Best of the Best 2008: Sport-Utility Vehicles: Lexus LX 570

At the Lexus LX 570 assembly plant in Yoshiwara, Japan, master craftsmen oversee final fitting and balance procedures. For quality control, robots shoot 1,300 photos as the vehicles proceed down the assembly line. But human hands sand the paint covering the body panels; human ears conduct sound-quality checks on door-closing noises; and, unlike most new cars, each LX 570 that rolls off the line receives its own track test.

Evidently, Lexus is serious about this model, and for good reason: The more-or-less mechanical twin of this Lexus is the Toyota Land Cruiser—an emblem of durability, the best-selling SUV in the Middle East, and the wilderness workhorse of unpaved Africa.

In the United States, the LX 570 is more likely to haul golf bags than construction equipment, but its off-road credentials are still quite serious. Ground clearance, for example, is generous. An electronically regulated air suspension automatically adjusts the ride height as speeds increase. A lockable, torque-sensing center differential and a switch-operated, low-range transfer case enable the vehicle to slog through rough terrain. A system called "crawl mode" automatically monitors the LX 570’s speed in particularly dicey conditions, using antilock brakes to control the throttle and braking.

The same mechanism allows the LX 570 to descend slopes of dizzying steepness while the driver does nothing but steer. Helping power this hefty SUV through rough country is the biggest engine ever fitted to a Lexus: a four-cam, 5.7-liter V-8 with 383 hp and 403 ft lbs of torque.

The magic of the LX 570 is that it rides, steers, and handles like an executive sedan, but it still will tackle a mountainside as a goat would. The high-tech suspension also endows the LX 570 with poise on the highway.

Inside the LX 570, you find everything you would expect from a $75,000 Lexus. It is replete with wood and leather, and equipped with two rows of power-adjustable seats, eight-passenger seating, four-zone climate control, precollision sensors, a wide-view front and side video monitor, voice-recognition navigation, and a premium stereo.

The optional surround-sound stereo is a 450-watt Mark Levinson system with 19 speakers. Other options include a rear-seat entertainment system, adaptive cruise control, and park assist, so that you can berth this big baby without risk to either the paint job or the surrounding environment.

Lexus, www.lexus.com

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