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New Car/Review

1997 LEXUS LX450

by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 48,450
Price As Tested                                    $ 52,596
Engine Type                            4.5 Liter I6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 273 cid/4477 cc
Horsepower                                   212 @ 4600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               275 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    112.2"/76"/189.8"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4995 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  25.1 Gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P275/70R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc-(ABS)/Disc-(ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/All-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/Four-door
Domestic Content                                  5 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.42


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            13/15/13
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18 seconds @ 77.3 mph
Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

Although most Lexus LX 450 sport utility vehicles will rarely see off-road duty, owners are reportedly comfortable with the fact that they drive one of the most rugged off-road machines available. In Toyota Land Cruiser form, they've seen years of service on the Savannah and in the mud bogs of the jungle, though those machines weren't painted colors like cashmere beige metallic, or our test model's champaign pearl.

OUTSIDE - Wide, tall and basically quite huge, with its bulging urethane fender flares and side cladding that integrate with both body-color bumpers, the LX 450 is an imposing sight. Its slatted grille is surrounded by chrome, and flanked by large headlamps and centered with telltale Lexus badging. It also uses Lexus-specific five-spoke alloy wheels. A two-piece rear door is a versatile feature to have, as is the full-sized spare tire mounted underneath the vehicle, which saves valuable cargo room. The rear windows are heavily tinted, while the front glass is lightly tinted in a greenish shade, all helping keep the interior cool. Our test model came equipped with a power tilt and slide moonroof, a rear wind deflector and a roof rack.

INSIDE - Lexus has spruced up the interior with the same plush leather it uses on its top-line luxury sedan, along with a sprinkling of wood accents on the center console and door panels. The front bucket seats are well-padded and supportive, and both are powered, and have lumbar and side bolster adjustments. An extremely tall seating position gives a commanding view of the road ahead, and a pair of assist grips anchored to the A-pillars make it easier to climb up into position. It comes well-equipped with such standard features as automatic climate control, cruise control, an electric rear window defogger, rear seating ventilation, height adjustable shoulder belt anchors, and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. Its standard audio system is a 195-watt AM/FM cassette stereo with seven speakers and five amplifiers. Our tester came with an optional six-disc CD changer integrated into the rear face of the center console box.

ON THE ROAD - LX 450 is powered by a 4.5 liter inline six cylinder engine that produces 212 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque. This straight-six may be venerable in its design, but it uses dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection for 90s-style reliability and efficiency. An electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and always shifts imperceptibly. LX 450 also uses full-time four-wheel-drive, which features a viscous center differential, two-speed transfer case, (high and low ranges) and optional locking capabilities for the front, rear and center differentials. When a differential is locked, both wheels on that axle receive equal power, and thus turn at the same speed. If there is any traction available, the system will find it, then grip tenaciously. There is no denying that this is one capable four-by-four.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The LX 450 uses solid axles front and rear, supported by progressive-rate coil springs. It features softer suspension than its corporate clone, and on the road, this fact is quite noticeable. So it rides firmly and confidently, yet soaks up bumps effortlessly, no doubt due in part to its huge, pillowy tires. And its recirculating ball steering system may seem archaic, but is tuned to provide accurate feedback. To control body lean during cornering, the Lexus uses twin-tube, nitrogen-filled shocks with internal rebound springs in front, which keeps the "tippiness" that plagues many tall SUVs in check. That doesn't mean it gives sports sedan-like handling, however, and even plows when pushed to its cornering limits, but it does hold the road quiet well under normal driving conditions. Braking is handled with four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard equipment. Our test revealed a 60-0 mph stopping distance of 136 feet, about on par with other luxury SUVs.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - The moonroof adds $1,300, while the CD changer is a $1,050 extra. The rear wind deflector is $100 and carpeted floor mats add $112.