When considering automotive icons there are some that really stand out. Examples may include the Jaguar E-Type, known for its sheer beauty as well as the Ferrari F40, known for its amazing analog driving experience. All Over the world there is one icon that stands above the rest. No matter where you go, and I mean literally anywhere you go there is one legend, one icon that everyone knows. What is that icon that sits at the top of the mountain of legends? That would be the Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Toyota Land Cruiser can be found anywhere. Land Cruisers can be found prowling the mean streets of Nashville running the kids to soccer practice, or thousands of miles away from civilization in the middle of the Australian Outback, all the way to the deepest jungles of the Amazon Rainforest. There is no vehicle you will find in as many places as the Land Cruiser. So what happens when the engineers at Lexus get their hands one of the most capable vehicles ever made? You get the Lexus LX570.
The LX570 has the same underpinned as the J200 Series Land Cruiser, a chassis that has in production since 2008, but with that special Lexus touch is added. A different fascia is attached to the exterior while the dash is reworked and the rest of the interior receives high quality plastics, leather and wood. Lexus worked to make the LX special and it worked. Redesigned for the 2018 model year the Lexus design team went full send on the controversial spindle grill. It normally doesn’t look the best on the Lexus SUVs but they have almost managed to make it look decent with new styling. The taillights are more aggressively styled, a complaint I had on the first J200 LXs, and the interior received some fantastic tweaks. The LX is that step above the Land Cruiser, aimed for a demographic that won’t be traversing mountains ravines, but wants to know they can if the time ever comes. When an email from Lexus appeared in my inbox that the $96,685 full sized SUV was on its way, I knew exactly what had to be done.
The plan was to test the versatility of the LX by towing the camper to an off road park, unhook it and explore, then reattach the camper and drive back home Sunday afternoon so I could commute in it to work on Monday. After a fair bit of googling I stumbled across WindRock Park in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. With over 72,000 acres of land housing a gun range, campground, and 350 miles of trails just two and a half hours from Nashville it seemed perfect. We reserved our spot a week ahead of the trip, my parents 25’ hybrid trailer was prepped for use, all food necessary was purchased and packed, and then the waiting game for the five of us began.
The truck was delivered to my office on Thursday, then Friday afternoon I ran it over to CS Automotive, a shop my parents own that specializes in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, to install the trailer brake, trailer brake adaptor and then hook up the trailer. In the new Tundras a built in trailer brake is available with the tow package. In the J200 series Land Cruiser and LX, the 7-pin adaptor is prewired from the back hookup by the spare tire, all the way to the inside of the dash nears the drivers left leg. With the redesign for 2018, I may have been the first to install a trailer break as no information was available, but luckily it hadn’t moved from the previous model years. It just ended up being much more of a PITA to reach. Laying on your back, your right hand must snake all the way up the inside, nearly to the structural support as high as you can go.
After an hour or so, that was good to go, we hooked up the trailer, set the weight distributing hitch and were ready to go. As we left it became dark and the rain started. The 45+ feet of steel and fiberglass floated effortlessly through the 5 o’clock Nashville traffic, even with that 5000lb anchor attached to the back. With a tow capacity of 7000lbs, we had room to add an entire Polaris RZRs worth of weight still. People were suspiciously polite as every lane change requests of the turn signal was respected almost immediately, something we attributed to the sheer mass of the vehicle wanting to make its way. The 4 zone automatic climate controlled allowed all three of us to be in peak comfortable conditions. While I had my temperature near 80 degree(if the heaters on I want to feel it), my wife in the passenger seat was sitting at a mild 72, and my sister pulled the old hotel room trick and pressed the blue button until it said low. Two more zones seems like an easy addition, but it made a world of difference in the large LX.
As traffic cleared up and we drove east on I40, the triple beam LED headlights lit up the roadway perfectly as we passed over the amazing Cumberland Plateau at night. The unfortunately small 21 gallon tank meant we had to stop for gas just 40 miles short of our destination. A quick Instagram was posted and we made our way off the interstate and into the small town of Oliver Springs, near Oak Ridge. As it was obviously still dark when we arrived, we detached the LX and put those triple beam headlights back to work as we set up the trailer. We quickly fried up some quick bratwursts and headed for the sack.
Early the next morning everyone everyone arose and we started making our way towards the WindRock general store to pick up our land use permits and then got on the trails. With the record breaking rain Tennessee had received over the past few months, many trails were washed out, but the friendly WindRock staff were more than willing to give suggestions on places both the LX570 and accompanying 2014 Toyota Tundra Platinum could safely reach.
