Lexus J201 Concept: Review

An exercise on improving one of the most capable SUVs on the planet

Michael Harley
EVP Product, Editor-in-Chief
PROS
  • Nearly unstoppable off-road
  • Zero compromise with regards to luxury
  • First-rate improvements and enhancements
  • Visually exciting, yet functional upgrades
CONS
  • Nobody talks about fuel economy
  • Lexus hasn't announced production

The Lexus J201 Concept is a five-passenger Overlanding vehicle that is based on the company’s production LX 570 sport utility vehicle. The full-size four-door boasts a supercharged engine, upgraded brakes, more rugged tires, cosmetic add-ons, and a full complement of off-road accessories to improve and enhance its performance off-road. 

Crafted by Overlanding experts, the J201 was engineered to introduce the brand’s “pillars of Brave Design, Imaginative Technology, Exhilarating Performance, and Omotenashi,” which roughly translates as the way Japanese hosts pay attention to detail and anticipate their guests’ needs, says Lexus. The vehicle made its public debut at last year’s Rebelle Rally, a challenging off-roading race that takes place across rugged topographies of California and Nevada. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

The J201 Concept Story

Lexus makes some of the world’s best off-roading vehicles, yet most shoppers are naively unaware of that fact as they shop the company’s pristine showrooms chock-full of luxury- and performance-oriented vehicles. While the Lexus UX, NX, and RX are luxury crossovers engineered primarily for pavement, the GX, and LX models are rugged trucks beneath their luxuriously appointed cabins.

With an eye on exploiting the true potential of the flagship LX 570, Lexus worked with Overlanding experts – in this case, Clay and Rachelle Croft of Expedition Overland – to craft the ultimate off-road vehicle. Clay and Rachelle know more than a thing or two about navigating the unpaved portions of our planet as the couple has adventured in 4×4 vehicles from the Artic Circle to the tip of South America, and all points in between. They know what works, and what doesn’t.

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

The “J201” nameplate, which differs from the rest of the Lexus product lineup, is derived from the LX’s internal model and platform code – these numbers are designed to help distinguish each variant of a vehicle model as the engineers design the parts and componentry for production (today’s third-generation LX is internally designated the “J200”). Marketing typically reassigns a new name or designation to the vehicle, but in this case “J201 Concept” was retained to reflect a sense of specialness and the brand’s continual diversification.

J201 Powertrain

The stock engine in the LX 570 is a robust and proven 5.7-liter V8 (internal code 3UR-FE) that develops 383 horsepower and 403 pound-feet of torque. While the stock engine is more than capable, the build team chose to boost it with a supercharger for more low-end torque and better high-altitude responsiveness. With those objectives in mind, the J201 Concept is enhanced with a Magnuson supercharger that boosts output to 550 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. In stock form the LX 570 will sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in about 7.2 seconds – the J201 will likely accomplish the same task in about 6.5 seconds. 

The standard 8-speed automatic transmission and 4WD system are enhanced with performance differentials – front and rear 4.30 Nitro Gears and ARB air lockers – to ensure that the engine’s output is efficiently sent to all four wheels regardless of the surface. More robust StopTech brakes, with drilled and slotted rotors and performance pads, guarantee the Lexus stops as well as it goes.

At each corner of the J201 Concept are 17” x 8” EVO Corse DakarZero alloys wrapped in 33-inch General Grabber X3 tires, which are sized LT285/70-17 (for airing up/down, there’s an ARB onboard compressor under the hood). New front upper control arms, rear lower control arms, and spacers – all from Icon Vehicle Dynamics – complete the mechanical package.  

J201 Exterior Accessories and Upgrades

Passers-by will effortlessly differentiate the J201 Concept from its LX 570 sibling by its unique styling and componentry. A CBI Offroad front bumper – custom made and fashioned out of rugged steel – is fitted to the nose. Complementing the bumper is a Warn Industries Zwon 10-S winch and a 30-inch Rigid Industries RDS SR-Series LED light bar. The TJM Airtec snorkel running up the passenger’s side window allows the engine to breathe fresh air above the dust clouds kicked up by others. The rear bumper boasts a pair of 5-gallon water cans that are mounted on a custom rack above the custom CBI Offroad rear bumper – The J201 has a ladder, dual swing-outs, spare tire, and Baja Designs S2 Sport lighting. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

Overhead, there is a Prinsu Design roof rack system engineered to hold MAXTRAX traction aids. A 40-inch Rigid Industries SR-Series LED light bar is fitted to the front, and there are LEDS on each side – scene lighting – to illuminate the campground. Underneath, the J201 has been fitted with CBI Offroad rock sliders that double as running boards, and there are CBI Offroad skid plates under the nose, transfer case, and fuel tank. The stock air suspension has been recalibrated to provide more ride height in the different modes, too. 

