McGUIRE, British Columbia -- Wet snow, piling knee-deep, choked the steeply pitched gravel road that we used to cut through Brandywine Falls Provincial Park during our test drive of the new Lexus LX 470 sport-utility wagon.
We are in the wilds of British Columbia, where the only evidence of a path etched into a flank of Brandywine Mountain, above an icy stream, came from the twin ruts made by the tires of another vehicle -- thus proving that forward momentum in all that snow was at least feasible.
The slippery grade looked intimidating, but for this trek, we were piloting a new LX 470, a formidable machine equipped with tall stance, a torque-heavy engine and four-wheel-drive system capable of rolling over daunting off-road obstacles.
The four-wheel-drive system -- permanently engaged -- has a center differential with limited slip capacity to distribute engine torque to either the front or rear wheels. Add a locking mechanism to the center differential, plus limited-slip rear differential, and you get maximum potential for traction.
In addition, drivers can change the suspension height of this luxury SUV using a dashboard toggle. By pressing the button, a hydropneumatic apparatus raises or lowers the vehicle by as much as 4 inches. Thus, it can increase ground clearance for covering off-road barriers, then drop down to a more road-hugging stance when cruising at speed on pavement.
Given such a versatile system, we decide to push the suspension to maximum height for this particular ride. We lock the center differential for more control, then ease on the throttle to plow new tracks through the terrific snow. Gradually, the big Lexus wagon bumps, buckles and claws its way up the snowbound road, making the work seem easy, even effortless. One quickly senses that with this vehicle, you can tackle any earthly element with confidence, be it wet pavement, slick snow, sticky mud, rocks or other serious off-road rough stuff.