Lexus' luxury version of the full-size Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle received a mild face-lift for 2003. For 2004, a rear backup camera became available with the navigation system, which gained Bluetooth wireless technology. The navigation system became standard in 2005, and its screen can show DVDs when the gear selector is in Park. Updates for 2006 include new rear lights, a tire-pressure-monitoring system, a new wheel design and available Digital Lexus Link communications network. The 4.7-liter V-8 adds variable valve timing for increased power.
Even though the two full-size SUVs from Lexus and Toyota are similarly styled and share mechanical components, the LX 470 includes more amenities for its higher sticker price.
Styling differences between the LX 470 and Land Cruiser center on the grille, headlights and the illuminated running boards that Lexus includes. Both use body-on-frame construction. At 192.5 inches long overall, the LX 470 is approximately 6 inches shorter than the Cadillac Escalade. Mounted on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, the four-door LX 470 stands 72.8 inches tall and measures 76.4 inches wide. Alloy wheels hold 18-inch tires, which feature a new graphite design for 2006.
With twin front bucket seats and three-place middle and rear benches, the LX 470 has seating for up to eight people. All seats are trimmed in leather, and the middle seat folds forward. Both halves of the 50/50-split rear seat fold outward and can be secured to the sides.
Cargo volume is 90.4 cubic feet with the third-row seat removed and the second row down, and 19.1 cubic feet behind the third row. An optional Night View system displays a bright view of the darkened road ahead, but the special lamps' near-infrared beams can cause eye damage to bystanders who look directly at them — just as high-beam headlights can. However, if the vehicle is stopped or moving slowly, the system deactivates.
A premium Mark Levinson audio system features 11 speakers and a six-CD changer. A backseat DVD-based entertainment system is optional. The available Digital Lexus Link system connects the vehicle to a communications network for security and convenience assistance, much like General Motors' OnStar. The service requires a paid subscription.
Under the Hood
The LX 470's 4.7-liter V-8 gets variable valve timing for 2006. The VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence) system boosts output to 275 horsepower and 332 pounds-feet of torque, up from 235 hp and 320 pounds-feet in the 2005 model. The engine teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission, and the SUV can tow up to 6,500 pounds when properly equipped. Permanently engaged four-wheel drive includes Low-range gearing, a locking center differential, a limited-slip rear differential and traction control.
Four-wheel, antilock ventilated-disc brakes are standard. Brake assist can apply maximum braking force in a panic stop. Vehicle Stability Control can brake individual wheels as needed. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front occupants and side curtain-type airbags for the first and second rows are standard. A tire-pressure-monitoring system is new for 2006.
The price is high, but the LX 470 produces an undeniably luxurious experience. Its flaws are mostly minor, but they can be somewhat annoying. Getting inside is the first hurdle; it's a big step up, but the running boards help.
Despite its bulk, the LX 470 doesn't really feel cumbersome. Steering requires a moderately heavy touch but is by no means difficult. This SUV is stable on the highway, but it never feels quite as secure in its lane as some smaller SUVs. The tires get a bit noisy on certain pavement, but otherwise this is an exceptionally quiet vehicle.
Even though the third-row seat looks snug, getting to it isn't too difficult because the right-hand second-row seat folds forward.