New Car/Review

1999 Lexus LX470

by Carey Russ

Lexus Full Line factory footage (10:11) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

The sport-utility phenomenon shows no evidence of disappearing, particularly at the top level. "Luxury truck" is not only a very valid category, those few luxury car makers without such a vehicle are scrambling to get one. Lexus is positioned very well in the category, with two entries that cover both ends of the luxury SUV spectrum. The hybrid, city-oriented RX300 fills in at the (relatively) lower-priced end. The LX470 is the company's premium offering.

The LX470 succeeds the LX450, and like the LX450 is a more luxurious version of the Toyota Land Cruiser. It builds on the newest- generation Land Cruiser, which was introduced in mid-1998 and is a very well-appointed vehicle in its own right. But the LX470 is distanced much further from its Land Cruiser origin than the LX450 was, with its own front bodywork and suspension in addition to a more upscale interior. To say that it is new is almost understatement. Only the transmission and transfer case carry over to the LX470 from the LX450. A 4.7-liter V8 replaces the previous 4.5-liter inline six, and the front solid axle has given way to an independent double wishbone front suspension. A semi-active electronically-controlled shock absorber system, called "Adaptive Variable Suspension" or AVS by Lexus, provides real-time adjustment of each shock absorber for maximum comfort and handling. "Adjustable Height Control" -- AHC for short -- allows three ride height levels: low, for ease of entry and exit, normal, and high, best used for low-speed off-road clearance. The engine and basic suspension design are shared with the Land Cruiser, but AVS and AHC are exclusive to the Lexus.

I had experience with both the city and backwoods capabilities of the 1999 Lexus LX470 , with a week around home and some semi- serious off-roading earlier at the press introduction. It was luxuriously comfortable and quiet around town or on the highway, and very capable on muddy, rutted fire trails. Think of the LX470 as a combination of Land Cruiser and Lexus LS400.

APPEARANCE: The old LX450 had its own grille; the LX470 has unique front styling to differentiate it from the Land Cruiser. No doubt about the manufacturer. The bold Lexus grille, with the logo prominently displayed, is flanked by dual light clusters similar to those of the Lexus coupes, and LS400 and GS sedans. The hood also differs from that of the Land Cruiser. A car-like plastic cladding covers the bumpers, and contrasts the main body color. Running boards and mudflaps are integrated into the design. Huge wraparound taillights dominate the rear, and the license plate holder echos the shape of the grille. The LX470 has a look of muscular elegance.

COMFORT: The LX470 is as definitely a Lexus inside as out. It has all of the amenities expected in a premium luxury vehicle, and then some. Soft leather upholstery and acres of burled wood trim, power- adjustable heated front seats, a 60/40 split folding second-row bench and two folding, removable third-row jump seats, an excellent pollution-detecting climate control system, and high-quality AM/FM/cassette/in-dash CD changer stereo are all standard fare. One- touch up and down power windows add convenience. Folding, heated power outside mirrors automatically point down in reverse for safer backing. They, and the inside rear-view mirror, are electrochromic for nighttime glare reduction. Controls and instruments are placed well, and Lexus's "Optitronic" instrumentation is visible under all conditions. Cupholders, storage compartments and power points are conveniently placed for all occupants - even for passengers in the jump seats. Access is painless thanks to the integrated running boards and height control. The LX470 has exactly what is expected of a Lexus SUV.

SAFETY: The 1999 Lexus LX470 has front and rear crumple zones, dual airbags, and daytime running lights. Its antilock braking system is designed to work at all speeds and in all conditions, even off-road.

ROADABILITY: Forget any notion of "truck" in the LX470's road manners. Thanks to the AVS variable suspension, the basic shock absorber rate can be adjusted from very soft to firm. The softest setting is primarily for slow, off-road use. Medium to firm settings work best for everyday use. Even the firmest setting is quite comfortable, with no hint of harshness, and it does allow good road behavior for a large SUV. The relatively few LX470 owners who will venture off road will discover that it is a very capable machine.

PERFORMANCE: The LX470 is remarkably quick and responsive for a two-and-a-half-ton vehicle. This is thanks to its new 4.7-liter four- cam V8, derived from the 4.0-liter V8 in the Lexus LS400 but tuned for torque rather than maximum horsepower. Its maximum of 230 horsepower is more than adequate. For acceleration, hill-climbing, and towing, 320 lb-ft of torque is available, with eighty percent of that as low as 1100 rpm. It is as smooth and quiet as expected from a Lexus engine, and drives through an excellent four-speed automatic transmission and sophisticated dual-range full-time four-wheel drive system.

CONCLUSIONS: The new LX470 offers Lexus comfort and luxury in a tough and capable SUV package.

                 SPECIFICATIONS
               1999 Lexus LX470 

Base Price               $ 55,905
Price As Tested          $ 58,649
Engine Type              dual overhead cam, 32-valve V8 with
                         continuously-variable valve timing
Engine Size              4.7 liters  /  285 cu. in.
Horsepower               230 @ 4800
Torque (lb-ft)           320 @ 3400
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled
                         automatic
Wheelbase / Length       112.2 in. / 192.5 in.
Curb Weight              5401 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    23.5
Fuel Capacity            25.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded premium (91 octane)
                         recommended
Tires                    P275/70 R16 Michelin LTX
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / vented disc,
                         antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear   independent double wishbone with
                         torsion bars /
                         solid axle with trailing links and coil
                         springs
                         Adaptive variable damping and
                         adjustable height control standard
Ground Clearance         9.8 inches
Drivetrain               front engine, full-time four-wheel drive

                    PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      13 / 16 / 14
0 to 60 mph                        10.0 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                    17.9 sec
Towing Capacity                    6.500 lbs.

               OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Power moonroof                       $ 1,270
Towing receiver hitch with wiring
  harness for trailer hookup         $   264
Cargo mat                            $    65
Roof rack                            $   545
Wheel locks                          $    57
Spare tire lock                      $    48
Destination charge                   $   495

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