The big Lexus SUV, now called the LX 470, brought the performance and luxury standards associated with the Lexus brand to full-size go-anywheremobiles. It’s been such a success that Range Rover freely admits using it as a benchmark when designing its new mega-ute. It provides seating for up to eight, maximum cargo space of 90.4 cubic feet and generous towing capacity, yet feels surprisingly nimble and powerful.
The steering is rack-and-pinion, which helps explain the LX 470’s responsiveness. The front suspension is independent, using A-arms and torsion bars, while in back four trailing arms support a solid rear axle. Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) controls shock absorber response depending on road conditions, acceleration, steering and braking inputs. An AVS center console switch provides five ride settings that range from “comfort” to “sport.” Navigating tertiary road straightaways at triple-digit speeds is no sweat for this package.
The 4.7-liter dual-cam V-8 provides 230 hp at 4,800 rpm and a stout 320 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. Smooth and quiet as a bubble, the mill provides steady, continuous pull, as 80 percent of the torque is available from 1100 rpm. Still, one could reasonably expect increased output in future models, given that you can now get 345 hp from a Cadillac Escalade, but this is quibbling. With a tow rating of 6,500 pounds, the Lexus would have no problem tugging a horse or boat around.
Four-wheel ABS provides excellent stopping control, particularly under panic stops, albeit with a smidge of nose-dive. Mrs. Cockerham and I happily discovered this ability when we were stunned to see a chicken (actually, two chickens) crossing a country road in our path. (Yes, we did ask why they chose that particular moment to do so; we could only come up with the usual answer.)
Everybody knows the basic off-road mechanicals are shared with the Toyota Land Cruiser, so off-roading comes secondnature to the Lexus. The full-time all-wheel-drive system, using a locking center differential providing 50/50 front/rear power distribution and a limited-slip diff, only needs intervention when you want to shift between low and high range.
2002 Lexus LX
Unique to the Lexus is a trick adjustable height control, with a “high” setting for strenuous off-roading and a “low” setting for easier entry/egress. Both default to a “normal” 9.8-inch ride clearance at road speed.
The only serious impediment to rolling through the wilds would be your distance from the gas pump—with 13 mpg city/16 mpg highway mileage figures and a 25.4-gallon tank, range is limited at best.
The materials and build quality are all Lexus, and the interior is reminiscent of the LS 430 sedan. The leather is softly gathered, including that covering the folding third seat in back. The walnut trim is positively Jaguar-esque. Controls are well-marked and large, although some of the switchgear I’ve seen on low-end imports from other makers. So many features are power controlled that you just know 44-volt systems will find their first home here. All four door windows have one-touch express controls, and even the extreme rear-quarter windows that barely crack open for ventilation are power-controlled from the dash.
All-new last model year, the only changes to the 2002 LX 470 are enhancements to the onboard, DVD-based navigation system. A new computer doubles route calculation speeds and map scrolling. Improved Canadian coverage is found in the software. The seven-inch map screen also displays ventilation and audio controls, and allows for the showing of DVD movies when the transmission is set to “park” and the parking brake is applied. Our tester also had the only significant option available, a mind-blowing, nine-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
This is one highly desirable unit, extremely capable, one that does everything you can ask of it with understated elegance. Subtler than its American counterparts and a far better value than the fabulous new Range Rover, the LX 470 may ultimately see its greatest competition coming from its new, slightly smaller and less expensive sibling, the GX 470, which hits dealerships in January 2003. Positioned between the LX 470 and the RX 300, the new ute has the engine of its big brother along with an exclusive new Downhill Assist Control system.
You could also buy a Toyota Land Cruiser, if you could live without the luxe touches, the height control and the killer stereo, and you’d save yourself about $8,000. But the Lexus experience has always been more than the sum of its parts, and that is no less true with the LX 470.
2002 Lexus LX 470
Base price: $61,885; as tested $65,114
Engine: 4.7-liter, DOHC V-8
Drivetrain: Four-speed electronically controlled automatic, all-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case
Length x width x height (inches): 192.5 x 76.4 x 72.8
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Curb weight: 5401 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 13/16 mpg
Safety equipment: Driver and passenger front airbags, four-channel ABS, traction control, daytime running lights, head impact protection, side impact beams, skid control
Major standard equipment: Adjustable height control, leather-trimmed interior, navigation system, power front heated seats, driver’s seat memory, rear automatic climate control, am/fm/cassette/DVD/CD audio system with center console changer and nine speakers, power tilt/telescopic wood-and-leather steering wheel with automatic tilt-away, power windows with pinch protection, power moonroof with pinch protection, power folding heated electrochromic outside mirrors, inside electrochromic rearview mirror, power locks, cruise control, walnut interior trim, outside thermometer, lighted running boards
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles