I’m not sure I’ve had a car to review that I’ve liked less than the 2016 Lexus LX 570. It’s not that it’s a technically bad vehicle, because it’s not: mechanically, it’s a body-on-frame Land Cruiser, and it’s plenty reliable and capable. It’s also incredibly frustrating, overcomplicated, unpleasant to drive, and ugly as a baboon’s perineum. Oh, and it costs about $100,000.
(Full disclosure: Lexus needed me to test one of these things so badly they sent me one for a week with a full tank of gas. It was better than taking the bus, mostly.)
I’ll cut a car a lot of slack if the overall machine does its job well, but once you get into the price range of the LX 570, it’s different. The test vehicle I got came in at well over $97,000, which made me a lot less inclined to go easy on it. Who is spending 100 large on this thing? Why?
Look, rich people, if you’re thinking about dropping that kind of cash on this bloated, 6,000 pound pile of leather and maddening controls, just take a moment and hear me out.
First, let’s explain just what this thing is: essentially, it’s a Toyota Land Cruiser that’s been dressed in weird but expensive clothing, and then had the entire Sharper Image catalog liquefied and sprayed all over the inside.
Since it’s basically Land Cruiser bones, we’re dealing with a very capable (off-road) body-on-frame SUV, but also a platform that was last really refreshed almost ten years ago. Even if the platform is getting up there, there’s no denying that it’s extremely capable off-road – provided you’ve accepted the fact that you’re going to do thousands of dollars of damage to pretty much all the plastic bits that form the lower quarter of this beast’s body.
While I have plenty of specific problems with this SUV, I think my biggest issues stem from the fact that I have no idea why anyone would want this thing. The LX 570 is sort of like if you commissioned William Behrends, the man who sculpts the faces on the Indy 500 trophy, to do an 11-foot-high statue of ‘70s funnyman Slappy White made out of titanium and gold.
Anyone who looked at the sculpture could freely acknowledge that, yes, it’s remarkably well constructed, and while not exactly attractive to look at, it does have some presence and certainly appears expensive. On some levels, sure, it’s impressive, but there is absolutely no rational reason why the thing should exist, and no reasonable person would actually want one.
(I just want to say that this is in no way a commentary on Slappy White, who was great.)
So that’s the LX 570: a big-ass golden sculpture of Slappy White that nobody actually wants.
What’s wrong with it?
Plenty. I’m going to break it down in sort of descending order of frustration. So, let’s start with the one that actually caused fights between me and my wife:
The controls are terrible.
I don’t know what sort of dirt the engineer who designed Lexus’ maddening sort-of-joystick-like interface has on the CEO of the company, but it must be something amazing, because that’s the only thing that can explain their continued use of it.
It’s been my least favorite part of every Lexus I’ve tested, even ones I’ve liked a lot, like the GS-F. It’s so terrible that it casts a pallor of shittiness over all your interactions with the car, like shoving a turd in a high-speed fan and turning it into a foul-smelling mist that coats the whole interior of the car.
For those of you who haven’t used it, picture a stubby analog joystick, roughly the proportions of a Colecovision joystick, and that little stubby stick controls a cursor on the center stack screen. The joystick is also enabled with haptic technology that sort of allows you to ‘feel’ buttons on the screen.
It’s uncomfortable, unnatural, and wildly frustrating to use. Other, lower-end Toyotas just use a touchscreen. The LX 570 has a huge, wide-format screen that would be very, very easy to just touch and use. But you can’t. You have to use the idiotic little stick, and that idiotic little stick is used to control layers and layers of similar-looking menus and buttons and convoluted options... it’s hell.
Even more maddening is that the goddamn map and dome lights are needlessly touch-activated, yet the center-stack screen is not. That just means at this point they’re fucking with us.
For example, the test LX 570 I had had the full infotainment package, with a pair of large LCD screens in the rear. We wanted to let our five-year-old watch a movie with audio through his headphones while my wife and I listened to Sirius radio up front.
Trying to figure this out was a fucking nightmare. Halfway through navigating menus with that stupid stick I began to have fantasies of placing my hands on that center screen, and just pulling forward until I heard that satisfying snap of fracturing plastic.
Keep in mind that with a similar setup in the Chrysler Pacifica, a far cheaper vehicle, this was trivially easy to do. I don’t even remember having to really think about it at all; we just did it.
This was just how the whole UI/UX of the LX 570 seems to be: overcomplicated, frustrating, and requiring far too much time and attention. Yes, there’s a shit-ton of gadgets in there, but it should be noted that almost all of them are available on a many other cars, and who cares if all you want to do is go to town on them with a crowbar?
It’s zero fun to drive.
The 2016 LX 570 now has an eight-speed gearbox and a big-ass 5.6-liter V8 that makes a comparatively modest 383 horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque (288 Nrp). Now please note that the LX 570 weighs a staggering 6,200 pounds.
Power-to-weight-wise, that puts it right about on par with a base 2017 Honda Civic.
But that’s not the issue, really. The issue is that you feel every ounce of those three tons of leather and plastic and bullshit in this thing. Driving it has the same sort of general feeling I imagine driving a full dumpster has: ponderous, and you always seem to be fighting the massive amounts of inertia that comes with all that mass.
Every stop in this thing seems to turn into a hard, almost panic stop. Turns feel elephantine, and while the ride is dampened enough to be comfortable for the passengers, I found there’s not much to like from driving it.
Sure, maybe driving over rocky, mountainous terrain, it’ll all make sense. But who cares, because, let’s be honest, the amount of people who are going to buy these to do rough, hardcore off-roading is a statistical rounding error.
It’s huge on the outside and surprisingly small on the inside.
