I love Range Rovers because they're such strange beasts, like crossing a Rolls-Royce with a monster truck.
They're great if you want to drive from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, and feel refreshed and relaxed at the end of your trip, but they do have a problem. Range Rovers have had some of the worst reliability ratings in the automotive world though the years, giving heart attacks to the folks at Consumer Reports.
This week I drove a vehicle that solves that problem. It's the Lexus LX570. Like the mighty Range Rover, it's a rugged off-road vehicle designed to be as luxurious as anything the royal family might drive to Vegas clubs and strip-billiards games.
Only this vehicle is built by Lexus, a brand that makes Consumer Reports writers drool.
It's designed for a relatively small market — a well-heeled Lexus driver who wants something that can go off-road — but it fills that tiny niche exceptionally well.
Inside, it has all the flashy features you would expect from an "I just signed in the NFL draft" off-roader, much like the fanciest Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators. My test vehicle, which rang up at more than $90,000, had a refrigerated box for drinks in the center console, two video screens in the back seat, radar cruise control, third-row seats that fold themselves away at the push of a button, and a tailgate that opens with white-glove softness and closes with a power ratchet mechanism.
No, Lexus drivers don't slam their tailgates shut. It would be far too uncivilized.
The LX570 is a luxury version of the Toyota Land Cruiser, already a legend for its off-road capability, comfort and longevity. The Land Cruiser is also not cheap, starting over $78,000. Considering the Lexus version starts around $81,000, ever so slightly more than the Toyota, it's really not much of a premium to pay for the luxury branding.
One big plus of the LX is its understated body. Too many SUVs in this class seem custom-made for rappers and sports stars, with over-the-top wheels and embarrassing amounts of chrome. The LX feels like an extremely expensive car on the inside, but it doesn't flaunt that on the outside. It's tasteful.
From a performance perspective, it's packed with all the cabin switches and electronic acronyms this class of high-end off-roaders has become known for. Some examples:
- Hill-start Assist Control (HAC): Keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when you let off the brakes while climbing a hill.
- Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS): Lets you choose how firm or soft you want the suspension to be, including Sport, Normal and Comfort modes.
- Active Height Control (AHC): Using a switch on the center console, you can adjust the ride height up and down depending on the terrain.
- Crawl Control: When driving over rocks, it automatically operates the brakes and gas pedal to keep you moving consistently at low speeds, letting the driver focus on maneuvering the vehicle.
Overall, the LX is like a Range Rover for rational people. It's an incredible machine, like the Range Rover, but it's also built with the care and precision of the Lexus team.
It's a tempting car, one that takes a lot of money to buy and to fuel, but also one that provides a king-of-the-world feeling like few other vehicles on the market today.
Derek Price is an automotive columnst for CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org