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I Drove The 'Ultimate Overland Vehicle' And The Off-Road Beast Is … – The Autopian

For the past couple of years, Overland Expo has been teaming up with show exhibitors and aftermarket part suppliers to build its vision of the ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle.’ These builds show off just the kinds of wild and capable vehicles you could build with parts sourced from some of the hundreds of exhibitors that show up at Overland Expo events each year. Overland Expo is now on its third Ultimate Overland Vehicle build and for this one, the team at Overland Expo chose to build something packed with luxury while still having the muscle to get you anywhere you need to go.
For this, Overland Expo chose a 2022 Lexus LX 600. The SUV, which is now in its fourth generation, represents the evolution of an adept SUV that has been the vehicle of choice for many off-roaders and overlanders for nearly three decades. Over two dozen Overland Expo show exhibitors then contributed parts to building the ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle 2023,’ many of them creating several first-ever overland components for the new LX 600 in the process.
I got to spend roughly two-ish days and one night with the Lexus LX 600 with an Off-Grid Trailers Pando 2.0 hitched up to the back. Together, both the SUV and the trailer make for Overland Expo’s ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle 2023.’ The pair were not just my only transportation for those days, but my hotel, my kitchen, and my bathroom. I took the rig on a small road trip and up fire roads that spiraled around a mountain. And I’ll warn you right now, I wasn’t kind to either vehicle.
(Full Disclosure: Overland Expo invited me out to Flagstaff, Arizona to experience Overland Expo West 2023. Afterward, I got to take the Lexus and the Pando out for an overlanding adventure of my own. Overland Expo paid for my lodging for the first night of the show.)
Before I continue, I will note that the Lexus build was finished just in time for the vehicle to drive to Overland Expo West. It meant that I was the first person to put this vehicle on a shakedown run and the first person to take it off-road. Now, some people might be bummed to hear that, but it made me only more excited. This also meant there were a few minor glitches to iron out. As an example, cruise control didn’t work because of a parking sensor fault. One of these glitches cut my ride short, so I didn’t get to play with certain parts of the rig like the roof tent or the trailer’s awning.
To be clear, I had an exhilarating time with the Ultimate Overland Vehicle 2023. Sometimes I feel that in another life, I might have been a test pilot or something because I love being the person to be given a vehicle and told to put it through its paces. Some lucky person will be able to buy the Lexus and the Pando on separate Bring a Trailer auctions later this year.
The vehicles they’ll get will be ready to go with those issues all fixed up. If you’re the eventual buyer, you’ll know you’re getting an off-road brute because you read this!
The Lexus LX has enjoyed four generations of mixing the dependability and off-road prowess of the Toyota Land Cruiser with the luxury of a Lexus. The story of how the LX came to be is noteworthy in itself because it was the result of trade tensions. As Autoweek writes, in the 1990s the United States and Japan were embroiled in a trade war. In 1995, American lawmakers proposed a 100 percent tariff on 13 Japanese luxury cars. As reported by the Los Angeles Times in 1995, those 13 models included the Acura Legend and 3.2TL, Mazda 929 and Millenia, multiple Infinitis, and the Mitsubishi Diamante.
The tariffs would have been a total bloodbath for Lexus. Had the trade war not reached a settlement, Lexus models including the LS 400, SC 400, SC 300, GS 300, and ES 300 would have effectively doubled in price after June 28, 1995.
Suddenly, consumers shuffled into dealerships wanting to get their luxury rides before they would get priced to the stratosphere. The heads at Toyota and Lexus realized that the list of 13 Japanese luxury cars did include not any SUVs. As a way to get around the then proposed tariffs, Lexus rushed to transform the 80 series Land Cruiser into a luxury vehicle. Launched in 1995, the Lexus LX 450 was little more than a rebadged, upscale Land Cruiser. Lexus sold around 14,000 of those first LX 450s before the big Lex’ moved on to the 100 series, becoming the LX 470 and further diverting from the Land Cruiser that birthed it in visuals and luxuriousness.
The Lexus RX would become the automaker’s cash cow while the LX found a strong following. To elaborate on these sales, since 2005, Lexus has moved 85,765 LX SUVs. For many years, the LX is lucky to exceed 4,800 units. In 2022, Lexus sold 258,704 units, of which just 3,642 were LX SUVs. The LX is the worst-selling SUV in the Lexus portfolio, but it maintains a strong base of loyal fans.
The Lexus LX has also been a bit slow to update. The first-generation 80 series-based LX 450 lasted just two years, then the Lexus LX 470 soldiered on from 1998 to 2007. Next came the 200 series-based LX, and that marched on all of the way to 2021. Of course, along the way there were facelifts and updates, but it was a pretty big deal when in 2021, Lexus gave the LX a fourth generation. This was the year that Toyota also discontinued the Land Cruiser itself in America, so the Lexus was it.
