One of the first things I noticed when I inspected the new-to-me 1996 Lexus LX 450 sitting in my driveway was the horrid condition of the tires. Date-coded to 2011, the Toyo Open Country A/T rubber showed plenty of dry-rotting and visible cracks – as well as some regrettable gloss black overspray on the spare tire from when the previous owner repainted the trailer hitch.

The first order of business was a $1,700 trip to the mechanic, who resealed the front axle, replaced the front wheel bearings, installed a new set of oil pan gaskets, cleaned the throttle body, and reset a check-engine light. But with that out of the way, Noah and I sourced a set of LT285/75R16 Firestone Destination X/T tires. The stock 275/70R16 size is surprisingly hard to find, and the 265/70s already on the Lexus look like roller skate wheels. Hopefully, the 32.8-inch-diameter Destination X/Ts would fit the bill, so to speak, measuring 2.2 inches taller and about eight-tenths of an inch wider than the dry-rotted Toyos.

1996 Lexus LX450 Exterior Tire Dry Rot
1996 Lexus LX450 Exterior Tire Dry Rot
  Tire Size Outer Diameter Tread Width
Toyo Open Country A/T (old) P265/70R16 30.6 Inches 10.4 Inches
Firestone Destination X/T (new) LT285/75R16 32.8 Inches 11.2 Inches

Will Robbins, Firestone’s director of product strategy, said that the X/Ts would be the ideal solution for a off-road–oriented, daily-driven SUV, with more rugged performance than the Destination A/T2 but none of the snow and dry-road compromises of a dedicated mud tire. And the X/T comes exclusively in LT-metric sizes, trading some extra weight and rolling resistance for added strength, tread depth, and cut prevention in rough terrain. Since the LX450 will see conditions that vary between snowy roads near Big Bear and silt paths in Anza Borrego, the X/T would be a perfect fit for the weekend warriors we aspire to be.

We had them mounted and balanced – outlined white letters out, obviously – then hit the road. While the outgoing Toyo tires might have rivaled their Firestone contemporaries when new, 12 years of sun damage had clearly taken their toll. In spite of a more aggressive tread pattern, the Destination X/T rubber gave our old Lexus a smoother, quieter ride on the road, with an increase in cornering grip that was obvious even at neighborhood speeds. It’s not often that upsized rubber improves an SUV’s dynamics, but that was the case here. Neglected, old tires just aren’t conducive to safe handling.


  • Tires
  • Valve Cover Gasket
  • Oil Pan Gaskets
  • Front Axle Seals
  • Front Wheel Bearings
  • Check-Engine and Oil Lights
  • Front And Rear Control Arms
  • Etched Paint
  • Torn Seats
  • Blown Speakers
1996 Lexus LX450 Exterior New Tires
1996 Lexus LX450 Exterior Old Tires

And although the new Firestones were primarily a practical addition, I also love how they fill out the LX 450’s wheel wells and provide just over an inch of extra altitude under the axles. The added width, although not immediately noticeable, gives the truck a slightly more commanding stance. I initially wanted a vintage-looking 255/80R16 setup – "skinnies" that look great on older off-roaders – but I’m ultimately glad we went with the 285s. The tire fitment almost looks factory when combined with the Ironman 4x4 lift, giving the truck an OEM-plus vibe that I really love.

Noah and I both thought that off-roading on the Toyos would be tempting fate, but armed with some new Firestone all-terrains, we immediately set about having some fun in the LX 450. And although we didn’t push it too far given some of its maintenance needs, the 80-Series does not feel overhyped in terms of off-road capability. With robust solid axles front and rear (the only Lexus ever built that way), full-time four-wheel drive with a low-range center differential lock, and a bit of added ground clearance from our slightly oversized tires, the SUV never felt lacking in traction or articulation.

1996 Lexus LX450 Exterior Firestone Off-Road Tires

The only minor concern we had in our day of moderate off-roading came when we encountered a steep descent immediately after crossing a hub-deep puddle. Those circumstances revealed a soft brake pedal when trying to keep the Lexus’ speed in check, likely a result of the wet discs in combination with old brake fluid and/or tired rubber lines. So we’ll add a system inspection and brake bleed to the list of things to address in the next installment – when we finally tackle the valve cover gasket and related maintenance items. 

Gallery: 1996 Lexus LX450 Project: Firestone Destination X/T Tires

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