Traveling in the Family Way: 2008 Lexus LX 570
Upscale -- but complicated -- comfort
Women know that sometimes being beautiful can also be complicated. It may take quite a bit of preparation - hair, nails, and makeup, not to mention uncomfortable undergarments - to appear our finest, but the results are always worth it.
Such is also true for the gorgeous 2008 Lexus LX 570 sport/utility vehicle. Lexus' luxury-laden version of Toyota's recently redesigned Land Cruiser looks beautiful and touts plenty of plush and posh trappings. The results are worth it, even if it can sometimes feel a little over-elaborate in executing them.
The stoutly new eight-passenger Lexus is powered by a hefty 383-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 engine borrowed from the Toyota Tundra and offers a quiet comfortable ride, as well as a nicely appointed interior. While its curvaceous lines help to hide its muscular girth, the LX 570 is in fact quite generously sized; in fact it's only half-a-foot shorter, one hand's-width narrower, and 600 pounds lighter than a Hummer H2. I observed fuel economy of 11.4 mpg around town, and 18 mpg on the highway, a significant improvement over the larger vehicle's 9 mpg average.
Lexus offsets its immensity with an electro-hydraulic Adaptive Variable Suspension that offers four levels of enhanced driving comfort and performance, as well as Active Height Control system that raises and lowers the vehicle to assist entry and exit while helping to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Steering was so sensitive that I was able to maneuver this vehicle with just one finger on the wheel, even at low speeds. My pre-production test vehicle exhibited an alarming shudder at highway speeds; it concerned me enough to wonder if I might have had a flat. A quick glance at the in-dash electronic tire pressure monitor revealed that all four tires were properly inflated. As these review vehicles can sometimes be abused by their testers, it's possible this one was in need of a front-end alignment and tire re-balance.
Its full-time four-wheel drive is adept at handling slippery winter weather or deep mud; high/low are activated with the turn of a knob and locked in with the push of a button. An innovative Crawl Control feature regulates engine output and braking force to propel the vehicle forward or reverse in three low-speed settings to assist negotiating especially rough, rocky surfaces or steep grades.
A bewildering collection of controls for all its high-tech features is located on the center console. Even though the LX 570 claims to be capable of scaling 45-degree slopes, climbing over 9-inch-tall rocks, or wading across 2-foot-deep streams, very few of its drivers will demand such performance -- or ever need to touch these buttons.
Managing the SUV's large size is made more graceful thanks to a rearview camera that displays what's behind the vehicle on an in-dash display whenever it is shifted into reverse. Combine this with optional wide-view cameras mounted in the grille and passenger side mirror for unparalleled visibility around the vehicle. The side-view mirrors automatically fold in when parked, to keep them safe from contact with inattentive drivers passing by - an especially nice touch if you must park in narrow spaces.
Technology abounds throughout the stately Lexus. Its Adaptive Front Lighting system is especially useful when navigating dark, twisty roads thanks to high-intensity headlights that move to illuminate turns and curves in the road as the driver steers into them. This is one of those features that sounds ho-hum on paper but reveals its true value when experienced as intended. Once we realized how they functioned, I almost drove us off the road watching the lights sweep from side to side in response to my steering input!
A Smart Access entry system offers a keyless pushbutton start; the driver merely needs to have the keyfob tucked into her purse or diaperbag. The vehicle recognizes the driver by unfolding the sideview mirrors upon approach and unlocks the doors the moment the handles sense a tug. This is a fabulous feature when you're as key-handicapped as I am.
The second-row seats power fore and aft by 4 inches, the seatbacks fold 40/20/40, and split and tumble forward 60/40 to allow a variety of cargo and access options. A pair of perplexing tie-down straps are tucked under the seatbottoms; pay attention the first time you use them, or you might never get them back into their little hidey-holes. The Gordian third-row power seats require operating a variety of buttons and straps to employ, and four separate power buttons to tuck them away. I found the system overcomplicated, but my five-year-old found it fascinating, insisting on watching the motorized seats flip and fold up and down every time he entered or exited the vehicle.
Occupants are protected by no fewer than 10 standard airbags, including driver- and front-passenger knee bags, front- and second-row seat-mounted side bags, and side curtain airbags for all three rows. All eight seats feature three-point belts, and active front-seat headrests move up and forward almost instantly in certain rear collisions to cushion the occupant's head and reduce whiplash injuries.
In addition to its standard safety features, Lexus offers an available Pre-Collision System that works with its Adaptive Radar Cruise Control to sense an impending collision, then react by issuing warnings, offering steering and braking assistance, and tightening seatbelts to prepare passengers for the imminent impact.
Family friendly features include two child seat latches and three tethers in the second row and a dozen cup and bottle holders throughout the cabin. Abundant nooks and crannies -- including useful storage slots in the fold-down tailgate -- tuck away toys and gear (in our case, die-cast cars and plush animals). Two power points are available to front-seat passengers, plus an additional 110W plug is in the wayback. Onboard entertainment options include a premium Mark Levinson DVD audio sound system with 19 speakers and a rear-seat DVD setup with wireless headphones.
Comfort features include heated and cooled front leather seats and a ventilation system that utilizes nearly 30 vents across four separate zones to keep occupants at their desired temperature. The split rear gate operates at the touch of a button to power up, while the bottom section is hydraulically damped to lower smoothly to prevent bashing the heads of any eager little helpers, and closes gently to prevent pinching fingers.
By the time my week-long review of the Lexus was over, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the collection of complicated contraptions provided in the guise of luxury. But, as any woman knows, it takes a lot of effort to be beautiful. Suffice to say that all its behind-the-scenes luxury and performance paraphernalia has culminated to make the Lexus LX 570 one fine vehicle.
By Brandy Schaffels