Extremely low Badwater basin at 282 feet below sea level. Extremely capable Lexus LX 570.
The easy thing to spot when you first drive the Lexus LX 570 is that, yes, it is extremely luxurious and comfortable (duh!). There’s plenty of space, leather, seat heaters, a great Mark Levinson 19-speaker sound system, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. (For comparison, while our living room at home has a bit more space, our DVD player doesn’t even work. Don’t even mention the rest!) There’s plenty of V-8 power for holding a steady speed on any road, and the standard GPS navigation system works so well with its large touch screen that minimal navigation is needed to learn how to work the, um, navigation. Virtually everything in the cabin works off some sort of power motor: windows, liftgate, moonroof, tilt/telescoping steering column, front seats, sliding second-row seats, and folding third-row seats. We lost track counting up the number of electric motors Lexus must have hidden inside the LX 570. That’s got to be some kind of “extreme.”
During our 1,000-mile test trip we ended up averaging 16.5 mpg, but the EPA estimate on the window sticker says to expect 14. Not too bad for a fullsize (read: heavy) SUV with a V-8 this powerful.
Extremely mysterious moving rocks on The Racetrack Playa, Death Valley.
Heading west out of Lone Pine, we first drove around the rocky Alabama Hills, an area made famous by years of moviemaking (remember Tremors, Ironman, or just about any Western?). The residual granite boulders of these hills gave the Lexus and its Crawl mode plenty of traction, and we were feeling better about the tires too, until we headed up the Whitney Portal Road, hit snow, and got stuck—almost. Don’t get us wrong; the LX 570’s traction control worked extremely well. It just seemed that the tires were not quite up to the performance level of the Lexus when in a low-traction off-road situation. Granted, the Michelins on our tester are not designed for slippery off-road action but are, instead, more of a compromise all-season tire. Although they were exceptionally smooth and quiet on the highway, owners of a Lexus LX 570 might decide to try some other tires depending on how they will use the vehicle. Let’s face it: The Lexus carries an extreme price tag ($77,755 MSRP, but $86,710 as tested), yet it also has capabilities over and above most luxury SUV 4x4s on the market. So, if you’re lucky enough to afford one, we suggest maximizing its potential by getting some tires matched to your usage.
The next morning we headed east and used the LX 570’s GPS to find the road into northern Death Valley. Traveling for miles over graded and not-so-graded rocky desert roads, we made our way north to Ubehebe Road and Lippincott Pass. This was a rocky, steep climb up out of Saline Valley. With the LX 570 in low range with Crawl mode turned on and the suspension set to its highest setting, we slowly negotiated the narrow, winding trail to the top. This luxurious fullsize Lexus creeping up the canyon must have been a sight to see—that is, if there were any other people out there in the sticks (there weren’t).
Extremely filled with power motors.
The next rocky road we came to took us past The Racetrack Playa, with its rocks that somehow mysteriously move across a dry lakebed, Teakettle Junction known for, well, its many teakettles, and the half-mile-wide, 700-foot-deep Ubehebe Crater blown out from superheated groundwater only a couple of thousand years ago. Circling around and heading south on pavement down the length of Death Valley, we wound up finally at Badwater, the lowest point in North America.
Although separated from Mt. Whitney by two days of mountain ranges, many geologic wonders, and miles of lonely roads and even lonelier trails, the lowest and highest points in this country’s contiguous 48 states are, remarkably, less than 100 miles apart as the crow flies. This trip had definitely become extreme with its natural beauty and amazing geology. The Lexus LX 570 proved to us that it is not only comfortable but, indeed, capable as an extreme wheeler.
You need to know these if you’re shopping for luxury Lexus 4x4s.
Bubinga: An exotic African hardwood used for furniture, musical instruments, and, evidently, interior pieces of the LX 570.
Semi-aniline: Refers to the color dying process used for the leather interior of the LX 570. Looks like full-aniline to us.
Noble Spinel Mica: What Lexus calls the exterior color of our test vehicle. Otherwise known as maroon.