2007 Lexus LX 470

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2003 Lexus LX 470

This 2003 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Updated version of this posh sport-utility vehicle keeps it among leaders.
Pros:
  • More powerful
  • New features
  • Luxurious and roomy
Cons:
  • Poor fuel economy
  • High step-in
  • Tight third-row seat

The revised new Lexus LX 470 sport-utility vehicle should be very competitive in the hot, lucrative market for large, posh sport-utes. This 2003 model adds everything from styling revisions to more power and lots of worthwhile added features.

Lexus, which is the luxury division of Toyota, is an amazing success. It arrived in 1990 and has gotten the same upscale reputation of automakers such as Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz, which were around long before World War II.

Lexus offered its first upscale sport-ute in 1996, or about the time such vehicles began getting popular. That model was the LX 450, which partially got its designation from its 4.5-liter V8.

Based on Toyota Land Cruiser
To hold costs down, Toyota based the LX 450 on its rugged Land Cruiser, but gave it such things as a softer ride and different grille and wheels—along with a wood-and-leather interior and premium audio system. It cost about $7,000 more than the $41,068 Land Cruiser, but many felt it was worth the extra money.

The Land Cruiser was redone for 1998, and the "LX" stayed in step with it. It shared the roomier new Land Cruiser's design and got a new LX 470 designation along with a larger (you guessed it) 4.7-liter V8. It also received more equipment and unique features such as a height-adjustable suspension.

Toyota has continually tried to distance the LX 470 from the Land Cruiser. But the basic formula stays the same in that the LX continues to be based on the Land Cruiser, which has become more luxurious in its own right but still doesn't offer features you can get with the LX 470.

The price difference has not changed much between the two vehicles. The LX 470 costs $63,125, while the new Land Cruiser costs about $10,000 less.

Major Changes
Major changes to the 2003 LX 470 include face-lifted front styling and revised rear combination taillights. There also are a redone interior, new transmission, revised steering system, better brakes, new airbag protection and available Night View night vision system.

The smooth, quiet LX 470 has so much standard equipment that the $2,200 night vision system is among few options. They include a $1,280 upgraded sound system from Mark Levinson, $220 redesigned roof rack with cross bars and $280 rear spoiler.

There's also a $1,215 Lexus Link system, which basically is General Motors' OnStar emergency and assistance service with a Lexus-only staff of online operators available all the time.

The dual-overhead-camshaft V8 now generates 235 horsepower, thanks to a five-horsepower increase. It produces lots of torque at very low rpm levels for strong off-line acceleration and good passing times on highways—despite the fact that the LX 470 weighs a hefty 5,600 pounds.

Dismal Fuel Economy
But owners pay for all that weight with dismal fuel economy; it's only an estimated 13 mpg in the city (I got 10-11 mpg) and 17 on highways, although the V8 loafs at 2100 rpm at 65 mph and 2600 rpm at 80 mph. This is a wonderful high-speed cruiser, but the faster you go, the more that highway fuel economy sinks.

Still, a 25.4-gallon fuel tank allows a decent cruising range if you hold it to 65-70 mph, and 87-octane gasoline can be used for average driving. However, 91-octane is recommended for the best performance and heavy duty work such as towing. (There is a 5,000-pound towing capacity.)

New Transmission
A new 5-speed automatic transmission replaces a 4-speed unit and thus is more responsive and makes better use of engine torque. The new Variable Gear Ratio Steering system can vary both the rack-and-pinion steering ratio and enhance maneuverability at low speeds and road feel at highway speeds.

Steering is precise, especially for such a big boat, and the turning circle is fairly tight. Handling is nimble for such a high, heavy sport-ute, thanks partly to significantly larger 18-inch wheels, which replace 16-inch ones. Standard, sophisticated traction control and skid control systems assist handling.

Computer-controlled shock absorbers help make the ride comfortable, and the effective, standard anti-lock brakes have a new electronic brake force distribution system that helps allocate brake force between front and rear wheels for better control under hard braking.

With a vehicle this large and heavy, all that stuff is welcome.

The nicely engineered full-time 4-wheel-drive system calls for no driver involvement, except to shift into low range for such things as driving on steep off-road inclines.

Rugged Construction
Rugged body-on-frame construction found with heavy duty trucks allows the LX 470 to be far more stout than the car-based unit construction used for many sport-utilities. The hydraulic adjustable height control lets a driver raise the LX 470 with a switch to negotiate rough off-road terrain, although one wonders how many owners of this vehicle will want to risk getting its beautiful paint job scratched during off-road motoring.

On the flip side, the height-adjustable feature lets the LX 470 be lowered a bit for easier entry and exit. That's a good thing because it calls for extra effort to get in and out of this high vehicle with its normal height setting. Still, how many people will want to fool with that switch each time they get in and out. Too bad the running boards aren't wide enough for large shoes.

Roomy
The LX 470 is plenty roomy. Occupants sit high for a good view of surroundings, which remains one of the prime appeals of big sport-utes. This Lexus can seat up to eight with its third-row seat, which is fairly easy to reach but best suited to children because of a lack of legroom. There really is comfortable seating for four tall adults and two kids.

Don't expect much cargo room with the third-row seat in its normal position, but that seat is foldable and removable for good cargo space. The split second-row seat also is foldable. Maximum cargo capacity is 90.4 cubic feet.

Revised Interior
Front seats are very supportive in the noticeably quiet wood-and-leather interior. And there's a nicely redesigned center dashboard cluster and revised gauges with a new schedule maintenance indicator light.

Other new items are steering wheel audio controls, rain-sensing wipers and rear seat audio with separate controls. An available new rear seat DVD entertainment system with two wireless headphones plays movies over a 6.5-inch overhead screen.

Also, the standard navigation system uses a DVD changer-player in the center console, and the system's 7-inch display screen can show DVD movies when the transmission selector is in the "park" position and the parking brake is set.

Safety Items
Among safety items are new front seat side-impact airbags and front seat/second-row side curtain airbags.

The Night View system uses near-infrared light that reflects back from objects ahead. It gives a driver relatively clear, illuminate images of what's ahead to a distance of nearly 500 feet, or four times the range of low headlight beams.

The new features make the LX 470 a more attractive entry in the uptown sport-ute market—and handily keep it among the best such vehicles.

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BB06 - 7/28/2014 7:58:01 PM