In October 2021, Lexus announced the Lexus LX 600 as an all-new flagship SUV. In its press release, Lexus recognized that LX fans had been waiting a long time for a new SUV to arrive. The new SUV launched for the 2022 model year and Lexus says the LX 600 rides on a newly reengineered body-on-frame platform.
That architecture is the TNGA-F (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform that also underpins the 300 series Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Tacoma, Tundra, and Lexus GX. TNGA-F is Toyota’s adaptable body-on-frame platform that the firm is now using for all of its off-roaders. Toyota says that this platform allows for more flexibility than previous platforms and it can be stretched, widened, or stiffened relatively easily to meet the design goals of a vehicle.
Specific to the LX 600, Lexus says the SUV’s GA-F platform is 20 percent stiffer than its predecessor thanks to the use of high tensile steel. Despite that, the Lexus LX 600 also achieved a weight loss of 441 pounds compared to its predecessor.
By the way, the LX 600 weighs around 5,665 pounds depending on the configuration. That’s compared to about 6,000 pounds and change for the third-generation LX 570. Some of that has to do with the extensive use of aluminum from the roof to the doors.
Power comes from a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 pumping out 409 HP and 479 lb-ft torque. That goes to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Perhaps confusingly, Lexus calls this a 3.5-liter despite its 3.445-liter displacement. That’s 26 more horses in the stable and 76 more lb-ft torque to play with. This engine also gives you better returns at the pump than the old V8. Ratings are 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and 19 mpg combined, a modest improvement over the V8’s 12 mpg, 16 mpg, and 14 mpg, respectively. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t really matter because the heavily modified ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle’ LX 600 drinks fuel at an accelerated rate. More on that in a bit.
The new LX 600 rides on the same 112.2-inch wheelbase as its predecessor, but its front and rear tracks are an inch wider each. Gone is the hydraulic power steering, replaced with an electric system. Lexus focused a lot on luxury with the LX 600 but didn’t forget its off-road roots. The SUV has front high-mounted double wishbone suspension, a four-link live axle, and rear shock absorbers that are now placed outside of the lower control arm. Further, the shock absorber mounting angle now matches the angle the axle moves at. Lexus says this setup “makes it easier for the shock absorbers to follow the vertical movement of the wheels, increasing their damping effect and, thus, better absorbing shocks and vibrations from the road surface to provide exceptional vehicle stability.”
In terms of off-road gear, the 2022 Lexus LX 600 is admittedly a little disappointing. You get a center-locking differential, but that’s it. If you paid $102,345 (over the $86,900 base model) for the F Sport model, you got a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, but again, that’s it. Other markets got a locking rear and Lexus even unveiled a version with three lockers just for Japan.
Sadly, those of us in the U.S. market have to live with the center locker and optional Torsen diff. The ‘Ultimate Overland Vehicle’ LX 600 started off as a base model, so no Torsen diff or Active Height Control, the optional adjustable hydraulic suspension. I’m told the build started with a base model so that the suspension could be modified rather than sticking with the stock Lexus setup. Instead of lockers, the LX 600 uses drive modes and off-road traction control to compensate. More on how this works in practice later on. In terms of off-roading angles, you’re looking at a 25.0-degree approach, 20.0 degrees breakover, and 23.0 degrees departure.
Well, that’s what you’re getting stock, and this is far from stock.
Nick Jaynes, Director of Communications of Overland Expo, tells me that the idea behind this build was to have the perfect mix of off-road capability and luxury. This concept of being comfortable while off-roading has slowly been permeating my thoughts. As many of our readers know, I’ve done a lot of Gambler 500 navigational rallies and HooptieX time trials. In almost all of them, I have been downright miserable in uncomfortable vehicles where the best creature comforts were a roof and windows. Some of these vehicles didn’t even have working windshield wipers!
Then I took my 2005 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 on the Missouri Gambler 500. The leather seats, booming sound system, intelligent off-road traction control, and air-conditioned comfort began to change my mind. Why suffer when I don’t need to? Jaynes certainly agrees and the Ultimate Overland Vehicle certainly fits the bill. According to the release for the Ultimate Overland Vehicle, the pairing of the modified Lexus with the Pando 2.0 trailer was created for a family of four to explore deep into the backcountry and be able to live off-grid for a week or longer. The Lexus itself is built to be able to handle an overland trip while the Pando 2.0 functions as a sort of basecamp for travelers.
The Ultimate Overland Vehicle is also more than just a fun build. Overland Expo and Emerald Consumer Events Marketing corralled a bunch of overland suppliers together to develop all-new components for the LX 600 and the build. In other words, the gear you see attached to this Lexus will be available to overlanders building out their own LX 600 rigs.
I’ll pass the microphone to Overland Expo to explain what you’re looking at here:
Up front, the LX600’s front fascia has been transformed by the ARB Summit MKII front bumper behind which is the new SOLO Series 12.5 winch from Comeup. Lighting the trail ahead are a pair of ARB’s new Intensity IQ lights. The Summit MKII also supports Midland Radio’s new Bull Bar Antenna, which enhances Midland’s MXT-575 GMRS radio that is mounted inside the cabin.