J201 Interior Accessories and Upgrades

The team tasked with transforming the LX 570 into the J201 didn’t leave the interior alone. The premium cabin, with perforated leather upholstery, was fitted with an ARB LINX accessory interface. The digital display – which looks strikingly similar to a large iPhone display – controls the exterior lighting, air lockers, and compressors. It may also be used to monitor the vehicle’s battery and vehicle angle when off-roading. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

In the rear of the vehicle, within the clamshell rear doors, is a drawer module from Goose Gear. While it raises the rear cargo hold floor, the slide-out drawers house dog bowls (you can’t leave your best friends at home), and the WARN Expic Recovery Kit (straps, hooks, etc.) for the winch. Lastly, there is a set of Pursuit Aluminum travel cases from Zero Halliburton – custom for Lexus. 

J201 Driving Experience

We tested the Lexus J201 Concept in rural Montana, which is the ideal proving ground for a vehicle engineered to spend the majority of its time off the pavement. 

With a curb weight estimated at greater than 6,250 pounds, the J201 drives with a substantial presence – there is a massive amount of mass encompassing the passengers. On a positive note, the weight doesn’t slow or restrain the Lexus’ ability to accelerate – with more than 500 horsepower on tap, the Lexus jumps off the line like an angry Grizzly bear. Permanent all-wheel drive prevents wheelspin, even in dirt, so the SUV simply gets up and goes with a swiftness that contradicts physics. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

With a curb weight estimated at greater than 6,250 pounds, the J201 drives with a substantial presence – there is a massive amount of mass encompassing the passengers. On a positive note, the weight doesn’t slow or restrain the Lexus’ ability to accelerate – with more than 500 horsepower on tap, the Lexus jumps off the line like an angry Grizzly bear. Permanent all-wheel drive prevents wheelspin, even in dirt, so the SUV simply gets up and goes with a swiftness that contradicts physics. 

The ride is surprisingly comfortable, thanks to a well-isolated passenger compartment (credit body-on-frame construction and adjustable air dampers) and proper tuning of the suspension. Wind noise, and engine noise, are nearly absent. Paved surfaces are buttery smooth from within the cabin, as are most washboard dirt roads. Only when the going gets rough – rocks, washouts, or deep ruts – do passengers need to grab for the interior handles. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

The ride is surprisingly comfortable, thanks to a well-isolated passenger compartment (credit body-on-frame construction and adjustable air dampers) and proper tuning of the suspension. Wind noise, and engine noise, are nearly absent. Paved surfaces are buttery smooth from within the cabin, as are most washboard dirt roads. Only when the going gets rough – rocks, washouts, or deep ruts – do passengers need to grab for the interior handles. 

Transitional handling is better than expected, as the oversized tires are more than up to the load they are asked to carry. We wouldn’t recommend taking the J201 to the weekend autocross, but we didn’t have any issue playing slalom with the debris that littered most of our dirt roads. Braking is strong, assuming there is traction beneath the General Grabber tires.

The underlying theme is that the Lexus J201 is an absolute beast off-road – consider it nearly unstoppable. The Concept elevates all of the capability, adeptness, and proficiencies of the stock Lexus 570 to stratospheric levels. We’d argue that it is one of the best single-vehicle amalgamations of luxury, utility, and off-road capability that we have ever experienced. 

Lexus J201 Concept: Review

What does the future hold for the J201 Concept?

Lexus has not announced any plans to develop a production variant of the J201 Concept, but that doesn’t mean the technology and equipment won’t make their way into future products. On that note, the company hasn’t announced when the all-new fourth-generation Lexus LX line is set to debut, but our best guess is that it will arrive for the 2023 model year. 

For more information about the entire 2021 Lexus lineup, please visit the company’s official website.


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