As we’re ascending a steep dirt road in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains, the crawl-control feature on the 2022 Lexus LX 600 is making easy work of a seemingly daunting climb. When I come up to a ridge, the high-res front-view camera—displayed on a 12.3-inch touchscreen—alleviates the uncertainty of what’s below. Noting the precipitous descent, I switch the crawl control’s speed setting from level three down to two. A downhill-assist feature automatically manages hydraulic pressure on the brakes for a stable descent, as I navigate a narrow split through the trees. The new Lexus LX is loaded with the latest tech that can make a novice off-roader feel like a pro.
Once out of the technical sections, we’re gliding along on a dirt-and-gravel road—disturbance in the cabin is minimal thanks to optimized coil springs and new suspension geometry—and soon find ourselves back on smooth pavement, passing the large estates and haciendas of Santa Fe. This region is known for offering the well-heeled a quiet retreat paired with alluring ruggedness, not unlike Lexus’s new flagship SUV.
Riding on a new GA-F body-on-frame platform, one it shares with its famously capable Land Cruiser cousin, the LX 600 differentiates itself with an exceptional level of refinement and plushness. While the blocky exterior generally straddles an aesthetic line between tough tank and luxo-barge design, there’s plenty of styling range between the five grades on offer. Wheels vary in size from 18 inches up to 22 inches, the largest found on any Lexus. A base two-row, five-seater LX acts as the entry-level model, but Lexus tells us this will make up only about five percent of sales.
The Premium grade will be the primary one buyers opt for, while a new F-Sport model adds a unique design, specialized handling characteristics and features such as a blacked-out mesh grille and those 22-inch aluminum-forged alloy wheels. It also includes exclusively tuned front and rear dampers. A Luxury variant presents three-row power-folding seating for seven occupants, while an Ultra Luxury configuration represents the pinnacle of the range.
The Ultra Luxury version, which starts at $127,345, features two rows and, at the back, a pair of sumptuous captain’s chairs offer an opulent in-car experience. Designed to cosset the passenger, the captain’s chairs—sporting curved headrests—offer a generous 43 inches of legroom, can slide forward and recline up to 48 degrees. A reading light, sunshades and rear-seat display come standard.
A Voice Assistant feature is meant as the main mode of interaction with the multimedia and infotainment options, though key buttons and the touchscreen remain at the ready to facilitate traditional use of those amenities. We briefly sampled the Voice Assistant and found its operation to be intuitive, though we appreciate physical buttons and controls remaining in the cabin.
In addition to the 12.3-inch touchscreen that displays cameras and infotainment, there’s a 7-inch touchscreen stacked just below. The latter is dedicated to presenting the driving modes and climate information. And regardless of which Lexus LX grade you opt for, it will be powered by a 409 hp, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine with 479 ft lbs of torque. The power plant replaces the storied 5.7-liter V-8, but actually bests the bigger engine’s output by 26 hp and 76 ft lbs of torque.
While the morning’s off-road adventures were in a Luxury model, I pick an F-Sport LX for the afternoon drive to Bandelier National Monument and the amusingly named Frijoles Canyon. Setting out from the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, the serpentine road offers panoramic vistas in every direction. The 10-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, even when on an open stretch where we test the vehicle’s boosted twin-turbo acceleration. Despite its heft and solidity—required to be able to tow 8,000 pounds—the new LX has plenty of hustle. As we gain elevation on the approach to Bandelier, patchy snow becomes a common sight as native Piñon-Juniper woodlands give way to Aspen groves and the high grasslands that can be found throughout the state.
Once at my destination and parked, I turn down the volume on the 25-speaker Mark Levinson system, swapping the immersive in-cabin audio experience for the sounds of chirping birds and rustling trees. Walking around the national monument I’m reminded of the endless beauty of this land, of its long history and first people that once inhabited this place. The two-hour drive back delights with long cotton-candy skies and a famous New Mexico sunset.
It may have taken 13 years to deliver a new generation of the Lexus LX luxury flagship, but latest iteration shows that Lexus was hardly idle in that time. With a new platform, engine and transmission, along with greater fuel economy, ample cutting-edge tech and five grades to choose from, the LX 600 debuts with generous style and plenty of substance. LX models are currently arriving in Lexus dealerships across the country.