Up on the roof is the first-ever Prinsu roof rack for LX600. It holds the Armadillo A2 rooftop tent as well as the Peregrine 270 awning, both from 23 ZERO. Look closely and you’ll spy camp and scene lighting, Vision X’s Overland Area Lights, along the side. The stance, as well as the off-road capability, of the LX600 has been increased by suspension components from Total Chaos and Radflo. Total Chaos developed upper and lower control arms and rear links for the LX600. Front and rear shocks and struts have been replaced by Radflo’s 2.5 Diameter Remote Reservoir shocks and coilovers. The result is a suspension height more than 2.5 inches taller than stock with much greater travel.
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Complementing the new suspension is a set of 33/12.5R17 Kenda Klever R/T tires. These are wrapped around 17-inch Icon Dynamics Compression wheels. In case of an emergency, the SUV carries a few different kits. The Off Road Tool Bag from Boxo USA can handle trailside repairs while the Forrest Tool ‘The Max’ Tool Kit comes with a shovel, pick, and an ax head in case you need to blaze your own trail or bury some business in the woods. Finally, there’s a Self-Reliance Medical OTK 1450 First-Aid Kit onboard in case things go really wrong.
Somehow, the mods still don’t end there, from Overland Expo:
The LX600 is further transformed in the rear by an all-new dual swing-out rear bumper from CBI Offroad. It’s carrying the truck’s full-size spare wheel and tire on one arm and on the other a five-gallon jerry can and a set of traction boards. Swing open the bumper and lift the rear hatch, and you’ll discover Goose Gear’s new Ultimate Chef Package for LX600, which includes a CFX3 45 fridge from Dometic.
Meals prepared using the Ultimate Chef Package can be enjoyed on Tactical Tables and Chairs from Helinox. Additional water for drinking and washing up is stored in two of Dometic’s Go Hydration Water Jug and Water Faucet. Also mounted to the Ultimate Chef Package is a custom box crafted by MULE Expedition Outfitters, which houses the rig’s auxiliary power management system, the Smart BMS CL 12/100, from Victron Energy. The job of starting the LX’s 3.5-liter V6 comes from an Optima Batteries Yellowtop DH7 battery mounted under the hood. The twin-turbo six’s deep rumble has been unleashed by the first-ever MagnaFlow Overland Series Cat-Back Performance Exhaust System for LX600.
Sadly, due to the aforementioned issue, I did not get to try out the overlanding gear. But I got to put the most important bits–the off-roading gear and the trailer–to the test. You’ll read about the trailer in a separate entry. For now, we’ll laser focus on the Lexus.
I was most amazed by how well everything worked together with the Lexus. These parts are made to coordinate with the Lexus LX 600 so that everything that worked from the dealership should still work now. The builders of the Ultimate Overland Vehicle worked with the vehicle’s technology instead of deleting it. For example, the bumpers were designed to work with the vehicle’s sensors.
Some temporary quirks from the build left behind errors for the grille shutters and parking sensors, the latter issue killed cruise control. This is completely unrelated to the modifications, but the check engine light in a Lexus LX 600 isn’t like other cars. Yes, you get the cute orange engine icon, but every few minutes or so you get a warning that takes up a chunk of the instrument cluster.
You can dismiss the warning, just to see it again a few minutes later. Look, this SUV really wants to go to the dealer.
Thankfully, all of this will be resolved by the time the Ultimate Overland Vehicle goes up for auction. Remember, I was basically a test pilot for this expedition vehicle! At the very least, all of these mods solved the worst part about the LX 600: its looks. The new front bumper deletes nearly the entire ‘Predator’ grille that Lexus has been associated with for some time. The Ultimate Overland Vehicle looked so much cooler than a stock LX 600 that I had to Google what it looked like stock just so I could be shocked again. Major props to all of the companies and builders involved, this is what the LX 600 should have looked like from the factory!
The original plan saw me teaming up with motorcycle maven, adventurer, and survivalist Eva Rupert for a three-day, two-night adventure. I would put the LX 600 and the Pando 2.0 trailer through their paces on mountain passes, fire roads, and the desert. I would end up using the overlanding rig for about two days-ish and one night. This does mean I missed out on playing with some of the onboard gear.
The trailer had a propane-fired pizza oven in it and I just couldn’t wait to use it. Well, at least whoever buys the camper is getting a fresh pizza oven free from the use of my grubby hands.
I first got behind the wheel of the Ultimate Overland Vehicle to take it around a test course at the Overland Expo grounds. This was both a demonstration of how the LX 600 and the mods can wheel while also a check to see if I could handle off-roading the burly giant. A journalist from Men’s Journal was there and put through the same gauntlet.
