2022 Lexus LX 600 First Drive: A Tale Of Two SUVs

The new 2022 Lexus LX 600 — the all-new one-stop-shop replacement for the Lexus LX 570 and Toyota Land Cruiser siblings — is finally here. It's a welcome update to Lexus's full size SUV platform; despite the outgoing model's off-road prowess, the LX 570 is now old enough to be entering its freshman year of high school. When it debuted 14 years ago, it did so in a market nearly devoid of competitors approaching its abilities and comfort.

Now, as it rides into the sunset, it leaves behind a stacked field for not just ultra-plush full-size SUVs, but ones packed with trail-running promise. The newest LX needs not only to carry on the Land Cruiser's legacy, but compete with tougher rivals than Lexus has ever faced in the segment.

And so with these high stakes, Lexus has chosen the wise strategy of incremental — but marked — improvement for the LX 600. The least noticeable place to spot revisions, however, is perhaps by staring at it. It's big and brawny to behold, as every Land Cruiser ever created has been. Aside from perhaps its towering front grille, though, nearly every physical dimension is identical to the outgoing model, with length and width only increasing roughly half an inch, and wheelbase remaining unchanged from the LX 570.

Much to the relief of Land Cruiser enthusiasts, the LX 600 retains the true-SUV body-on-frame format. All of the off-road strengths that made the Toyota SUV a cult classic — full-time 4WD with hi/lo gearing, crawl control with a locking center differential, adaptive height control — are retained. It's a proven format, and Lexus has wisely decided not to try to fix what isn't broken.

Poke around inside, however, and it becomes clear this is a full-size for a new decade. Lexus has done away with the beefy yet inefficient 5.7L V8 that powered the LX 570, instead choosing to nestle their new 3.5L twin-turbo V6 (shared with the newest LS 500) under the brute's hood. And yet, despite losing nearly half its displacement, power and torque still improve over the old model: the forced-induction V6 puts out 409 HP and a very noticeable 479 ft-lb of torque that is on tap from nearly a standstill.

If the power improvements weren't noticeable enough on their own, Lexus has thrown two more gears in the transmission, giving it a 10-speed automatic over the previous 8-speed. And if any straggling Land Cruiser devotees still aren't on board with the newest flagship, the LX 600 shaves a more-than-respectable four hundred forty pounds from the old 570's curb weight, getting it down to a mere 5,665 pounds in base trim, while still being able to tow eight thousand pounds. All these improvements and the LX 600 gets a solid 19 combined MPG, over the less-than-stellar 14 miles per gallon the Land Cruiser attained. It's a marked – and much needed – drivetrain modernization all around: more efficient, yet more capable.

Time, focus, and improved engineering has made the LX 600 a more compelling package under the hood, to be sure. But the easiest place to notice these improvements – and indeed, Lexus' new ethos for their lineup in general – is in the cabin. The LX 600 starts at $86,900 (plus a $1,345 destination fee), actually thirty dollars less than the outgoing model, and for that price buyers get a 5-passenger, nicely equipped full-size SUV.

Every trim level gets a 12.3" upper touchscreen for infotainment and a 7" lower touchscreen for vehicle status; the opportunity to keep an eye on wheel slip on the lower monitor while choosing the latest bangers from my Spotify playlists on the upper screen was welcomed. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard, too, as is wireless charging.

An even more welcome addition to the LX 600 is Lexus' Safety System 2.5, their newest-generation driver aid suite. The 14-year-old LX 570 only featured forward collision prevention and lane departure warnings, which were excellent in 2008, but presented a significant weakness for an $85,000 truck in 2022. Now, however, lane keep and emergency steering are standard, as is emergency braking for rear cross traffic. The newest model also comes equipped with four cameras to allow for 360 degree views when parking, as well as front-wheel and underside views for the trickiest blind sections of trails.

When I finally got behind the wheel of the LX 600, it was in the gorgeous mountain landscapes of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and proving its off-road prowess in the Land of Enchantment was a cinch. This is the Land Cruiser that Toyota devotees know and love; tackling loose, rocky descents is an afterthought in 4 low with crawl control engaged. As it always has, it makes its considerable heft and mass seem like misprints in the brochure. The trail cameras made blind crests a breeze and its 25 degrees of approach meant I could drive straight off a mountain onto level ground, no sweat.

The only complaint I really had was that the active height control, which offers a staggering 6" of travel via hydraulic suspension, is now optional on all but the highest trim — rather than standard as it was on the LX 570 — and isn't even offered on the two lowest trims. You'll be dropping at least six figures to even get the privilege of spending another $1,300 on the extremely useful package. Why such a capable vehicle keeps an objectively great off-road feature on its highest trims — those arguably least likely to ever leave the pavement — baffles me.

But, with the LX 600 having more than proved its prowess off-road to me, I headed back to the winding pavement connecting New Mexico's gorgeous landscapes together. Also, as expected, it remained excellently composed. In the moments I had the objectively incredible Mark Levinson sound system silenced, the cabin remained virtually free of noise or drone; even with my foot to the mat urging the twin-turbo V6 to get me up on-ramps, engine noise was minimal.

The transmission's shifts are incredibly smooth; steering – now controlled with an electric rack for the first time in the history of the Land Cruiser line – is a bit heavy in Sport modes, but in Comfort or Eco, I found it much gentler on the forearms, without swerving too far into numbness.

Unfortunately, the ride is still unmistakably that of a body-on-frame SUV on rougher roads, especially with the optional 22" wheels equipped, where I found it almost jarringly rough on the older sections of Santa Fe National Forest's winding two-lane blacktop. On the bright side, body roll has been mitigated to a point that it's unnoticeable at all but full-tilt, and on nicely-paved freeways the suspension is well-tuned for a cocoon-like experience.

But driving is only half of the story. The LX 600 comes in five trims, ranging from base at a tad under eighty-seven grand, all the way to a whopping $126,000 for the Ultra Luxury tier. In its fully-kitted form, it transforms from a very plush off-road runner to a VIP limousine (chauffeur, sadly, not included). The middle seat disappears entirely for the Ultra Luxury and the SUV becomes a four-seater; the rear seats turn into diamond-stitched captains' chairs with recliners and full body massagers built in, all controlled through a center touchscreen. Both rear occupants can stay occupied with a pair of 7.0" seat-back touchscreens that can control the 2,400-watt, 25-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, as well as a host of infotainment options.

If this doesn't sound thoroughly relaxing yet, the rear passengers' side seat also can fold up the front seat and extend an ottoman. Sitting in the back in complete bliss, letting the massager undo the damage the inbound CRJ 700 had done to my lanky frame just hours before as my favorite music played at an absolutely obscene volume with perfect clarity, the $127,940 as-equipped sticker of my tester felt eminently justifiable. Sorry, new Range Rover Autobiography, Lexus just scooped you.

These two vastly different perspectives make the new LX 600 a tale of two SUVs. Hop into a base model, and go wheelin' with the greatest hits of the Land Cruiser lineup with more power, mileage, and comfort for the same price it's clocked in at for the past decade and a half. Have your chauffeur bring around an Ultra Luxury, and enjoy the finest creature comforts Lexus has ever offered in the LX – not to mention the best sound system this side of an opera hall. The 2022 LX has you covered either way: just maybe skip the 22"s if you want to get real relaxed in those captains' chairs.