Driver's Seat: Lexus LX570: Twice the price, not as nice

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2013 Lexus LX570

2013 Lexus LX570. A December to remember, indeed.

Price. $88,920 as tested ($80,930 base price).

Conventional wisdom. Oooooh. Ahhh.

Marketer's pitch. You have arrived when Christmas involves a big red bow on one of these in your driveway.

Reality. It's big. It's luxurious. Yessiree.

Holiday treat. Judging by the TV-commercial version of reality, the whole family will swoon over new wheels at Yuletide. So, I thought I'd try out this Christmas wish: A big, honking Lexus that's priced mainly for people who can give transportation upgrades for Christmas.

And like most Christmas gifts, the anticipation was waaaaay better than the actual gift. Although the Lexus LX570 didn't break after a couple hours or need batteries, it still fell short of the actual excitement.

Inside. Of course, not many LX570s are purchased for road manners or fuel efficiency. This is where the LX570 shines.

The leather seats are comfortable and spacious. They didn't have any of the stiffness or firmness I often find in new cars. And - bonus - Sturgis Kid 4.0 reported that the middle row heats, as well, an important consideration for the backseat rider.

But these comfortable, spacious, warming saddles don't come standard. These are part of a $1,510 package. I'd like to see what the budget version looked like.

Storage space. That special seat enhancement package also brought a handy armrest refrigerator. Yes, folks, there's a cooler between driver and passenger to keep the Perrier chilled. I used it for CDs, and even though it was turned off, it took a while before Tony Bennett stopped needing the scarf he wore on the cover of his Christmas collection.

There are also plenty of places to rest phones and drinks. But the cup holders don't automatically grasp drinks; they have to be set by hand to fit your cup.

On the road. Driving the LX570 was like riding atop a dinosaur. I had forgotten about my experience with the Toyota Tundra last year, but it handled just like that pickup: Big and lumbering. "Floppy" was the word I used.

But trucks don't have to be big and bulky. The Dodge Ram 1500 is a much nicer ride than the Tundra.

"Eco"? Really? So I'm driving a $90,000 SUV with room for eight that's almost as tall as a school bus and is running about 16 m.p.g., and there's an "Eco" monitor? I personally like the way it flashed continuously as I accelerated. Because I didn't know the fuel economy would plummet when I opened up the throttle on the 5.7-liter V8 to all 383 horses.

Third row. Wealthy drivers with large families will have to play favorites among passengers when it's time for a road trip. The third row is a tough place to be, worse than many less-expensive SUVs. The middle spot is truly painful, as the seats split and fold up against the wall, so this victim is stuck on the crack.

The schematic to raise and lower the seats was kind of tough, but once I found the buttons things moved with ease.

Roomy. For as big as this monster is to drive, it's not really passenger-sized. Feet don't fit under the front seats, so 4.0's size 9s aren't happy back there.

Staying entertained. It's nice that the LX570 has two DVD monitors to keep the kiddies amused. But I was surprised that it didn't have a separate DVD player so Mom and Dad could enjoy some tunes in the in-dash CD while a DVD played in the cheap seats. A DVD player could be plugged in, but at this price it should come with that DVD player standard.

But even the entertainment components I received aren't free. The Mark Levinson audio system adds $2,350 to the price, and the dual-screen DVD player with headphones adds $2,005 more.

Fuel economy. A dismal 16 m.p.g. in almost all highway driving, on a trip to Western Pennsylvania. And this is using premium fuel. Glug, glug, glug.

Where it's built. Toyota City, Japan.

How it's built. It tops the Consumer Reports reliability scales.

In the end. I enjoyed the Infiniti JX35 crossover and Cadillac XTS much more than this baby. If I bought one of those I'd still have money left over for a Mini Cooper.

Next week. Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

 


Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.