I hopped in the driver seat, adjusted the vehicle to fit me, dropped the transfer case into Low, and started driving my rumbling instrument forward. Admittedly, I’ve never gone off-roading with a trailer before, but I quickly learned that off-roading with a trailer is not much different than driving on the road with a trailer. You have to pick lines that won’t result in the trailer getting hung up on obstacles. Though, off-roading will bring challenges like ensuring your trailer can also fit on the narrow log bridge you’re going across.
The most satisfying part about taking the LX 600 through the off-road course was just how comfortable it was. I’m so used to feeling tires spinning, brakes grabbing, and being thrown around that this felt like a drive through a level parking lot. Jaynes intentionally chose a route through the off-road course that would push the suspension and articulation to the limit. There were times that the LX 600 had one or two wheels in their air.
Now, its open differentials would normally mean the wheels in the air would be the ones spinning, but the SUV’s traction control system intelligently compensated for this. When a wheel lifted, the SUV applied the brakes to the one in the sky, allowing power to reach the wheels still on the ground.
This is far from new technology. My 2005 Volkswagen Touareg VR6 does the same thing to account for not having lockers. However, you can feel it when my Touareg locks up a brake to redistribute power. The Lexus did it so seamlessly and so smoothly that I didn’t even know it was happening. I would drive up a berm, lift a wheel into the sky, and the SUV would keep going like nothing changed. It was awesome to watch when the other journalist was behind the wheel. The wheel in the sky would spin a little, lock up, and the LX 600 continued down its path.
Overland Expo has not provided what the off-roading angles are after the upgrades, but I can say that you can stuff the Ultimate Overland Vehicle into trenches, holes, and ditches that would rip the face off of the stock vehicle. As for mud holes? I’d say send it, buddy, because I sent it through a couple of holes and the LX 600 did not quit. The Pando 2.0 trailer handled the off-road course with grace, too, rolling over everything without getting settled one bit or even coming close to using up its own ground clearance.
Ouv23 Ms 08
Later in the day, Jaynes tossed me the key to the Lexus, and I set off on a solo drive. Since I was staring down two nights and two more days with the vehicle, I decided to make my solo drive about how the rig handles on the highway.
For that, I set off on I-17 and I-40, interstates surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona. While the LX 600 and Pando 2.0 were built for off-road adventures, they will almost certainly accumulate a ton of highway miles between and during those overlanding trips. The Lexus is supposed to be comfortable, and it better be for the price you’re paying. So, I wanted to see how the mods impacted the drive.
I’m happy to say that the mods didn’t feel like they significantly altered the performance. My short day trip took me to Twin Arrows and beyond, where I just ate up mile after mile of highway. Aside from the giant antenna in front of my face, the camper in my rearview mirrors, and the hum from the knobbies, I couldn’t really tell this was a beefed-up off-road monster. The modified Lexus LX 600 was simply sublime to take down the highway. It tracked straight, held the speed I commanded it to, and bumps never unsettled that suspension. Sure, it did feel a bit like a truck on really rough roads, but the cushy interior seating ate those patches up so well that my tush never felt bothered.
As I drove into the sunset, I started staring at the cars beside me and noticed how I towered above anything that wasn’t a big pickup truck or larger. Forward and side visibility was good and given the look and capabilities of my rig, I felt like the Queen of the road.
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I felt like I could just take any turn off of the highway and disappear into the horizon. Actually, that’s exactly what I did when I turned off of the highway and drove down a dirt road that seemed to go on forever.
Prior to this trip, I thought Arizona was nothing but an endless desert. Sure, I saw some of that out there, but the state is home to a vast variety of landscapes and ecosystems. All of them seem to go on farther than your eyes could see.
At one point in my day drive, I stopped at what’s known as the Twin Arrows Trading Post on Google Maps. This dilapidated fueling station has some history behind it. The station was built in the late 1940s as the Canyon Padre Trading Post, later changing its name to Twin Arrows. Built on historic Route 66, the fuel station added a pair of arrows to its parking lot to draw in travelers to the location, which included a diner and a gift shop.
Like many other places along the famed Route 66, business began drying up when the highway was replaced by an interstate. Twin Arrows was passed from owner to owner until it finally closed up in 1995. Since then, the property has fallen victim to extreme decay and vandalism. The owner of the buildings is the Hopi tribe and while the wooden arrows were once restored, one of them has collapsed as the rest of the property continues to get destroyed.
Today, the place looked like a location from a fictional post-apocalyptic movie, and the Ultimate Overland Vehicle looks right at home there, especially with its perimeter lighting shining bright. Of course, abandoned places are alluring and explorers are attracted to these things like mosquitoes to a bug zapper. Please respect these places and don’t destroy them. You really be careful about the exploration part, too, not just for any legal implications but because you can hurt yourself breathing in all of that mold.
