There are those of us who believe that when too much money is involved, anything that costly automatically becomes "not worth it". Yet others amongst us believe that you truly get what you pay for. For the upper-$50ks this SUV commands, I would have to say I fall in the latter category.
The Lexus LX470 was introduced to the public world market just a couple of years ago alongside its sister-car, the Toyota Land Cruiser. The Toyota, in its previous incarnation, was a fine and very-well respected SUV around the world. However, the latest model improves on the previous in virtually every category.
First to come to mind naturally is the powerplant. Creamy-smooth DOHC V8, displacing 4.7L (previous 4.5). Torque, horsepower, and smoothness had all been improved significantly. This engine literally rivals other Lexus engines for smoothness and idle behavior (actually come to think of it it's just as good as any offering). Yes the LX470 is heavy, but this engine doesn't leave you saying "come on, would it have been that much trouble for a bit more oomph?", such is the case when I find myself either driving or riding as a passenger in the Range Rover 4.6SE (At least $10,000 more).
The LX470 is identical to the Land Cruiser, except with the following additions:
1. More leather, in many places
2. Air suspension (3 settings, works very well actually)
3. Gauge/dash instrumentation (not the shapes, but the textures/colors)
4. headlights/tailights design (for exclusivity of course)
5. More sound-deadening material
6. A bit more options, including the fabulous Nakamichi Stereo system
The car raises and lowers itself via the air suspension (ala Range, although this British import has multiple (4-5) user-selectable ride heights). The interior decibel level is as low as I noticed in the newest Lexus LS400. That's extremely impressive, especially at speed. Bravo engineers. And like I mentioned earlier, the engine, thankfully being of the DOHC variety (yes more expensive, but actually HAS usable power over 3500RPM, unlike domestic SUVs), is a joy on the highway. Can't comment about gas mileage, but from what I've read, a little better than Tahoe's and Expeditions.
The stability is excellent for a vehicle this size, and the suspension is truly professionally tuned for a car like this. Like I said before as well, the different settings for the damping rate on the suspension can truly be felt. On harshest, you notice bump impact. On softest, you are completely oblivious to pavement imperfections (Hell you can probably run over a big animal and not notice), but throw the hulk into a corner over 40mph and it wobbles up and down somewhat. On the std. setting it's a good compromise. Really.
Spaciousness is not an issue, and there is even a 3rd bench (not meaning much by today's standard, but still). Safety features are as plentiful as in any Lexus, and the ergonomics are a model for other manufacturers.
Compared to other expensive SUVs on the market, you can't help but compare it to the Range Rover. The Range is truly the ultimate SUV in many affluent buyers' eyes (and wallets), what with the heritage and prestige that accompanies this marque. Certainly, I understand this, yet the LX470 is so good your practical side forces itself over you. On top of that, it's based upon the world-famous Land Cruiser, that I reiterate in saying has won the respect both on and off-road around the world over the last few decades.
Yes the Range is sophisticated in its body motions, has great brakes and off-road capability (oh please people, who cares, you'd all get HUM-Vees if you did right? :)), and a nice interior, but the Lexus is just much better. Not just for the money. But the engine is far superior (the Range has an ancient OHV Buick engine powering it! And not very adequately either, chassis too heavy for its power output). The interior coocooning better, the ergonomics (was the Range designed by Aliens? It would take some to decipher those buttons quickly). Even the ride approaches that of the Range's, and that's truly saying something (it's defintiely quieter). The safety features are as good, and it has more space. And the reliability and build quality cannot be compared (although the Brits have gotten much better at it recently, so Range buyers need not worry these days). Perhaps the only thing the Range has going for it is the superior (albeit not by much) solid-feel to it. Very Germanic.
So what else is on the market to rival the Lexus? Uhm...let's see...
Err, nothing. Oh, wait! The Toyota Land Cruiser.
Is this vehicle worth the $7k-$10k premium over its sister car? I would say so, if not elsewhere definitely in the USA, what with the excellent service and satisfaction Lexus dealerships have been offering these past few years. Also, I guess if you're not going for an upper-$20k to $30k SUV, you are looking for something special, and thus I believe you might as well order the icing on the cake (and believe me, it's a DAMN good cake) and get what I believe is the best SUV offered today, regardless of price. I personally would rather a sedan or sports car over an SUV any day, but if I had the need for more than 1 vehicle, a family, and a decent job, I would not hesitate for the Lexus. Yes they offer the excellent LX300, but that's really in a different boat. You want the best? You got it here. And it's from Japan, nonetheless. Perhaps the Range offers many more "status" but that's something that Lexus needs time to beat. As you already know, the brand is already widely regarded as a status symbol of some significance by now anyway.