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New Car/Review

Lexus LX450

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:            4.5-liter 24-valve inline six
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 212 hp @4600 rpm/275 lb-ft @ 200 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      13 mpg city, 15 mpg highway, mpg test
WHEELBASE:         112.2 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    189.8 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    73.6 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     76.0  in.
CURB WEIGHT:       4971 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     25.1 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  90.0 cu. ft. (max.)
TIRES:             P275/70HR16
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                   water temperature, oil pressure, 
                   battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, cruise control, 
                   air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio 
                   with cassette, anti-lock braking, 
                   dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $52,498

In the beginning there was Jeep and the Toyota Land Cruiser. Except for a few oddballs, like the International Harvester Scout, they were the sport utility market. Obviously, the SUV market has grown a bit over the years. There's still the Jeep. There's still the Land Cruiser (as well as a couple of other Toyota SUVs). Now we have the upscale version of the Land Cruiser, the LX450.

It's no secret that Lexus is a division of Toyota. Many of the less expensive Lexus models--for example the ES300--are versions of Toyota products--the Camry. When Lexus decided it wanted an upscale sport utility to compete with vehicles like the Range Rover and upcoming Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz, it raided the Toyota parts bin, took a Land Cruiser and added some luxury features to it.

Among the luxury items are leather seating, 16-inch wheels, seven-passenger seating and wood grain trim in the dash to go along with an excellent sound system. The price is also Lexus scale, at %52,500, which is a bit much. It also pushes the LX450 out of the range of the new Mercedes and the American manufacturers, including the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and GM Suburban. It's all alone in its own area of the car-price stratosphere.

But Lexus has its own way of doing things like that.

There's no question that the LX450 is an excellent vehicle. You can use it in full-time four-wheel drive mode, or use the transfer case shifter to go from four-wheel drive high to four-wheel drive low, if you have to pull out a tree stump or two. The greater probability is that the people who can afford 52 grand for a Lexus LX450 are not going to be doing serious off-roading and they're not going to be pulling tree stumps; they'll hire someone to do it.

With a 4.5-liter engine that's rated at 212 horsepower, you have enough power to do almost anything. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, even in AWD mode. It's a good engine, and in Lexus trim it's quiet as well (To be honest, I don't remember the last time I drove a Land Cruiser--well, I remember it, but there was so much snow I wasn't worried about a noisy engine.).

We had more than enough power to accelerate away from stop signs and into traffic. We could stick it in cruise control on the Interstates and flow along with the rest of the traffic at 70-75 mph. And we were able to drive the LX450 like a sedan.

Entry into the LX450 is high, but not quite as high as the Expedition. There are assist handles at all doors, even the driver's, to help in the climb. Lexus must have been listening.

Our tester had seven-passenger seating, and access to the rear seat was good. All you had to do was fold down the second bank of seats to get back there. Sure, GM will say they didn't want to put a child seat in the back of the Tahoe/Yukon, but at least it's there if you need it. With the extra seat, there's very little storage space behind the seat. There was room for a golf bag and precious little else. We could have stacked stuff on top of the golf bag, but we weren't traveling that far. If you want to do heavy-duty carrying, get rid of the back seat and fold down the second seat and there are 90 cubic feet to work with.

My big complaint about the LX450 was that the ride was too soft. A lot of the sport utilities that are built on truck chassis--as is the LX450--have harsh rides. Naturally, Lexus is a luxury car manufacturer and wanted to soften the ride. I believe they softened it too much. On winding roads there's almost a loss of control and a lack of precision in how the car tracks because of the soft springing. I personally would have liked much stiffer springing. It's something you get used to, but I think it loses its sports utilityness if you make the springing too soft.

But other than that, there were absolutely no complaints with the LX450. It's expensive, it's luxurious, typically quiet, and it's obviously well built.