In terms of technology, infotainment is handled through a large 12.3-inch touchscreen. It’s a pretty simple unit that displays one thing at a time on its huge real estate. This constantly had connection issues with my phone and thus Android Auto only sometimes worked. Sometimes, it would get stuck in a loop of connecting to then losing my phone. Ultimately, I solved it by disabling Android Auto entirely. Menu navigation was also unnecessarily difficult, with the stereo equalizer buried so deep I don’t even remember how I got there.
Honestly, it still perplexes me how car infotainment design doesn’t borrow ideas from phones or from computers.
That said, when everything worked correctly, it even further cemented the idea of having a luxury adventure vehicle. My road maps were large and clear on the screen while my music blasted with plenty of clarity and bass in what felt like my own personal concert hall. When off-roading, you can also display trail maps via the onX Off Road Trail Maps app, which displays right there on the large screen.
There is a second 7-inch screen. Sadly, some HVAC controls and vehicle system monitors route through there. It’s a pretty intuitive system, though I still prefer physical buttons over screens I have to look at.
Once the sun went down, I turned back toward the site of Overland Expo West to set up my camp for the night. On the road, I noticed something rather alarming about the Lexus LX 600. I had driven maybe about 70 miles, but the fuel gauge went from full to half. The fuel economy estimator said I was doing a solid 11 mpg. The Lexus LX 600 has a 21.1-gallon fuel tank. 11 mpg and 70 miles shouldn’t add up to half of a tank sucked up. At 120 miles, the needle dropped below a quarter tank. I then put about 9 gallons into the fuel tank, shutting off the pump on the second click. That filled it up and the needle showed full. I’m not entirely sure what was going on there. I used up just under half of a tank, but the needle was showing under a quarter tank. Based on this, I have to assume the fuel gauge is wonky for some reason.
At any rate, the best fuel economy I achieved during my time with the rig was 12 mpg. That was on the highway towing the Pando 2.0. It got worse fuel economy while off-roading and driving in the city. I can forgive the bad fuel economy because even though the trailer weighs just 2,200 pounds, the whole rig, SUV, and trailer, were basically a pair of bricks ramming through the wind. This is to say that if you buy this, expect some epic thirst to empty your bank account.
At least out of the other end, you do get an exciting engine and accompanying soundtrack. That 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 has more than plenty of grunt to take you anywhere the tires will take you. The Lexus isn’t what I’d call fast, but it dragged the Pando onto the highway with so much gusto that you have no excuse to be clogging up traffic in this rig. The power on deck never left me begging for more or left the Lexus feeling like it was strained by its mods or the trailer. It was just right.
The MagnaFlow exhaust also makes you want to stab the throttle just to hear the engine sing. It’s not the best V6 note I’ve ever heard, but combined with the luxury ride, the off-road gear, and the butch looks of the custom rig, it was just right. If you’re an introvert, you should probably not bid on this Lexus, because it turned heads everywhere. A few strangers I talked to loved the fact that this was a super modern car kitted up like how someone would rock an older Land Cruiser.
If I had one major complaint about the LX 600 on the road, aside from how much it loved to gulp down gallons of fuel, it would be with the transmission. Unless I set the driving mode to Eco mode, the Lexus constantly hunted for gears. It just didn’t seem to know how to deal with the trailer on the back. It would downshift a few gears for the smallest hills, upshift for the downhill stretch, then downshift again on level ground. The transmission just couldn’t find a gear it was happy with. This probably isn’t a big deal with a stock LX 600, but with this modified one, it meant the exhaust drone always changed. Putting it into Eco mode seemingly forced it to hold gears for longer, as did Sport, but you don’t want to stick it in Sport unless your overlanding trailer does double duty as an oil tanker.
After I finished my short day trip, I parked the LX 600 for the night and slept in the Pando 2.0 trailer. Before I did that, I did play around with the plethora of lights on this thing. The lights, especially the ARB Intensity IQ units, basically turned nighttime into daylight. And the controller stuck to the dash offered granular operation of the lights, offering levels ranging from “bright headlights” to “staring into the sun.” I probably harmed my eyes looking at these things. The perimeter lights were particularly helpful in setting up the Pando 2.0 trailer.
The next morning, I met up with Eva Rupert. A local, Eva knew of the best trails to take our rig down. She also booted up the onX Off Road Trail Maps app to help me find what trails were actually open and how to get to them. This was my first time using the app and it was a powerful tool. Regular navigation apps just don’t show you detail like this. Had I used Google Maps I would have never known about the incredible extensive trail network just outside of Flagstaff. When I didn’t have Eva in the Lex’, I sort of just drove toward the mountains hoping to find the entrances to trails. I was successful, but I could have saved a ton of time and precious fuel with an app like this.
The onX Off Road Trails Map app was so useful that I downloaded it and gave it a try when I got home. Yep, there’s absolutely nothing near me. If I want public trails, I have to go to Missouri, the very southern tip of Illinois, or Wisconsin. Oof.
