LX 470 may be fancier than Land Cruiser, but it is no less SUV for it. It's hard to describe LX 470 without using the words "big" and "strong," but I'll try. No, I can't do it. LX 470 is big and strong, with assertive horizontal lines and powerful verticals. Bulging, muscular fenders hover above 18" alloy wheels. Restrained use of chrome keeps things from getting too gaudy. A tall boxy greenhouse adds to the drama, making a tall SUV look even taller. Out back, my test vehicle wore a small optional ($280) spoiler at the top of the tailgate's big glass. The tailgate itself is a clamshell affair -- 60% flips up, 40% flips down to form a genuine old-fashioned tailgate. It's a good thing -- a one-piece flip-up tailgate would have been too big, requiring massive clearance and heavy springs or shocks to operate. The short tailgate eases access into the cargo hold.
Fit and finish are exemplary, as they should be on a vehicle in this price range. Great-looking paint, solid, substantial trim and moldings, even gaps and seams. There's a feeling of quality from front to rear.
In the Driver's Seat
There are no real flourishes or ground-breaking design touches in the LX 470's cabin. Design-wise, it's a little stodgy. The center stack is dominated by a rounded rectangular pod that houses navigation, climate control and audio controls in a simple layout dressed with wood trim. The instrument panel, a collection of simple round analog gauges, lurks beneath an eyebrow in the dash above the steering wheel.
Oh, that steering wheel. It's gorgeous, trimmed in wood and leather. It feels so great in your hands, like a steering wheel from an old Jag or Rolls. The modern unit houses a myriad of controls, and tilts and telescopes to adjust to your favorite driving position. When you turn off the ignition, the wheel automatically tilts and telescopes away, like a butler easing your exit from the SUV. I don't know why, but that simple touch feels really decadent and luxurious.
On the Road
Handling is very good for a big SUV, with independent front suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars. There's a very trick Adaptive Variable Suspension setup with Adjustable Height Control that allows you to adjust the ride to the conditions. All in all, LX 470 is a very comfortable, composed vehicle to drive on all but the twistiest of roads.
My second row passengers praised the comfort back there as well. My friend Andy, a very sharp-eyed critic and a frequent second row rider in my test SUVs, now holds the LX 470's cabin as the epitome of luxury in the class. Every subsequent vehicle has been subject to the same dismissive comparison test -- "Remember that Lexus that you had? This is nowhere near as nice."
My third row passengers were somewhat less effusive with their praise. The third row is adequate for short trips for adults. Though head room is good and leg room is sufficient, the hip to floor distance is a little too short for real comfort. At least it's pretty easy to clamber back there, as the second row easily folds and flips, leaving a big gap for entry.
You should also take a look at the competition in the luxury SUV field. The Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q7, Acura MDX and Land Rover Range Rover are all unique vehicles that will appeal to different tastes and needs. A heavily optioned Nissan Pathfinder or GMC Yukon Denali can also deliver a pretty substantial level of luxury for a lot less cash.
I said at the start of this review that I wasn't going to give you all the information about LX 470, and indeed I have not. I haven't mentioned the awesome Mark Levinson audio system; the superb DVD navigation system with rear view camera; the power moonroof; or the totally intuitive Bluetooth interface. My vehicle also had a truly James Bond option -- the $2,200 Night View system. Let me just say this about that -- if you drive rural highways at night during deer season, you'd be a fool not to check that box on the options sheet. It's an infrared camera that projects images on your windshield that are beyond the reach of your low beams, giving you more time to react to hazards and obstacles in your path. It's not a distraction, because even if you're paying attention to the infrared image, your eyes are still on the road ahead.
If you do chose an LX 470, I want to go where you are going, because you are traveling in the lap of luxury.