DEL MAR, CA – The redesigned ’08 Lexus LX 570 is for affluent people who want a big and posh SUV that can handle the rugged trail to the family horse farm or the snowy road to the ski resort.

It also is great for going over parking lot speed bumps at Neiman Marcus, “which is where the vehicle’s articulation abilities will probably be used the most,” quips Bob Allan, a training director for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Lexus Div. “Those speed bumps get bigger every year.”

Although Toyota has garnered a reputation for making eco-cars such as the Prius, a hybrid-electric vehicle, the auto maker also plays in the big leagues with the likes of the LX 570, which may make the “green” set see red.

“It is one of those check-all-the-boxes, no-excuses, no-apologies vehicles, and even though it is not particularly fuel efficient or environmentally conscious, perhaps every luxury brand should have one,” says auto analyst George Peterson of AutoPacific Inc.

Yet with fuel prices climbing like an SUV up a mountain and environmentalists clucking at titanic-sized vehicles, it may be a tricky time to introduce a third-generation behemoth for rich people, no matter how pressing their boat and horse-trailer towing needs might be.

Not to worry though. “We only have to sell 9,500 of them,” says a Lexus spokesman, citing the Japanese-made vehicle’s U.S. allocation.

At a press preview here that includes – but, of course – off-roading at a horse ranch, one participant describes the 5,995-lb. (2,719-kg) LX 570 as “combination Abrams tank and Fifth Avenue living room.”

The Lexus spokesman says, “Yeah, it’s over the top. But if you suspend the idea of practicality, who really needs a Rolex watch or a Gucci bag? In the world of luxury, there are people with money who are willing to spend it.”

That is why Lexus demographers see green – as in the color of money – when looking at data on LX buyers.

“LX owners have been among our most affluent,” says Mark Templin, Lexus Group vice president and general manager. “They have a higher median income than the prestige luxury-segment’s average.”

Hauling in more than $380,000 on average, LX owners’ household incomes are nearly double that of the typical prestige luxury SUV buyer. On average, they live in $1.2 million homes. Their net worth is three times that of the segment.

“Another interesting statistic,” Templin says, “is that they plan to spend more than $70,000 on their next vehicle.” Gee, that puts them in the price range for the all-new LX with a base sticker of $73,800.

The first LX debuted in 1996 and since then has become bigger, heavier and more powerful.

With 383 hp, the new 5.7L engine (the same as the one in the Toyota Tundra pickup) is 42% more potent than the 4.7L engine it replaces.

The bigger engine and a new 6-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission increase towing capacity to 8,500 lbs. (3,855 kg), which is 2,000 lbs. (907 kg) more than the previous model.

“Lexus has never had a serious tow vehicle, but now the LX can pull nearly every horse and boat trailer our customers’ desire,” Templin says.

Estimated mileage is 12/18 mpg (19/13 L/100). At $3 a gallon, filling up its 24.6-gallon (93-L) fuel tank will cost about $74, which otherwise will buy about 15 lattes at Starbucks.

The LX shares the same platform with the Toyota Land Cruiser. Allan says engineers used a new frame to enhance the suspension design and performance, providing greater on-road ride comfort and off-road capability.

The ’08 model has 35 new features ranging from high-tech systems to creature comforts.

They include segment firsts such as a pre-collision system with adaptive radar cruise control; power-sliding second-row seats; and active headrests that instantly move up and forward in a rear-end collision.

Also new for the LX:

  • Adaptive front lighting to illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it.
  • 4-zone climate control with 28 air vents intended to “bathe” occupants in comfortable air rather than blow it on them.
  • Crawl control for regulating speed and braking on uneven terrain, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering.
  • Wide-view front and side monitors, with cameras mounted in the grille and on the passenger side-view mirror.
  • Easy-access control that lowers the suspension for occupants entering or leaving the vehicle.

If the LX is the aristocratic antithesis of basic transportation, it plays its role well. It handles boldly off-road and regally on-road.

OK, maybe a vehicle doesn’t need optional heated second-row seats or a 19-speaker audio system. But for safety-conscious motorist who think a vehicle can’t have too many standard air bags, there are a segment-leading 10 in the LX.

In terms of advanced technology teaming up with pure luxury, it’s a standout vehicle, great for those shopping trips to Neiman Marcus – and beyond.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com