White luxury SUV on a dirt road with mountains in the background.
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2022 Lexus LX 600 Redefines Luxury for a Full-sized SUV

The all-new Lexus LX 600 replaced Toyota’s long-tenured Land Cruiser for 2022, after low take rates of the body-on-frame SUV siblings skewed towards higher-income buyers. In fact, the previous-generation LX very nearly outsold the Land Cruiser outright in 2021 and, now, the updated LX adds new levels of luxury and refinement while retaining many of the off-road goodies expected for a full-sized body-on-frame SUV.

Based largely on the Tundra, also new for 2022, the new generation of LX drops the outgoing 570’s V8 option and now sports a twin-turbocharged V6 rated at 409 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic delivers that power to all four wheels at all times, with a two-speed four-wheel drive transfer case offering low range and a standard locking center differential. An optional rear locker fits into the mix abroad, but more on that later.

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The entry-level LX stickers at $86,900 but Lexus very much hopes to entice city dwellers with the F Sport Handling package, which ups the starting price to $102,345 and draws inspiration from past F coupes and sedans with handsome 22-inch wheels, lower-profile tires, a Torsen torque-biasing rear differential, and a themed interior highlighted by aluminum pedals and bolstered front seats.

Both off-roading and sporty driving might sound antithetical in the context of a massive, upright SUV that costs well into the six-figure range. At that price point, the LX now pivots to focus entirely on the luxury SUV market. Lexus first came onto the scene in the 1990s with a staid four-door LS sedan, which aimed to take Mercedes-Benz and BMW on at their own premium game with a focus on inviting customer service and refined reliability. Since then, more recent Lexus releases lost much of that original theme, trending toward swoopy designs, the confusingly mild performance-oriented “F” models, and a complete lack of user-friendly in-vehicle infotainment systems (this despite the longtime advertising slogan “Discover intuitive design”).

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Returning to the Original Lexus Roots

But the new LX 600 demonstrates a more coherent vision in line with the original Lexuses (Lexi?) of the 1990s. At every touchpoint, premium tactile surfaces greet fingers, palms, elbows, and knees—no piano black plastic cladding or tinny metal trim found here. From the door handles to climate control switchgear, even turn signal stalks, each interaction between human and machine feels solid and weighty. Then throw in perhaps the most comfortable captain’s chairs of all time, with ample bolsters and a soft pillow that fades into supremely tailored support and infinitely customizable positions.

Perhaps the single best bit of news about the LX for erstwhile Lexus fans: Gone is the borderline dangerous trackpad screen system on the same model year of LC and RC coupes! Compared to that current LC 500 flagship, the LX’s next-generation user interface falls more in line with the updated LS, IS, and ES sedans. A panoramic touchscreen tops the dash allowing for true wireless Apple CarPlay via a crisp display with muted tones.

Silver and black leather interior of a luxury SUV with pine trees in the background.
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Lower on the center console, another display contributes to more than 19 inches of usable touchscreen and allows for digital adjustment of drive modes and air conditioning settings (all of which can also be controlled via real-life switches and knobs, too). Optioning the Mark Levinson Reference audio system rewards higher-fidelity wired CarPlay with booming bass, crisp mids, and piercing highs as the volume dial spins upward. Meanwhile, the second and third row seating offers a surprising amount of room with excellent packaging—driving the undeniably large LX in town, the sense of spaciousness paired with a vertical driving position and ride height belie impressive maneuverability and a surprisingly narrow body and wheel track.

Of course, all the luxury amenities in the world couldn’t make up for a balky pickup truck-source drivetrain or choppy ride quality. But the twin-turbo V6 and 10-speed auto sourced from Tundra pair perfectly with the LX 600’s interior, with effortless power delivery at all speeds and barely perceptible up and downshifts (and only a bit of engine induction noise piercing the serene cabin at three-quarters and higher throttle). And despite Lexus’ best efforts at strafing that massive front grille—probably the design’s biggest flaw, to most eyes—the tall SUV has an aero profile comparable to a brick standing on end and sideways. But at this price level, most consumers won’t worry about MPGs (the LX averages 19 combined) nor the wildly fluctuating prices of fuel these days (probably use 91 octane; those are two turbos after all).

The F Sport Handling’s optimized suspension avoids any of the excessive tendency towards body roll and tippiness of most body-on-frame pickups and SUVs that weigh just shy of 6,000 pounds. It’s taut yet compliant thanks to the three-position air suspension that noticeably raises or lowers the body with each push of a button on the center console (a lower position for cargo loading reverts to Normal once in motion). And that’s even taking into account the 22-inch wheels and handling package tires.

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Off-roading the LX 600 F Sport Handling in the Name of Science

On a mild fire trail or gravel road, however, the limits of the F Sport Handling’s urban-focused upgrades come to the fore immediately—and not just when fears of flats crowd the mind. Instead, all but the tiniest ruts and washboards pierce the serenity of that luxurious cabin. And yet, the suspension and interior trim never show signs of creaks, clunks, or rattles.

For overlanders trying to avoid the infamous “Toyota Tax” and perhaps cruise to trailheads in a bit more comfort, the previous generations of the Lexus GX have grown in popularity lately. Throw on some knobbies, maybe a little lift, and haul the fam out for some adventures. Confusingly, though, the LX gradewalk no longer includes front or rear locking differentials. The Torsen rear diff replaces that potential holdover that only RoW markets now receive.

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How would the new LX perform on- and off-road with smaller wheels and higher sidewall all-terrain or winter tires? At the very least, true four-low and locking diffs might make a bit more sense. But the new SUV’s rear seats never fold fully flat, requiring some sort of custom mattress or aftermarket platform for sleeping under the long rear canopy. And a lack of rear-drive on the transfer case similarly points to the target buyer here—city dwellers and high-earning semi-rurals who want confidence in the variable traction of rain or snow but probably won’t ever give much of a thought to their drivetrain selection on the way to grocery stores, ski slopes, or designated campsites not too far off the beaten path.

Despite the uproar among fans less than eager to shell out six figures for a dependable off-roader without a locking rear diff, perhaps the time had truly come for the venerable Land Cruiser to go. Overlanding or off-roading in older models is more fun anyway—not to mention less likely to cause damage to that exorbitantly expensive new SUV. In a market that seems ripe for change given the noticeably declining quality at Mercedes-Benz and BMW that helped set the stage for the rise of Audi and Porsche SUVs, the LX 600 slots in for Land Cruiser to take Lexus luxury the biggest step up since Toyota first endeavored to break the German stranglehold on America’s high-end automotive mindset.

[From $89.160; lexus.com]

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