Its interior is elegant and well equipped and can seat up to eight passengers. Its 4.7-liter V8 is smooth and powerful. The 2006 models are significantly more powerful than last year's models, thanks to electronically variable valve timing (called VVT-i). This setup also helped the LX to become certified by California as a ULEV II ultra low emissions vehicle, and that same engine is used in all 50 states. The five-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. And the LX is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Active safety features, including Vehicle Stability Control, anti-lock brakes and traction control, work as a team to help the driver maintain control in an emergency handling situation. The systems sense when the LX is being driven off road and compensate accordingly. Six airbags and other passive safety features help protect occupants in the event of an accident.
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Lexus LX 470 ($67,295)
The Lexus LX 470 is related to the Toyota Land Cruiser but presents a more upscale appearance. Body cladding, integrated running boards, a chrome Lexus grille, and elegant use of paint contribute to this impression. Graphite-finish wheels and LED taillights, both new for '06, further distinguish the Lexus from the Toyota.
The overall result is a functionally handsome vehicle, although some of the newest luxury SUVs look more contemporary.
The front seats are supremely comfortable. There's a good view of the road ahead while large outside mirrors provide good rearward visibility. Attractive bird's-eye maple trim adds an upscale look to the rich leather-trim upholstery. The steering wheel and shift knob are handsomely finished in a combination of wood and leather.
The LX is packed with luxury and convenience features. 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 are provided in the dash, center console and rear cargo area. A trip computer, digital clock, and compass keep the driver well informed. A hydrocarbon sensor automatically switches the climate control to the Recirculate mode 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. Automatic climate controls are integrated into the navigation system. Steering-wheel audio controls make it easy to adjust volume and change pre-set radio stations.
The rearmost jump seats are among the best of their type. They are comfortable and relatively easy to access. They can be folded aside when not in use, but they are big and take up cargo space. Removing them provides an additional 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity for a maximum of 90.4 cubic feet, still less than the Cadillac Escalade (104) but significantly more than the Range Rover (75). With the rear jump seats and the second-row seats set up to carry passengers, the LX 470 still offers 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
Other interior features include a sophisticated security function for the remote keyless entry system, child safety-seat anchors for the second-row seat, a digital compass integrated into the auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear cupholders and cargo-net hooks.
The optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system plays movies on a 6.5-inch, wide-format overhead screen that deploys from the headliner ahead of the second row. The DVD player is mounted in the cargo area (in the right rear quarter panel) and the system includes two sets of wireless headphones and a remote control.
The navigation system screen can be used to watch DVD movies, but only when the transmission is in Park to eliminate any temptation to watch and drive at the same time. The audio portion of the movie can be played over the system while moving, though. The navigation system can be operated with voice commands.
The 32-valve 4.7-liter V8 is smooth, quiet, and powerful. It produces strong low-rpm torque, giving it responsive low-speed performance and plenty of power, for towing up to 5,000 lbs or scaling steep terrain. The engine features double overhead camshafts (times two cylinder heads equals four camshafts total) and four valves per cylinder (times eight cylinders equals 32 valves). Lexus has boosted this engine's power and torque for '06 by adding VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence), the same electronic technology used in the SC 430 sports car and Toyota Tundra pickup. Optimized valve opening and closing over a broader range of rpm has lifted the 4.7-liter's horsepower to 275 (from 235) and torque to 332 pound-feet (from 320). It's this last number that deserves your attention, because torque, not horsepower, is the force that propels you up steep hills and launches you away from intersections. In a heavy vehicle, especially, it's more important than horsepower. The five-speed automatic transmission makes good use of the V8's torque.
Last year's LX 470 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds and cover the standing quarter-mile in 17.5 seconds, according to Lexus. That wasn't quick by anyone's standards, but we expect the 2006 model would score significantly better. Perhaps more important, VVT-i helps this V8 meet ULEV II emissions certification. EPA fuel-economy ratings haven't changed, however, at just 13/17 mpg City/Highway. The LX 470 runs fine on Regular (87 octane) gas, but Lexus recommends Premium (91 octane) for optimum performance.
The suspension provides a comfortable ride on winding back roads and bumpy highways, yet is capable of climbing any mountain, fording any stream. The rack-and-pinion steering provides sharp response. The steering system was upgraded for 2003 for improved maneuverability at low speeds and better steering feel at high speeds. It's easy to turn the steering wheel in crowded parking lots, but it doesn't isolate the driver at speed 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 shock absorbers through 16 valve settings according to conditions. It's a sophisticated system and it works extremely well. The LX 470 rides smoothly over unpaved trails, 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 four inches. This allows the driver to increase ground clearance for climbing over obstacles, or lower the ride height for highway cruising. Lowering it makes climbing in and out of the vehicle easier when all dressed up for a night on the town.
Off-road capability is among the best available. The LX 470 uses a true full-time four-wheel-drive system with a center differential that splits the power 50/50 front/rear. The system is always engaged and requires no intervention from the driver. 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 system is adept at handling the rigors of slippery winter weather or deep mud or snow. The driver can shift into low range for driving on steep off-road inclines. Big 18 x 8.0-inch wheels come standard and are fitted with 275/60R18 mud-and-snow tires.
The anti-lock brake system operates even in low ran
The Lexus LX 470 features a beautiful interior and superior off-road capability. It provides a quiet, smooth ride and good handling. Quality, durability and reliability are ensured because it is a Lexus.
This review was produced by New Car Test Drive, the editorial office of which is based in Redondo Beach, California.