Anyway, Eva decided to choose a route that would put the Lexus and the trailer to the test, but wouldn’t result in us returning both vehicles looking like we entered them into a demolition derby. The initial trails were just fire roads, and I got to see how the Lexus and the trailer handled washboard surfaces and just generally rough terrain. This was stuff a Subaru Crosstrek could get through, but we sat in far better comfort than any Subaru driver.
The Lexus was remarkably composed in the washboards, with the interior not even letting off a squeak. The only noises we heard came from the tires and the camping equipment. Looking in the rearview mirrors, the Pando 2.0 handled the washboards even better, remaining perfectly level through them. Watching its suspension work was almost mesmerizing.
Eva’s route gradually got a bit harder and the fire road turned into a rocky obstacle course high enough that snow appeared on the ground next to the trails. Since it was a bit colder, the surfaces started becoming a bit more mushy, too. But the Lexus never skipped a beat. I sat there in my comfortable and towering Ultimate Overland Vehicle watching the world go by. If this were the typical off-roader that I’m used to, I’d listen to the bumps and scrapes of a suspension while shaking so much that I’d start to get fatigued. This was so comfortable it felt like cheating, and part of it was thanks to the modifications, which got the SUV through terrain that would have gotten a stock LX 600 beaten up a bit.
Later on, we came across a very wet clay-like surface. On initial approach, this stuff seemed a bit like I would be driving on wet glass or maybe ice. Or at least, it would have been in the stuff I’m used to wheeling. In the Lexus, I dropped it into low range again and put my foot on the skinny pedal. It didn’t require much throttle for the Lexus to practically walk through the muck, the Kendas were putting work for sure.
Some miles later, we found ourselves traversing uneven trails with ledges, rocks, and ramps. The additional clearance helped the LX 600 traverse these obstacles without scraping while once again, the Pando behind us seemed entirely unfazed by the articulation and surface changes.
Sadly, at the end of this trail, we discovered a technical glitch that would ultimately end our journey. It wasn’t a catastrophic problem, just one that would cause unnecessary damage. I would not get to take the LX 600 to the top of a mountain or through the desert. We had harder trails planned ahead, a night ride, a test of all of the fantastic overlanding and cooking equipment, plus another day of driving. Unfortunately, the builders of this vehicle were in the Pacific Northwest, nowhere near our location outside of Flagstaff, so it wasn’t going to be a quick fix.
Still, I had a total blast being the test pilot of the Ultimate Overland Vehicle. I love the look, I love the mods, and I love how I was able to off-road the vehicle without feeling fatigued. The Ultimate Overland Vehicle was so much fun I asked if, after it got fixed, I could take it home with me. I didn’t care that it consumed fuel like a jet on takeoff power, it was just that good to drive.
While I drove this pairing, I often asked myself “Is this really the ultimate overlander?” On one hand, the modded-out LX 600 is clearly a capable vehicle, one that even fixes the biggest problem with the base vehicle. That’s the looks if you were wondering. On the other hand, I’m a bit disappointed that Lexus didn’t give the LX 600 locking differentials, using software to make up for it. At the same time, I would think the perfect overlander depends on the person. Some people want to drive those absolutely colossal commercial trucks with a camping box on the back while some people adventure on two and three wheels.
So, I’m not sure about the “ultimate” part, but what I will say is that as a vehicle to get you places a stock many vehicles cannot, I think the Ultimate Overland Vehicle LX 600 is a beast and I was just as impressed with how the Pando 2.0 got through the rough.
Once I got home from the trip, I went straight to Facebook and started looking at Lexus LX 470s to maybe try to replicate something similar with, but on a shoestring budget. The Ultimate Overland Vehicle fully convinced me that adventuring in some comfort is the way to go. I’m not sure why it took me over five years of beating myself up in rough vehicles to realize it’s just as fun to do it without getting bruises.
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As I said before, the 2022 Lexus LX 600 and the Off Grid Trailers Pando 2.0 will be auctioned off in separate Bring a Trailer auctions later this year. When those vehicles sell, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Overland Expo Foundation charity. The Foundation says it protects lands through restoration and cleanup programs, and educates people on preparedness and understanding while advocating for overlanders to “do your part” to allow future generations to enjoy the outdoors.
As for what these could go for? Well, the Lexus was $86,900 before the mods and the Pando 2.0 started at $34,750. I would expect the LX 600 to sell for six figures. Whoever is the lucky person to buy this rig, I’m sure they’re going to have the time of their life, because I sure did.
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This is screaming for a PHEV (“Prime”) version – run on electric 95% of the time as a daily driver and then who cares what it gets for the times you do go off-road. A PHEV would also have the hardened electrical system to supply that sweet, sweet electricity straight from rig without the extra box.
That would be rad.
Storm the Sam’s Club parking lot in full Mad Max cosplay gear.
Seems pointless having a RTT fitted as well as pulling a camper trailer. Surely you’d just want one or the other, right?
