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Executive Wheels: 10-Year-Old Guts in a 2018 Model

A hefty price tag for the 2017 Lexus LX 570 5-door SUV

Jeff Rundles //April 5, 2018//

Executive Wheels: 10-Year-Old Guts in a 2018 Model

A hefty price tag for the 2017 Lexus LX 570 5-door SUV

Jeff Rundles //April 5, 2018//

This is the BIG Lexus, and it lives up to that in that it is a very large SUV. If you saw one on the streets – and you may be hard-pressed to do so because they sold just more than 6,000 nationwide in 2017 – you might recognize it, or rather identify it as a Toyota Land Cruiser because, basically, it is. Oddly, the much-more-famous Land Cruiser from Lexus’ parent company saw only 3,100 units sold in the U.S. in 2017; so I guess Lexus has stolen the thunder, although it is somewhat muted at these sales numbers. I suppose it’s no wonder these models don’t sell more in that the base prices are $85,380 for the LX 570 and $84,315 for the Land Cruiser. That is, of course, an expensive neighborhood. By the way, the 2018 model is now listed on the Lexus web page, but there is no indication of any changes, so I was given the 2017 model. Oh, there was one change: The base price for the three-row, eight-seat LX model went from $89,380 for the 2017 I drove to $90,380 for the 2018 iteration.

I always have fun driving these SUVs for a week and imagining myself as the owner. Of course, it is all fantasy since I didn’t shell out 85 grand, and I didn’t have to gas it up at the gas-guzzling 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway EPA rating. But the LX 570 is loaded with every kind of technology available (except self-driving), every safety feature, every entertainment option, every luxury appointment, and, to be sure, the Lexus nameplate which, if you visit the Lexus website, is a source of great pride for the company.

Given all that, and the anticipated oohs and aahs from the other jealous drivers who just know that it’s a loaded $90,000+ vehicle yet, an odd thing happened. I didn’t get the ooh and aahs. Every woman I encountered on my week-long test drive took one look at it and proclaimed the LX 570 “ugly.” That‘s what they said. “Ugly.” I was surprised. Men sort of shrugged, as if to say “no big deal.”

Something’s going on here.

I think I know what it is. There are actually two reasons:

  1. Age
  2. Competition

On the age factor, it should be noted that the LX 570 has been in production since the 1996 model year: 22 years in 2018, and is only in its third generation. Indeed, this vehicle was launched in 2008, 10 years ago, with three subsequent “face-lifts” in that time. These adjustments, I assume, were enacted to keep up with the rapid pace of technology – and this 2017 model is loaded – but the basic guts of the vehicle, the body shape and styling, the engine, haven’t changed at all.

This is a 10-year-old vehicle.

The age factor leads to the competition factor. In the subsequent 10 years the competition – chiefly Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, Land Rover on the large SUV side – have advanced significantly when it comes to styling and engines. They just look better these days, and they have slightly better engines in terms of power and fuel efficiency. This competition factor is also extant if you drop down in size and price range: There are many, many SUVs and crossovers that are better looking, more stylish, more efficient and, frankly, much more exciting in the slightly smaller and less expensive range, and at least one of them – the NX — is a Lexus.

Tough to be your own competition.

Plus, you have to add in the Land Cruiser itself. In production in one form or another since 1951 – yes, 67 years – this venerable vehicle, as recent sales figures show, has fallen on hard times and suffers from the same age and competition factors as its Lexus counterpart. Both of these vehicles – or rather this vehicle in its two iterations – are in need of more than a face lift, rather an entire rethinking.

From a technology point of view, from both the safety and entertainment standpoints, there is nothing lacking. While they haven’t bothered to update the vehicle, the technology is the latest.

So I’m left to tell you what I liked and didn’t like, and let the chips fall.

First and foremost, I liked driving the LX570. This is a thick, muscular vehicle. It’s no speed demon, but it’s obviously tough and well built, and has a magnificent luxury feel from the driver’s seat. There are all kinds of cockpit adjustments you can make to the full-time all-wheel-drive – high and low AWD, lifers and levelers for height adjustments – that could allow anyone to take it off-road and meet next to any challenge. Why anyone would want to off-road in a $97,000 vehicle – after options – is beyond me. It’s rugged if you want. It drives great around town – it handles well, has a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, plenty of power and it is very quiet.

Other likes: In the console, under the armrest, is a “cool box” cubby that keeps drinks cold. Also, the rear seat entertainment system features two huge HD screens mounted on the back of the front bucket seats.

Other dislikes: Like most luxury vehicles, and it gets progressively worse the more expensive they are, is very clunky technology. All the tech is here, but the huge (and distracting) screen isn’t a touch screen, and you have to maneuver a very clumsy mouse-like device to do anything, like switching bands on the radio, getting to climate controls, etc. Way too many distracted driving probabilities. Also, it had a heated steering wheel feature, but it only got warm in the very middle where its leather wrapped; the wood-grain part, the majority of the wheel, didn’t. For $90k I want warmer hands. Furthermore, for $90k I wanted a bigger sunroof.

And it should be noted, while the engine – a 5.7-liter V8 rated at some 383 horsepower – is powerful enough for mountain driving and hauling many people and much gear, and I am sure it could haul a boat or trailer, I would have liked the vehicle to have more acceleration power. Kind of weak in the torque department.

Okay, as I said, the base price here is $89,380, and the same vehicle for 2018 is $1,000 more, they added on a few thing – including $975 in destination charges – like a wireless phone charger, the cool box, an upgraded leather interior with heated second-row seats, an upgraded Mark Levinson Audio system (quite nice), and the entertainment system, and the bottom line here is $97,195.

Not gonna pay that much for this type of Lexus unless and until they modernize