Sure, she's a dancing hippo, but she's light on her big feet and well turned out.

A jet-lagged, carb-loaded mind is wander-prone, so while the Lexus rep described how the cross-linked variable-rate shocks use a spring-rate valve to help limit dive, squat, and roll in the new LX 570, improving its dynamic handling, I daydreamed first of hippopotami in ballerina skirts, then of the Rubenesque Motormouth Maybelle dancing to "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful" in the musical adaptation of John Waters's "Hairspray." This largest Lexus has no more business vamoosing through chicanes than it does scaling 45-degree slopes, fording two-foot-deep streams, or straddling nine-inch-tall rocks, and yet it's capable of doing all the above.

In fact, it seems to have been optimized for such bushwacking, with innovations like Crawl Control (think three-speed downhill-assist that also works uphill), Active Height Control (which can tip-toe three inches above or kneel camel-like 2.4 inches below normal ride height. "What percentage of your buyers go off-road?" a colleague asks. "Um, I don't think we have numbers on that," the presenter dodges. Later we tackle ranch trails carved to showcase the LX's 24-inch chassis articulation (the max one wheel can deflect without another leaving the ground) and are impressed.

The more pertinent trial involves hooking up an 8500-pound trailer (that's 800 pounds more than an AWD Escalade can haul, 300-400 less than Lincoln's Navigator or Infiniti's QX56 can manage). The quad-cam 383-horse, 5.7-liter borrowed from the Tundra is up to the challenge, though one has to wonder why the vehicle wasn't similarly optimized for this more likely task with an integrated trailer-brake controller along with its standard class IV hitch.

Regular commuters and vacationers haven't been overlooked in the innovations. An optional 180-degree camera in the grille looks both ways when exiting a blind alley, and another shows you the passenger-side curb. Power assists the middle-row seats fore and aft (four inches) and folds the third-row jump seats up against the side windows. A Pre-Collision System option is claimed as another first in this class, as are active front head restraints and 10 airbags.

The LX 570 is not fun to drive. It's hyper-quiet, comfortable, and capable all out of proportion to its buyers' needs, always ready to pirouette or plie on demand.


2008 LEXUS LX570
Base Price $74,565
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engine 5.7L/383-hp/403-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb Weight 6000 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 112.2
Length x Width x Height 196.5 x 77.6 x 73.4 in
0-60 mph 7.4 sec (mfr est)
EPA City/Hwy Econ 12/18 mpg
CO2 Emissions 1.37 lb/mile (est)
On Sale In U.S. January 2008