Domestic manufacturers get much of the credit -- and blame -- for creating the large luxury SUV class. Yet Lexus was actually the first automaker to enter this market when it introduced the LX series for the 1996 model year. The Lexus LX 470 represented the second generation of this elite line of SUVs.
Like most full-size SUVs, the LX 470 used traditional body-on-frame construction, but it has been tuned to provide a serene and forgiving ride. Unlike many competitors, though, the LX retained substantial off-road capabilities and could take on seriously gnarly trails for those who cared to use it that way.
Most owners did not, of course, but the Lexus LX 470 was an easy vehicle to like, even in the confines of suburbia. There could be no denying the quality of the materials used to construct the interior, for example -- the leather upholstery was almost inconceivably supple, and the wood inlays were some of the richest to be found at any price point. A standard third-row seat allowed the LX 470 to accommodate up to eight passengers, and indeed it has been a common sight in carpool circles at exclusive private academies.
Our only real complaint about the Lexus LX 470 was always its high price. Unless buyers were planning to make use of its all-terrain talents, there was simply no reason to spend this much money -- even on a luxury SUV. As a used vehicle choice, however, the LX makes a lot more sense. Depreciation puts pricing more in line with reality, while reliability is nothing short of exceptional.
Most Recent Lexus LX 470
Sold from 1998-2007, the LX 470 was one of the longest-running vehicles in the Lexus fleet. The LX 470 was mechanically identical to the Toyota Land Cruiser, and differences between the two came down to luxury accoutrements ? namely, the Lexus had more of them. In standard spec, the LX came fully loaded, including amenities like DVD navigation, a rear back-up camera and a premium-grade Mark Levinson sound system. Among the options were a Night View infrared imaging system and a rear-seat DVD player.
Motivation for the Lexus LX 470 came from a refined 4.7-liter V8. A four- or five-speed automatic transmission sent power to all four wheels through a permanent four-wheel-drive system. A lever on the center console allowed the driver to switch to low-range gearing for maximum traction in heavy snow or dirt, while a separate button locked the center differential into a 50/50 power split between the front and rear axles. An adaptive suspension provided both driver-selectable height control and variable shock absorber damping.
The LX 470 was not especially quick for an SUV in this price range, though the engine's supremely smooth delivery somewhat offset this lack of vigor. The LX had an easygoing demeanor on pavement; however, it felt floppy around corners, even with the adaptive suspension in its "Sport" setting.
Inside, seating was plush and comfortable in the first and second rows, but the third-row seats were smaller than the rearmost accommodations in other large luxury SUVs. To make matters worse, the 50/50 sections didn't fold flat when extra cargo space was needed. Cargo capacity in general was also on the low side at 90 cubic feet, though the clamshell-style tailgate provided good access to stowed items.
The Lexus LX 470 received a handful of equipment changes after its 1998 debut. If you're shopping for a used one, the best years to look at are 2003 and up. During the '03 model year, the LX switched from a four-speed automatic transmission to the five-speed, while picking up front-seat side airbags and first- and second-row side curtain airbags. The Night Vision system was added to the options list that year.
The other major update came in 2006 when Lexus equipped the 4.7-liter V8 with variable valve timing, increasing output to 275 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Previously, the V8 generated 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque (230 hp from 1998-2002). Revised SAE certification standards saw the V8's peak horsepower drop back to 268 for the '07 model year.
The excellent Mark Levinson sound system also became standard equipment in 2006; it was offered as an option from 2001-'05. Prior to '01, Lexus offered a well-regarded Nakamichi sound system as the premium-grade audio option. If you want a factory-installed navigation system, you'll need to look at 2001 and later models. The nav system was optional in 2001 and standard thereafter. The rear camera system and Bluetooth compatibility became standard fare in 2004.
Past Lexus LX 470 Models
If you're looking at higher-mileage vehicles, you may come across the first-generation LX, known as the LX 450. It was basically the same size and shape as the LX 470, but drew power from a tepid 4.5-liter inline-6 rather than a V8 and was based on the previous-generation Toyota Land Cruiser. High mileage should not necessarily be a deterrent.