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The largest Lexus vehicle is also the most surprising - a genuinely off-road capable SUV

COURTESY TOYOTA MOTOR SALES - The 2019 Lexus LX570 is equally comfortable on and off the road, thanks to its Toyota Land Cruiser heritage.

Lexus has worked hard in recent years to stand apart from the other Japanese luxury manufacturers with great success. The Toyota-owned company has attracted attention with its wildly-styled cars and crossovers, and has won praise for its range of engine choices and option F-Sport handling packages that increase performance.

But to me, the most audacious model is the one that doesn't offer any of that. On the surface, the 2019 LX570 is a large that is only distinguished on the outside by it large spindle grill. There is only one available engine — a 5.7-liter V8 — and no optional sport suspension.

So what makes the LX570 so special? The answer is, it is based on the current version of the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser, so even though it looks like a plush family hauler, it can go practically anywhere. All of the Land Cruiser's advanced off-road components are included, from its heavy-duty four-wheel-drive system to its hill descent and multiple traction controls. Drivers can even raise the body for additional ground clearance. And it can tow up to 7,000 pounds.

COURTESY TOYOTA MOTOR SALES - Adjustments for serious off-roading can be made on the handy console-mounted cotnrols in the 2018 Lexus LX 750.

Once you understand that, certain things about the LX570 begin to stand out. For example, the grill does not include a lower air dam that drops close to the ground. Instead, it angle up from the bottom, which helps clear steep uphill trails. And the rear hatch is comprised of a larger upper door and lower, drop-down tailgate, like a pickup truck. That's a Land Cruiser feature.

The LX570 isn't competing against anything offered by the Acura luxury brand owned by Honda or the Infinit luxury brand owned by Nissan. They don't make anything this off-road capable. Instead, the LX570 is competing the large and off-road capable vehicles offered by Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Range Rover.

And it is competing successful. The first time I drove an LX570 was at one of the annual Mud Fest outdoor activity event competitions organized by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. It was classified as one of the few vehicles capable of tackling the serious off-road course, along with two Jeeps and a Range Rover. I thought the organizers had made a mistake and meant it was only qualified for the moderate course.

COURTESY TOYOTA MOTOR SALES - The powerful 5.7-liter V8 at the heart of the 2018 Lexus LX 750.

But after the factory representative pointed out how we could raise the body and adjust the traction settings for mud, we plowed through the serious course with ease — which was not the case with one of the other vehicles, which will not be named, that got stuck and had to be towed out because of a driver's error.

Ever since then, I've noticed there are actually a fair number of LX570 on the streets. Far more than newer Land Cruisers, despite the price premium. The combination of genuine luxury and serious off-road capability appears to have some appeal in the Pacific Northwest.

Much of that is because the 2019 LX570 was actually pretty easy to drive on a day-to-day basis. Despite its size and truck-like construction, the ride was smooth and well-controlled. The 5.7-liter V8 had plenty of power, and the eight-speed

Sequential Shift Automatic Transmission was always in the right gear, regardless of whether it was set in the Eco, Normal or Sport mode. Despite the available Eco mode, fuel economy is as bad as any similar vehicle.

COURTRESY TOYOTA MOTOR SALES - Ample interior room, luxury appointments and advanced technologies are expected and supplied with the 2018 Lexus LX 750.

And, of course, the LX570 was very comfortable. Lexus is a genuine luxury manufacturer and the LX570 is its flagship model, so all interior materials are of the highest quality — and it comes loaded with just about every available technology, with only a few options even offered.

Out test version was a two-row model with an enormous amount of cargo space behind the rear seats. It starts at around $86,000, although ours had over $2,000 worth of options. Three row version are also available starting at about $91,000. The top-of-the-line Inspiration series begins at just over $100,000.

Other Lexus models attract more attention on the street and offer a much higher level of performance. But the 2019 LX570 is really the most surprising vehicle in the company's lineup.

COURTESY TOYOTA MOTOR SALES - Back seat passengers ride on style and comfort in the 2018 Lexus LX 750.

2019 Lexus LX570

Base price: $86,230

Price as tested: $88,940

Type: Fullsize SUV

Engine: 5.7-liter V8 (383 hp, 403 ft-lbs)

Transmission: 8-speed Sequential Shift Automatic Transmission with manual shift mode

Drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport

EPA estimated mileage: 13/18

Overall length: 200 inches

Curb weight: 5,500-6,000 pounds

Final assembly: Aichi, Japan


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