2003 Lexus LX 470 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Luxury and off-road capability.
The Lexus LX 470 has been the benchmark for first-class luxury and ultimate off-road capability.
The big Lexus now faces a totally new Range Rover engineered by BMW and a less expensive but powerful Cadillac Escalade, and its bland exterior design is beginning to show its age.
However, this remains a wonderfully luxurious and highly capable vehicle. LX 470 is powered by one of the best V8s in the business and offers crisp handling, as well as a luxurious ride. The interior is elegant, well equipped, and the kind of environment you wish your house had.
It also comes from Lexus, which boasts the best quality, durability and reliability in the business, along with retailers dedicated to customer satisfaction.
One model is available, which retails for $61,855.
For 2002, the LX 470 gets a significant upgrade in its standard equipment: A DVD-based navigation now comes on every LX470. The system is updated with a faster computerized control unit that cuts route calculation time in half. The system covers both the United States and Canada, has detailed destination information on Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and the Whistler resort area, and offers voice guidance in English or French. This system previously was available only as part of a $4,280 option package that included a Mark Levinson audio system. The Levinson equipment remains available as a $1,280 stand-alone option.
Lexus designed the LX 470 to be able to fit into a typical two-car garage and it is actually shorter than the Lexus LS 430 sedan.
Last redesigned for the 1999 model year, the styling of the LX 470 is bland and uninspired. With the exception of its sporty GS and IS 300 models, Lexus rarely takes chances with styling and it's a strategy that seems to be working quite well. We're not saying the LX 470 is unattractive; we find it far better looking than the Lincoln Navigator. But it does not offer the fine European styling of the new Range Rover.
The Lexus LX 470 presents a more upscale appearance than the Toyota Land Cruiser, its distant cousin. Split-lens halogen headlamps, a chrome Lexus grille, body cladding, integrated running boards, and elegant use of paint contribute to this impression.
Lexus makes beautiful interiors. The LX 470 offers three rows of seating, providing luxurious accommodations for six people, capacity for eight. Large door openings make getting in and out easy.
The front seats are supremely comfortable. There's a good view of the road ahead and large side mirrors provide good rearward visibility. Attractive walnut trim adds an upscale look to the leather interior. Electroluminescent instruments offer exceptionally good legibility and look great. We wish there were audio controls on the steering wheel.
Every imaginable luxury feature is provided. Big rear quarter windows swing out at the touch of a pair of dash-mounted buttons. Side mirrors retract electrically for parking in tight quarters. Auxiliary power outlets in the dash, center console and rear cargo area offer convenience. A hydrocarbon sensor automatically switches the air to recirculate when high levels of air pollution are detected, while an activated charcoal micron filter removes dust, pollen, and odors from the interior air stream - a benefit for hay fever sufferers.
The navigation system screen can be used to watch DVD movies, but only when the transmission is in Park lest you are tempted to watch and drive at the same time. The audio portion of the movie can be played over the system while you're moving, though.
The rearmost jump seats are among the best designs we've seen of their type. They are comfortable and relatively easy to access. They can be folded aside when not in use, but they are a bit larger than others of their type and take up some cargo space. Removing them provides an additional 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity for 90.4 cubic feet total. In normal running mode, with the rear jump folded to the sides and the center seat set up to carry passengers, there is 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
All outboard seating positions and the center second-row seating position include a three-point seat belt. Driver's and front passenger's seat belts incorporate pretensioners and force limiters. Dual front airbags are standard.
Other interior features include a sophisticated security feature for the remote keyless entry system, child safety seat anchors for the second row seat, a standard combination wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a digital compass integrated into the auto-dimming rearview mirror, and improved rear cupholders.
Besides being luxurious, this thing is smooth and quiet.
At high speeds, there is some wind noise coming from the vicinity of the large mirrors, but with a vehicle this immense, these mirrors are something we would not want to do without.
The Lexus 32-valve 4.7-liter V8 is smooth, quiet, and powerful. It produces good low-rpm torque; fully 80 percent of the peak output is available at just 1,100 rpm. That provides responsive low-speed performance and power for towing or scaling steep terrain. While most sport-utilities use truck-based engines, this 4.7-liter V8 features four camshafts (dohc) and four valves per cylinder (32v). While it produces only 230 horsepower, it generates a solid 320 foot-pounds of torque. The LX 470 is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in about 10 seconds and turning the quarter-mile in less than 18 seconds. That's not quick by anyone's standards, but it's plenty for safe highway merging if you put down the throttle. This engine meets California's Low Emissions Vehicle standard.
The suspension provides a comfortable ride on winding back roads and bumpy Interstates, yet is capable of climbing any mountain, fording any stream. The rack-and-pinion steering provides sharp response. It's easy to turn the steering wheel in crowded parking lots, but does not isolate the driver on the open road.
The LX 470 comes with an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), which allows the driver to adjust the damping between soft or firm settings. It's controlled electronically using feedback from various road sensors; the system constantly adjusts the semi-active shocks among 16 settings according to conditions. It's a sophisticated system and it works extremely well. The LX 470 rides smoothly over unpaved roads, but inspires driver confidence with taut response on winding country roads.
Like the Range Rover, the LX 470 features adjustable ride height. Press a button and the hydropneumatic system raises and lowers the vehicle nearly 4 inches. This allows the driver to increase ground clearance for climbing over obstacles or lower ride height for highway cruising. It also makes climbing in and out of the vehicle easier when all dressed up for a night on the town.
The full-time four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and utilizes a limited-slip center differential to distribute torque. Throw in a locking center differential, a rear limited-slip differential and lots of suspension articulation and only the driver - or worn out tires - can be blamed for sticking one of these in the mud.
The anti-lock brake system operates even in low range and is designed to offer better performance off road than traditional ABS by avoiding early activation on slippery slopes. ABS intervention decreases as road surface roughness increases or the grade steepens. That's a good feature because traditional ABS can lengthen braking distances considerably on unpaved roads. Big disc brakes offer good response and seem to stop this 5,400-pound vehicle in a surprisingly short distance.
Three active safety technologies are tied in with the ABS to enhance driver control: Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) helps maintain traction under demanding conditions by detecting and correcting wheel slip. When it detects a loss of traction, the system applies the brakes to individual wheels to help the driver maintain control. The system also integrates a Brake Assist function that interprets a quick, hard push of the brake pedal as emergency braking and supplements the applied braking pressure.
Finally, this big SUV also includes a four-wheel traction control system (TRAC), which provides a limited-slip differential effect by using brake and throttle intervention to control wheelspin. TRAC provides some of the traction benefits of locked center and rear differentials while preserving the steering response associated with open differentials.
Lexus LX 470 features a beautiful interior and superior off-road capability. It provides a quiet interior with a smooth ride and good handling. If you want big, luxurious, and capable, then this is the benchmark.
LX 470 ($61,855).
Options As Tested
luggage roof rack ($621); tow hitch ($294).
LX 470 ($61,855).
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