It was outfitted for a family of 4 so throw the kids on the RTT 🙂
Probably true! Though, remember that the Lexus and trailer will be separated and sold later this year. So they’re really two independent camping vehicles.
Overlanding seems like a fun weekend hobby but I;m not sure I’d want to haul around 1000 pounds of extra bumper/winch on my daily. I had a neighbor that couldn’t even pull his tacoma into his garage without letting air out of the tires.
I had a neighbor that couldn’t even pull his tacoma into his garage without letting air out of the tires.
Omg, I would have paid to watch that routine.
This is a true overland trailer. Not some 8-10,000 lb steel box (painted black):with all steel accessories and the comforts of the Ritz.
At the very least, that front bumper should be on every LX as it leaves the factory. I honestly thought this was built from an older Lexus at first, one from a more sensibly designed era.
Also, bold of them to call this the ultimate overland vehicle. Autopians know the ultimate overland vehicle is a manual ZJ with four kittens living in it.
Agree. The front grill makes me physically nauseous. Hiding it with the bull bar should be a requirement.
Is there a single documented case of anyone not employed by Lexus who actually likes the hideous front end on this truck? Or any Lexus product since they started this design?
That picture literally looks like someone’s mouse slipped while using Photoshop’s Clone Stamp tool.
Love to take my six figure car out driving over rocks / in lakes.
This, but unironically.
People complain if they’re used as “mall-crawlers” too. Buying a tool and using it for what it was intended seems pretty cool to me.
That’s a fair point. I was being snarky / ironic – but yes, this is actually what the product is intended for, i guess. Not how I’d go about it, but that doesn’t mean everyone is that way…
I just wonder if the front IFS axle half shafts are stronger than, say, the ones in the Tacoma with a broken front axle shaft that I came across a few weeks ago horribly stuck off the side of the road in a hole a few hours from the nearest pavement. I spent 2 hours winching them out, probably saving them a couple days of being stuck and a 4 figure towing bill (they had a winch, which was useful to use as an extension line, but no controller; not the first time I’ve encountered that).
the axle’s on Land Cruisers are much beefier than on Tacomas and 4unners. Same with steering gear. It’s a semi-common mod to use Land cruiser end links as an upgrade.
That’s good to hear, especially given the extra weight, I would hope for at least 2x stronger. I also just realized, with an open center differential, would losing a front axle shaft effectively make this thing 0 wheel drive? The fancy control system using the brakes instead of lockers won’t do squat if there’s no axle shaft between the brake and differential. At least with a part time transfer case, the rear axle will still see torque.
These all have torsen limited slip center differentially with locking making them like part time
No. This is not how they should leave the factory only to ever be driven by stay at home moms running errands. Quite frankly, I’d rather land cruisers just not exist at all.
yeah, but your opinion is a bad one, so there’s that
A 21 gallon gas tank on a full size SUV is criminal.
Bare minimum it should be 25. 28-32 would be optimal.
Its a little weird they sized down. Why? what packaging reason could their be? What is the advantage of LESS fuel.
Were you side lined by the lack of cruise control or just too nice to mention the exact one of these glitches that would have damaged the rig if you had continued?
It wasn’t the cruise control, but physical contact between two components that shouldn’t have been touching. The parts touched only during articulation, hence why it took until my drive to notice. We had the tools to fix the problem and it would have been a quick trail repair, but Overland Expo felt it best to end the test and let the builders fix it.
Man, I really miss Flagstaff, Payson and the Mogollon Rim areas
A detail, but what is up with the lights mounted on the front bumper? Are those dual mode lamps?
I was interested too. Quad mode
Sawing off that hideous grille makes a vast difference aesthetically, approach angles be damnned.
What a cool experience. Sorry that you had to cut it short. I HATE the term “ultimate overlander” because as you pointed out that is a moving target and I just think it sounds stupid.
I do think the LX600 would be a great long distance touring machine. The reality of overland travel means that unlike rock crawling or “off-roading” the point isn’t ultimate performance it’s more about covering as much ground as possible. That means a lot of miles on road and off and it means maximizing the kinds of roads you can travel on. This also means that unless you can handle a lot of pain, that comfort is a key criteria. Yeah, a Wrangler is a better off-roader than a Land Cruiser but a Land Cruiser wont make you want to kill yourself have 3 days of 150+ miles of trails and highways. Plus it actually has the payload, towing capacity, stability, etc to bring comforts [safely] with you. Touring is the key word – You are out to see the world and not really about flexing out and smashing rocks.
When it comes to comfortable miles, each LX has gotten leaps and bounds better. The 80 series was the development standard in the 300 series for “rough road performance”, as Toyota says it was their best vehicle in that regard, but as an 80 series owner…man alive I would rather spend miles in a 200 series. The 80 is better for bigger hits, but the 100/200/300 are all WAY better for small the medium stuff most trips consist of. If the 300 is a 200 series with the goal to be more like an 80? That’s a major win in my book.
