The latest two generations of the Lexus LX have featured a V8 engine powertrain, a welded steel unibody shell combined with a full-size steel ladder frame (body on frame construction), and the capacity to seat eight passengers (LX 470 and LX 570). The first generation LX 450, classified as a mid-size SUV, featured an inline-6 engine and capacity for seven passengers. The LX ranks as Lexus' largest and most expensive luxury utility vehicle, sized above the GX and RX series of SUVs.
The LX 450 was released in 1996 (1997 in Canada) as Lexus' first entry into the SUV market. The LX 450 was almost entirely based on the sixth generation 80 series Toyota Land Cruiser. Differences between the LX 450 and the Land Cruiser lay in a restyled, more luxurious interior and softer suspension settings. The LX 450 was powered by a 4.5 liter, twin-cam, four-valve inline-6 engine which produced 212horsepower (158kW) and 275ft·lbf (373N·m) of torque. Onboard amenities included leather seats and seating capacity for up to seven passengers. The three available options consisted of a console-mounted 6-disc CD changer, front and rear locking differentials, and a power moonroof. At the time of its 1996 debut, the LX 450 was listed in the U.S. with a manufacturer's suggested base price of $47,995.
Targeted against luxury SUV competitors such as Land Rover/Range Rover, the LX 450 sold over 5,000 units in 1996 and over 9,000 units in 1997. The LX 450 was brought to market as a rebadged model (in contrast with other Lexus efforts which were independently or divergently developed from Toyota vehicles) during the U.S.-Japan trade war of the mid-1990s. At the time, the U.S. government threatened to place 100% tariffs on all Japanese luxury import cars; by producing a luxury SUV, Lexus would have a model exempt from the tax. Ultimately however, a gentlemen's agreement was reached and the threatened tariffs did not materialize.
The LX replaced the Toyota Land Cruiser in the Canadian market starting after 1996, reducing internal competition (big expensive SUVs have traditionally faced a difficult market in Canada) and avoiding the issue of selling a rebadged model (except for GM, Ford and Chrysler, rebadged models in Canada have not met with success). For a 5,000lb (2,300kg). vehicle, the LX 450 was regarded by some critics as underpowered, leading to the shortening of its model cycle (despite sales increases) and replacement with a V8-powered successor.