BEHIND THE WHEEL/Lexus LX 450 — Hitting the Trail in Soft Leather —

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BEHIND THE WHEEL/Lexus LX 450;Hitting the in Soft Leather


Published: February 4, 1996

DESPITE the rush into vehicles, many drivers are reluctant to trade their quiet, comfortable ride and handling for the rough-edged versatility of sport utility vehicles. than once I have asked, in effect, Why doesn’t company make a Lexus LS 400 utility?

Well, Lexus has taken a shot at that introducing its first sport the 1996 LX 450, last But this is not a silky-soft LS 400 in a Lands’ End Like most vehicles in its the LX 450 is a truck, albeit a good It is, in fact, the highly regarded Land Cruiser, now wearing a grille, a butter-soft leather and some additional equipment.

Is extra frosting enough to a Toyota a Lexus, and is the stylized L on the worth $7,000 in prestige? utility shoppers will be questions like these and more, with Isuzus up at Acura and Honda dealers, transforming into Mercurys and and Nissans being repackaged as

Lexus officials insist the LX 450 is really a Lexus, but there is no that the vehicle was whipped up to appease dealers, who watched as one of six Lexus owners left the to buy a sport utility from company — most a Range Rover, Jeep Cherokee or Chevrolet Suburban. Why the off-roading wheel, Lexus planners wondered, when the Cruiser was available, with a record and more than prowess to carry LS 400 owners’ tow their boats and take to Bar Harbor.

Still, the LX 450 has differences the Land Cruiser, though are not readily evident from the where only the Lexus wheels, grille and side cladding are different.

At the large end of the spectrum, the LX 450 is a few inches longer its prime competitor, the Range 4.0 SE, and about the same length as the Tahoe. Its size is particularly climbing in and out, which is no task. The 4-year-olds in our nursery car pool had to climb first the running board, crawl the floor, then make way to the seat. To hoist myself the driver’s seat, I grabbed the grip on the pillar between the and driver’s door.

Once inside, the driver and tower above most on the road, a vantage point has helped to make sport so popular. The comfortable seats are in the same attractive leather in the LS 400, but alas the wood accents are plastic, in contrast to the walnut in the sedan.

The LX 450 comes with a third row of seats, can be reached by tilting the second forward, allowing the vehicle to up to seven passengers. (The seat is an option on the Land Among sport utilities, the Land Cruiser/LX 450 and the GMC/Chevrolet offer three rows of

Storage behind the third is limited to a depth of about a grocery bag or large golf But the third seat folds the cargo area and the center row forward for additional storage, is far superior to most of the LX 450’s

In contrast to the Land Cruiser, the LX 450 is with an automatic climate an upgraded audio system with a six-disk CD changer under the center console, for two Lexus phone systems and a entry system with an feature. In fact, only factory options are offered: the CD a front and rear differential system for maximum off-road and a power moonroof.

The ride is softer in the LX 450 than in the Land which tends to bounce its around when it hits The Lexus is also quieter, to more sound-absorbing insulation, but expecting the total hush of the LS 400 be disappointed.

The LX 450 is powered by the Land in-line six-cylinder engine, a power plant that 212 horsepower but gets dismal Though V8 power is available on competitors, including the Range and Jeep Grand Cherokee, the LX 450 has of power for all conditions. And the Lexus is far nimble than the Tahoe or particularly noticeable when into a tight parking An automatic transmission is standard, as are brakes and full-time four-wheel-drive, includes low gears for extreme

While I wasn’t able to the LX 450 off road, I had no doubt of its ability to go thanks to its high ground and the Land Cruiser’s legendary prowess.

A switch on the LX 450 console the vehicle in second gear to the wheels from slipping on icy or wet The optional manual differential permits the driver to manually the front axle, rear center differential, or all three in low for even more off-road

The LX 450 carries a base price, destination fees, of $47,995. compares with a base on the Land Cruiser of $40,678; a equipped Land Cruiser about $45,000. The tested LX 450 topped out at $51,307 equipped all three available options.

Lexus executives say the LX 450 is worth the because of its long list of features, including some on the Land Cruiser, coupled the pampering that they the Lexus experience. Indeed, has consistently received the industry’s customer satisfaction ratings the Toyota division sold its LS 400 in 1990.

The LX 450, like its Cruiser sibling, is among the sport utilities in terms of durability, maneuverability, comfort and capability. But it will have moving out of the shadow of its brawnier, brother. I constantly caught referring to the test vehicle as a Cruiser, even though it had the beige color worn by every Lexus I’ve tested.

LX 450 buyers are apparently not so Lexus reports that its stock is sold out, in a wait of at least two months. For Lexus expects to sell LX 450’s. Generally, buyers are car owners adding the LX 450 as a second or vehicle, not trading in their LS 400 which is exactly what intended.

INSIDE TRACK: A Land with an identity crisis.

Lexus’s sport utility is on Toyota’s Land Cruiser. Sales U.S.A.) Table: The Top of the compares the Lexus LX 450 with the Rover 4.0 SE.



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