One word I can’t stand nearly as much as “ultimate” in the overland world right now is the world “tactical”. Barf.
I can’t speak about Lexuses but I can confirm that long road trip days in Jeeps do not make you want to kill yourself. In fact, having driven 10+ hours straight in an 08 Caravan and a solid axle Jeep, the Jeep is actually more comfortable for long trips.
It depends on your level of comfort and your tolerance to abuse I suppose. I tour with the 80 series which is considered a damn comfortable vehicle – more steering stability with the radius arms over multi-link, quieter interior with a solid wagon body, long travel coils, etc. I have mine rigged for comfort over outright performance (lighter lower lift coils, custom tuned shocks for comfort, 33’s not 35’s, etc) and even then it’s much more tiring to drive long miles than my stock GX470. The GX requires less of me as a driver and it leaves me more fresh. Wranglers feel more like my 80 series than my GX after the miles I’ve spent in them. Its not that they are BAD, but until you’ve done miles in something better its hard to compare.
I was recently on the west coast for a few weeks, my buddy lent me his 93 80 series to use during that time. I’ve always thought 80’s were cool (I’m not a Toyota guy despite owning a 5th gen 4Runner), but after spending some time behind the wheel I’m absolutely in love with them now.
His was had a 2-ish OME suspension lift and new 33″ Cooper AT3’s. (and yes, triple locked) I was amazed at how nicely this went down the highway. One hand on the wheel at 65mph, no vibes or wandering. Wind noise was much less than I’d have expected considering it had an ARB bumper and a roof rack. Speaking of the ARB, holy sh!t do people give this thing a wide berth! Maybe it was a CA driver thing, but coming from the northeast I was impressed at how nobody ever cut me off or drove aggressively around me. I saw someone check like 3 times before merging in front of me, quite a distance away. After making that move, they proceeded to just cut off another car in the process of moving to the next lane.
As that happened, I turned to my GF, making the Paulie Walnuts hand gesture, saying “now that’s respect”.
Other than the fuel bill and how rattly it was over broken pavement; I think I prefer the 80 to my 5th gen. The 4.5 was smooth and had better power than I expected. It wasn’t at all quick but felt torquier down low than the 4Runner.
I also loved all the glass and the thin roof pillars, the visibility out of it was fantastic. I’ll mention my buddy’s seemed to be dialed, I asked him if there were any quirks I should know about, he said nope, just drive. ONLY thing was that the fuel door spring had recently broken, so it took a bit of finagling to get open. My 07 Volvo has the same issue. He mentioned he recently had a caster correction done, and that made a big difference. His GF mentioned it was downright scary to drive before that. The funny thing was she tried to warn me about it; “just know it’s an old truck…it’s slow, it’s loud, it doesn’t handle very well, you have to manhandle everything”. In reality it wasn’t much different than driving my 4R.
So anyway, I’ve been keeping an eye on the classified for one, haha.
The 80 can be hard to lift and dial in just right, but if you do it’s pretty shockingly civil.
Ultimate overlander is marketing arm waving. Every RV is a compromise. What’s “ultimate” for my use case and expectations will be almost useless and idiotic for someone else.
Myself, I dislike trailers for trail use. Backing up with a trailer might be fine on open pavement, but backing up a trailer with obstacles, off-camber on a slippery surface is the start of a long day.
For sure. Part of the reason I hate it. The other is that it sounds so “alpha male” toxic masculinity crap.
Great review: a couple questions:
-Is there a Tow/Haul mode or similar? That usually helps with the gear hunting on the highway. Disappointing omission by Toyota if not.
-Premium gas or regular?
-Subjective question here, but if you’ve driven the previous generation LC/LX, does this one maintain the hunk of granite/bank vault type feel that one had? The weight loss and switch to aluminum has me worried there.
No tow mode on this unit, but there is an anti-sway function. Sadly for one’s wallet, it drinks that sweet Premium fuel.
I have not driven a third generation, but I have driven the first two gens, albeit only on road. This one still reminded me of the “chiseled out of stone” feeling of the LX 470 and similarly heavy. Though, I suppose that makes sense given it weighs about as much as a second gen.
I don’t doubt that this is much more comfortable off-road than your previous experiences, but is that because it’s an awesome luxury car, or because it’s not a clapped out smart car? Because anything is more comfortable off-road than a smart car.
You know, I do off-road way more than Smarts…
I’ve wheeled a bunch of pickup trucks, different side-by-sides, a few different SUVs, a couple of motorcycles, a trike, and yes, a bunch of regular cars and two minivans. I mean, I haven’t off-roaded a Smart since late 2020.
The Toyota overbuilt IFS on the bigger J wagons and 5 link setup is stupid smooth. I hear the 300 series is next level.
I did know that you drove more than Smarts but I also knew that you had a lot of experience wheeling Smarts and clapped out Rangers and $500 minivans and Jeep Renegades, and yeah a six figure Lexus ought to be many times better than any of those.
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