We left the general store and headed up the trail, past the mountain bike park and into the off road area. As the convoy of two rolled up to the gate into the park, the two folks checking for passes laughed at what they were seeing, a Lexus more befitting of a “Reserved for CEO” spot than surrounded by mud covered Razrs and Jeeps pulling up to head off into the mountains. As I rolled down the window and showed our passes she looked at me and said “You’re goin’ 4 wheeling in that? Holy dookie. ” A true East Tennessean
As we rolled up the asphalt road and into the park the one thing we were worried about happened. My dad slid the truck over to the right to make some more room for a group of UTVs coming down the hill and from behind me I heard a pop followed by the flashers of the Tundra coming on. The small sidewalk of the tire mounted to the 20” wheels succumbed to the sharp side of the asphalt road. Not even on the real trails and we were changing tires. After 10 minutes we were out with the 18” spare mounted awkwardly on the right rear.
After a few minutes of driving, we made it to the top of the hill and to our first off road obstacles. A small rock garden begging to be crawled over. We lifted the air suspension as high as it would go, put the LX in crawl mode, and made our way through it. The cameras changed to a crawl mode with lines showing exactly where the wheels would go. This system was indispensable. I would jump out, check the rocks and see where I wanted to go without dropping the gigantic and very expensive front end into a rock. The crawl camera could not help with depth but as long as you knew what rocks to hit, the camera could help you nail the line. We had people in RZRs drive by simply shocked at what they were seeing. The Lexus LX570 is rare in the city, let alone 2 hours away in the middle of a Coal property.
Crawling through this rock garden was not only easy, but just plain comfortable. Heated and cooled seats kept you relaxed while you looked over the great expanse of leather and wood the Lexus designers adorned the large SUV with. My music, piped through Apple Carplay and the 19 Mark Levinson speakers sang whatever we wanted(usually country in our case) with exceptional clarity and gusto. The newer screen in the 2018 and newer LX570s is extremely crisp and finally caught up to what a near $100,000 truck should have equipped. While many complain of the mouse system, I have come to enjoy it with only minimal problems in being able to select what I wanted. As usual, Leuxs provides plenty of buttons for quick navigation of the screens, appreciated when trying to focus more on the road than what’s happening in the center.
Finally navigating the rock garden, we reached a beautiful scene overlooking what felt like the entirety of East Tennessee. The LX570 felt right at home as we found a nice little rock to perch it on. The flex of the suspension on a vehicle made for comfort as much as it is off road was extremely surprising. It had no problems mountain goat-ing its way up. The Tundra, with its lower frame and side steps did not fare as well. The LX did not hit anything while the Tundra left that area with a few bottle scars underneath and a slightly bent step.
Leaving the overlook we found a trail where the LX really showed what it does best. Neither deep muddy waters, inclines, loose gravel, or washouts were an issue for it. Given the opportunity I would have driven it like this for days. Eventually my wife jumped into the captain’s chair of the mega yacht for her first ever bout of 4 wheeling. No other vehicle could have been a better tool for teaching the off road lines, use of throttle, and use of brakes in certain situations. On top of that, the 383 horsepower 5.7L V8 loved climbing. Any situation could be conquered with application of the wheel and the right pedal.
Making our way out of the park was hard. The LX made 4 wheeling so easy and so fun. Being able to go places you should otherwise not able in a $100,000 vehicle is an awesome feeling. I just wanted to drive it more and more. Getting back the wonderful campsite, we cooked up dinner and put the trucks to rest for the night.
The next morning we hooked the trailer back up the LX and made our way back to Nashville. The flexibility of the LX is unlike any other vehicle I have ever driven. Giving back the LX was almost saddening. The experience of driving it, the 800 miles we had put on it, and the memories we had made have had me on Craigslist searching for one of my own ever since. All this goes to say, if you have been thinking about buying a capable, luxury SUX, you know my vote. Pony up the cash and just buy a dang Lexus LX570.
I’d like to make a special shoutout to Windrock Park. their staff, amenities, and trails were bar none in the Southeast. They have what seem to be endless trails nearing 350 miles worth . These are combined with spectacular views and hidden gems including our lunch spot, an old lunch pavilion right next to a waterfall. The campsites are extremely nice and if you reserve far enough in advance, you may even be able to snag one of their handy on-site cabins. If you are looking for a place to explore what your vehicle is capable of while spending some quality time with your family we would highly recommend checking them out.