So, maybe the 2009 Lexus LX570 does not conjure up images of Mel Gibson fighting off bikers in a post-apocalyptic Australia, but to cover 1,500 miles in 23 hours solo, you've got to have a little Mad Max in you.
Finding an adequate tow vehicle used to mean going with a truck, and often these were equipped with a manual transmission, a bench seat and rubber floor mats. Today, you can have all the luxuries of a high-end sedan combined with the grunt needed to tow just about anything.
Having recently completed a project RX-8 build for SportsCar magazine, we were looking to transport the car from Southern California to the Sports Car Club of America Tire Rack Solo National Championships, in Lincoln, Neb. Contemplating the many options out there, and knowing we had to complete a 3,000-mile round trip in a very short time, we decided to give the Lexus LX570 a go.
At first glance, the LX570 appeared to be a bit of a powder-puff, drenched in its Noble Spinel Mica paint, sporting 20-inch wheels and leather that looked like it could get dirty if you just had an impure thought. But with 383hp on tap from the 5.7-liter engine, and an 8,500lb towing capacity, there seemed to be enough power to get any job done.
Prior to heading out on the trip, we needed to install a trailer brake control to help keep our load in check. Nearly every modern vehicle that is equipped with any type of towing package comes pre-wired for trailer brakes, and that was the case with the LX570. However, it appeared as though someone in engineering must have had a sense of humor (or was just mean spirited) because the wiring harness we needed to plug our control into was not easy to find.
Typically, these are located in the driver's side kick panel or behind the dash about knee high, and it's a simple plug and play arrangement. While we can't confirm with any certainty the location of the harness, as we could not clearly see it, working by touch it felt as though it was located above the headliner but had to be accessed from under the dash.
With the trailer situation under control, we loaded up the cargo area with the various support items and spares we would need at the racetrack. The third row seat easily retracts with the push of a button, folding up against the side panels offering more cargo space. The second row folding mechanism is perhaps the best we have ever used, allowing the user to fold the seats flat and then rotate them 90-degrees forward for maximum space. The system works so well it can be done one handed while talking on your cell phone.
While the rear seating systems were flexible and did a good job limiting intrusion on cargo space, we would have liked to see a third row that was completely removable for just a little more space. Also, we were disappointed in the manner the second row seat was secured. While the folding system was brilliant, the seat could not stand in the stowed position under its own power. Rather, a strap was connected to the back of the seat, which you had to secure to the egress handle on the door frame. Forget this step and you will be reminded every time you step on the brakes, as the second row seat will rock forward, hitting the front seat.
We were relieved to find that all of our needed gear fit. A spare set of race tires, two pit bikes, an EZ-Up, a cooler and our tools would all be tagging along on the journey.
On the road, the LX570 exceeded our expectations. The 20-inch wheels wrapped in Dunlop rubber proved a comfortable ride, and offered great control even though we were pulling nearly 5,000lbs.
Before heading out, we observed a combined fuel economy of roughly 14mpg – this left us a little concerned as to what we might consume while towing. But thanks in large part to the 6-speed sequential automatic transmission, we averaged right at 13mpg during the trip. The 403lb-ft of torque combined with the gearing made easy work of even the longest climb. The LX570 will tow much faster than you would ever need to go. Even as our trip took us over the Rocky Mountains and through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel, the LX570 never missed a beat.
A number of items contributed to making this long journey more comfortable. The climate-controlled seats are a must for logging multiple hours behind the wheel. As your back starts to ache, applying a little heat loosens things right up. As you start to warm up, simply turn the knob and feel the coolness rush across your back.
Also, making the long hours on the road more pleasurable was the phenomenal-sounding optional Mark Levinson 19-speaker audio system, which our test car was equipped with. With six discs loaded in the changer, we could cover hundreds of miles without missing a tune – and if CDs aren't your thing, there is also an auxiliary input jack that will work with any MP3 player.
Helping keep our pit stops along the road short – and our drinks cold – was the built-in, center-console-mounted Cool Box. We would gladly sacrifice center console storage in every car we take a road trip in if it meant we got one of these. Having cool beverages and snacks within easy reach was a great convenience.
There was one feature we could have done without: the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. While its intentions are good, making sure you maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead, we found this nanny to be very frustrating. Even with its sensitivity set on the lowest of the three settings, it was much too intrusive for our taste. We would have liked to see a fourth setting: off.
Even the most diehard weekend warriors will often only need to tow something a few times a month, so the way the LX570 performs on a daily bases is even more important than the way it performs hitched up.
Away from the open roads and stuck in the suburban gridlock of Orange County, Calif., we found the LX570 to be very mild mannered and it fit in well with the SUVs piloted by the infamous housewives of the area. Out tester was overflowing with seemingly every accoutrement known to man. The four-zone climate control keeps everyone happy, and the DVD entertainment package will keep backseat drivers occupied. Automated features like the rain-sensing wipers and powered rear door make mundane everyday tasks simple. And we loved the parking assistant, consisting of a combination of video and audio sensors, which makes parking even in tight spots easy – added bonus, the back-up camera works great for backing up to your trailer when it's time to hitch up.
The full-time, four-wheel-drive system inspires driver confidence in a variety of road conditions. With the two-speed transfer case and Torsen center-locking differential, the LX570 can also venture off the beaten path. With features like Automatic Height Control, Crawl Control and Hill-start Assist, even an off-roading first timer will feel like a pro. However, don't confuse the LX570 with a Baja Trophy Truck or rock crawler, as it seems a better fit for the family ski trip or towing your travel trailer to the campsite than heavy off-road abuse.
With an as-tested price of $88,660, the LX570 is certainly at the high end of the SUV marketplace. But if you consider that it can take the place of your luxury sedan during the week and tow all your toys on the weekend, it might not be a bad investment. And, from our experience, short of hiring a driver, it is one of the most comfortable ways to cover some serious miles.