashy schnozzes.

Yet I’m still confused why Lexus, and its Toyota parents, haven’t splashed the cash on a state-of-the-art replacement. After all, full-size SUVs here in the U.S. are selling faster than Charmin six-packs at Publix.

Instead, Lexus watches as Cadillac unveils its terrific new 2021 Escalade, Lincoln its Range Rover-like Navigator, BMW a dynamic new X7 and Mercedes a supremely capable new GLS. 

Don’t get me wrong, the LX is still a Lexus. It’s beautifully built, beautifully equipped, whisper-quiet, spacious, capable of clambering up the side of Everest and making a huge statement in the school drop-off-your-kids line. 

And it seems female buyers are especially partial to this full-size LX. According to J.D. Power research, 46 per cent of LX570 owners are women, compared to just 31 per cent for large premium SUVs as a whole. 

Climb aboard — gracefully, thanks to the wide running boards, beefy hand-holds and air suspension that lowers the truck — and luxuriate in those Barcalounger-like front seats.

From this elevated throne you can gaze at the lovely open-pore walnut timber, caress the exquisite hand-stitched leather, and run your hands over the divine wood-and-leather helm.

Care for a cold beverage? Lift the lid on the center console and there’s a built-in cooler for your designer water. 

A nod to modernity is the large, landscape-format 12.3-inch infotainment glass screen mounted on top of the dash. A nod to obscurity is the mouse-style controller (it puts the “in” in “infuriating”) and the lack of either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Seat-wise, you can opt for the standard five-seat layout or spend an extra $5,000 for a third row. Don’t bother; these two extra rear seats fold up and to the sides, rather than into the floor, dramatically reducing cargo space.

Powering this three-ton leviathan is Toyota’s trusty and proven, naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter V8. Like the LX, it’s as old as dirt.

But with 383 horseys and 403 lb-ft of torque on tap, it certainly doesn’t lack for mechanical muscle. It punches the LX away from standstill with determination, rushing to 60mph in around seven seconds, its 8-speed automatic slicing through the gears like a chainsaw through butter. 

It’s at its best cruising the highways and byways with the speedo needle stuck at 75. Hardly a murmur emerges from under the hood and with the drive setting on Comfort, the air suspension does a fine job of delivering a magic carpet-like ride.

It’s best to stay away from the twisty bits, though, as the geriatric body-on-frame chassis, unsophisticated suspension and numb steering do little to boost confidence. 

The LX’s Land Cruiser origins, however, mean that if you need to go off-road, the LX is unstoppable. 

Yes, there’s a lot to like about this blast from the past. As with writing thank-you notes with a fountain pen, wearing a wind-up watch and listening to vinyl records, there’s something characterful and charming about it. 

But with much more appealing rivals out there, ultimately it’s tough to recommend.

Want to see for yourself? Call up Lexus of Tampa Bay in Tampa, Lexus of Clearwater, or Lexus of Wesley Chapel for a test drive.