For as massive as the LX 570 is, you’d think that should mean there’s a pretty vast volume of enclosed space on the inside. You’d be wrong.
The LX 570's interior is just full of... stuff. A massive, button-and-knob covered center console (which at least does house a little cooler, which is fun), feels like s steamer trunk between the seats, and, while this is a three-row SUV, the middle row feels oddly cramped, and to get into the way-back row, it would be helpful if you were born with a skeleton made of pure cartilage, like a shark.
The rear seat room is what surprised me the most. Sure, it’s wide, but legroom is not as generous as you’d think. It’s actually less than my 2006 Scion xB (I looked it up). My kid actually had a tricky time getting out, as the rear-seat LCDs ate up some room, as did his kid seat. He’s not a big kid, either, just a 45 pound bag of kook, but look how he had to squeeze out.
The rear seats move forward and back. That’s the furthest back setting.
And while we’re talking about the interior, I should mention that, yes, it’s luxurious and well-appointed, but it’s not particularly stylish or interesting. It’s luxurious in the same way an orthodontist’s waiting room in Beverly Hills is luxurious: high-end, but anonymous, and, in the end, forgettable. Competitors like Range Rover manage to pull off luxury with far more style.
Cargo room is pretty meager with that third row up, and the back seats don’t even fold out of the way very well. The seats just sort of fold into a fat sandwich and then get flipped up vertically against the sides of the car.
It’s pretty inelegant and archaic-seeming. On a rough-and-ready Land Cruiser, it’s fine. On a $90,000+ luxury vehicle designed to haul a lot of expensive people and their fancy stuff, it’s embarrassing.
I know Fiat Chrysler tends to be near the bottom of quality and reliability surveys and Toyota near the top, but has anyone from Toyota actually looked at how Chrysler’s Stow-and-Go seats work? Has Toyota just not showed it to the LX 570 team because they don’t want to deal with all the weeping?
Okay, so someone dropping 100 grand on a car isn’t pinching pennies, but 13 MPG city, 18 highway? Those are 1974 AMC Matador numbers. In a combination of highway and city driving, I averaged a pathetic 15.2 MPG for the week I had the car. I guess I could be nice and say the fuel economy on the LX 570 is “nostalgic.”
Also, it sucks.
The way it looks.
I’m sort of done with qualifying that the new Lexus spindle grille treatment may be a “matter of opinion” or some shit. It’s ugly, full stop.
It’s just not that appealing a face to look at, period. In some ways, the massive bulk of the LX 570 makes it a little less grotesque, but when you drop $100,000 on a car, do you really want to be justifying your purchase with the words “a little less grotesque?”
The profile is blocky and bulky, like some brutalist Soviet apartment block. Some of the detailing is nice, like the subtle, glittery dot-pattern in the lights, but it’s just putting some jewelry on a whale.
It’s looks do accomplish one remarkable thing, though: it manages, somehow, to be strikingly ugly and also, concurrently, anonymous enough to lose it in a parking lot.
For all the cash you plopped down, for all its chrome and new sculpted sheetmetal, from across a parking lot it may as well be a 2011 Kia Sorrento.
The rear visibility
To be fair, the LX570 does have one of those fun overhead-view camera systems and a decent rear-view camera, but just look at this view out the rear-view mirror:
It’s at least 50% headrest back there. Look how that middle headrest especially blocks so much of the rear window, so effectively. That, along with blindspots the size of bison make driving the juggernaut even more of a chore.
Did you like anything?
Look, I know I sound kind of like a jerk, but I tried to pretend that I, improbably, spent $97,000 on this car. It hurt. It hurt bad.
I’m sure the Lexus LX 570 will be incredibly reliable, and you can tow with it, and I liked the little center console fridge/cooler thing, but if we’re honest, you could pick up one of those for under $100 and just plug it into the 12V socket on pretty much anything.
If we’re really honest, though, and you like that little fridge, you should know that for about the same money as an LX 570 you could get a Winnebago Travato that not only has a bigger fridge, but a stove and beds and a shower and a goddamn toilet. You want a big, luxury vehicle with all the gadgets and conveniences? Beat that.
I know a lot of these same criticisms could be leveled at other cars in this segment: the Mercedes-Benz G-class comes to mind, for example. But these are valid criticisms, and beg the question of why would anyone really want a vehicle like this?
The idea that anyone off-roads these things in any meaningful way or in any meaningful numbers is a joke. If someone wants to prove me wrong, I’d be delighted to see it. I just can’t fathom the point of this overpriced barge.
You want to haul around eight people in luxury, with LCD screens and rear climate controls and all that, and still do some rock-crawling? Buy the most expensive Chrysler Pacifica at about $45,000 or so and then also get a Jeep Wrangler. You can stick the extra $20,000 or so you’d have left over from the price of an LX 570 for the possible repairs that you’ll have for those admittedly more trouble-prone FCA products.
You’ll still be happier. Want more badge-status and still have three rows, and be able to go off-road? Get the most expensive Land Rover Discovery Sport at about $45,000, and then pick up a Nissan NV200 in case you need to haul something big, which you can buy with your leftover money.
Or hell, buy the actual Toyota Land Cruiser at about $80,000, have almost everything the LX 570 does but with bodywork more suited to actually going off-road, and buy a really fancy watch for the status.
There’s so, so very many better ways to drop $97,000 than on this big lumbering sack of tacked-on gadgets and frustration. The only thing I can think of to recommend this car is if you want to convey an air of someone who has so much money, they don’t even give a shit anymore what they spend it on.
The 2016 Lexus LX 570 certainly would be a fantastic way to convey that very specific message. And that’s it.