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New Car/Review

1998 LEXUS LX470

by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 54,950
Price As Tested                                    $ 57,701
Engine Type              DOHC 32-valve 4.7 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 285 cid/4664 cc
Horsepower                                   230 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               320 @ 3400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  112.2"/76.4"/192.5"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     5426 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  25.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     275/70HR16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Eight-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                       None
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.40


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            13/16/15
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 79 mph
Top speed                          (speed governed) 109 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(SUVs should be designed to climb mountains and ford rivers, but Bob Hagin says they're much too fancy for those tasks. Matt Hagin says his dad's narrow outlook doesn't take into consideration the upscale need for vehicles like the luxurious Lexus LX470.)

MATT- I know that to you, a sport/utility vehicle should be painted camouflage and the wheels should be made of plain stamped steel, but you'll find lots more SUVs in suburbia than on the African savanna. This is especially true of SUVs like the new Lexus LX470. Being an upscale maker of fine automobiles, Lexus isn't going to compete in frame- breaking 1000-mile competitions through uncivilized parts of the world.

BOB - That's true Matt, and the changes made in this new version of the off-road Lexus point that out. The four-speed automatic transmission and two-speed transfer case are the only hold-overs from before. The engine in the previous model was a straight-six, but the new motor is an iron-block 4.7 liter version of the V8 found under the hood of the posh Lexus LS400 but without the variable cam timing. In an SUV, it was felt that low-speed torque was most important for performance, so the new engine was built to deliver 80 percent of its 320 pound/feet of torque at just above 1000 RPM. Now that's some stump-pulling torque!

MATT - There's been considerable changes in the suspension and the running gear too. The solid front axle has been replaced by an independent system without a locking feature, but there's still a locker system on the center and rear differentials. Naturally, the steering has been changed to a rack-and-pinion setup which makes the steering feel more precise. The new version also features full-time all-wheel-drive but the interesting innovations are in the ride and height controls. The computer automatically selects one of three modes of shock absorber stiffness, depending on the condition of the road surface. In addition, the driver can select three different chassis heights which changes the ground clearance by over four inches. The highest setting is intended for off-road only and it automatically drops to the middle position at speeds over 19 MPH. The system can only be engaged when the engine is running and the gearshift lever is in Park, so it's not capable of doing any chassis-hopping tricks like the low-riders perform.

Bob - Somehow I can't imagine any Lexus in that role, Matt. But luxury plays a key role in the new LX470. The standard interior covering is leather, and an in-dash six-disc CD changer is also standard. In fact, the only options available are a tilt-and-slide moonroof, a towing package, a roof rack and a couple of other small items. The air conditioning system is so sophisticated that it not only controls the interior climate automatically, but it switches over to an interior-only recirculation system if it senses that there's too much pollution coming from the outside. There's a couple of inches more shoulder room inside, though it's not much wider outside than the old version. It's heavier, however, and it tips the scales at around 5500 pounds. With the proper towing package it can drag 6500 pounds of trailer but don't expect it to be a gas-sipper. The EPA says it gets 13 MPG around town and 16 on the highway, but the Lexus owner's manual says it can run on regular or premium unleaded fuel.

MATT - With the standard third seat in place, it can carry up to eight passengers and being as big as it is, it doesn't really crowd that many adults. According to the Lexus press kit, it's easier to get into than the old LX450, but it still seems like a tight fit to me. The headlights are daylight-runners and the outside mirrors can be folded flat against the doors for going through bramble bushes. The mirrors also have an anti-glare feature which helps keep the driver from being blinded at night. Even though it's built on a typical truck ladder frame, there's not much that differentiates the LX470 from a luxury car.

BOB - Matt, I'll know that the world of the luxury sport/utility vehicle has reached its peak when someone offers one that is chauffeur- driven and has crystal flower vases in the back seats.

MATT - Sounds good. Where do I sign up for the chauffeur's job?