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Car reviews - Lexus - LX - LX470 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Leathered-up LandCruiser, feature list
Room for improvement
Thirsty, pricey, over-dressed for serious off-road work

Lexus logo16 May 2001

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

THIS is an exquisite luxury car. That it can tackle terrain that would frighten a lot of supposed off-roaders is all but irrelevant.

Lexus Australia says initial research showed almost half potential buyers would take this vehicle off-road. But it did not define off-road.

But to judge the LX470 buyer in the same breath as a LandCruiser buyer misses the point. Few will quibble over the price - possession is what counts.

Price, resale, dirtying the fawn plush-pile carpets with stout walking shoes - these are hardly concerns of the well-heeled.

Status, image and a lasting impression of size are what count in the rarefied atmospheres in which Lexus owners glide. And now there is an alternative for wealthy buyers for whom the appeal of a Range Rover may have faded.

Lexus has packed the LX470 with technology - like the height- adjustable suspension which raises the body to ease itself over boulders or lowers it to let you hop in gracefully.

Power-adjustable seats have buttery-soft, if shiny, leather covers while door trims are clothed in similar slices of hide. The glossiest wood trims dash, doors and consoles.

Six of your closest associates can sprawl in comfort while you tour the big, brown land. Carry just four extras and the rearmost seats come out, boosting boot space.

Privacy glass ensures the peasants do not intrude with their hungry stares.

Xenon headlamps offer a brilliant, cold blue light, brightly illuminating reflective signboards and increasing the depth and breadth of vision so dramatically they should be standard on every car.

Power, and there is plenty of it, comes from the silky-smooth and silent 170kW quad camshaft, multi-valve V8. You will love the velvet step-off and rapid scenery blurring. At 4000rpm the lungs take another huge breath to spear you on even faster.

The engine quietly gulps down vast quantities of fuel despite the Lexus claims to the contrary.

Like all the vehicles in this class, consumption figures are proved fanciful on the road.

Quite where and how some of these "official" fuel consumption figures are obtained is thrown into sharp relief during a week at the wheel.

Real-world driving accounts for about 20 litres every 100km around town.

Fuel consumption is relevant only in terms of how often refills are required, rather than the cost. With a 159-litre fuel dump, most weekend jaunts should be completed without a refill.

The driving position gives that "king of the road" position four- wheel drivers love.

Submerged in the leather seats, the trade-mark Lexus dash lit up before your eyes - a feeling of smug superiority is hard to suppress.

Swinging through the city the LX470 does not exactly shrink around the driver but it is not as hard to park as you would imagine, although some people maintain it is just too big.

The ride is sublime for an off-roader, benefiting from electronic shock absorber control that constantly reconfigures stiffness rates.

Settings between comfort and sport are manually dialled in but at freeway speeds the computer tends to make its own mind up.

That is fine until you meet a series of expansion joints. Stiff settings cause some unseemly clattering to invade the cabin.

The dash is festooned with all manner of controls, innumerable willing, silent electric motors expectantly poised to do your bidding, opening even the rearmost side windows and manoeuvring the steering column your way as the multi-function ignition key enters its lair.

But there is an air of Las Vegas about the interior ambience thanks to the plush carpet and glitzy finish which is at odds with the aspirations of grace the Lexus nameplate implies.

The six-pack sized fridge between the seats, next to the CD player, is a treat as is the ventilation system. Arctic one moment, Equatorial the next. It is just a shame there is not a more positive feel to the temperature adjuster so you do not have to take your eyes off the road to work it.

It is one of the most refined four-wheel drives you can buy but surely a GS300 and a Toyota Prado for the weekends would be a better way to spend $120,000.

- Automotive NetWorks 24/05/1999

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