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Review: 2013 Lexus LX570 SUV
By Kathy Chin Leong

We called it, "The Beast." With a 5.7 liter V8 engine with four-wheel drive and 383 hp, it boasted twice the power of our puny Hyundai Sonata back at home. This $80,930 behemoth took us from the Bay Area backroads through Monterey pines to the coast of Carmel and across the state to the gates of Yosemite. It was a test drive like none other.

Once on the road, we were pleased to be perched up high, and we were practically eye-to-eye with professional Safeway truckers, and we looked down on the miniscule vehicles careening down Highway 156. The size of this thing is about the length and weight of a full grown, male elephant seal, with the aggressive temperament to match.

Pick up and acceleration is loaded with such innate power we (my husband Frank and I took turns driving it) felt empowered, as if nothing could stand in our way. The wheels seemed to securely grip the road, and with each turn, we felt only a slight sway. (Thank you front and rear stabilizer bars!) If I were driving my entry level Honda Civic, the bumps and gaps on the pavement would have given me harsh treatment making me fears I would need back surgery. Nonetheless, this beast gave us such a gentle ride that these ups and downs were mere undulations along the highway.

AUTOMATIC EVERYTHING

Being the 2013 model, Beast comes loaded with the newest and coolest technologies available on the planet. Doors are unlocked via a remote electronic key. Just walk up to the driver door with the key in your purse or pocket, and when you grab the door handle, the door will automatically unlock. When it rained during our trip, the windshield wipers automatically sensed the rain and came on automatically. And when the rain fell harder, the wipers moved faster.

Manual exertion? Forgeddaout it! At the touch of a button, you can activate the engine without the key similar to the Ford Explorer SUV and others supporting keyless entry. The parking assist feature uses the built-in camera to show you what things are blocking your way and will beep accordingly. The moonroof slides open at the touch of a button and also tilts when you press another. Another button will open and close the liftgate and will do so remotely as well. Still another manipulates the humongous side view mirrors as large as my dinner plates.

MILEAGE

Power and comfort aside, let's get to economy. On a 1-10 gas economy rating, it only ranks 2, at 17 mpg on the highway and 12 mpg in the city. The gas tank holds about 24.5 gallons. We managed to hit up to 18 mpg on the highway. The annual fuel cost is $4,050, and that's a lowball figure. Ouch!

For long drives, this car with automatic transmission and "S" mode for upshift and downshift, serves up a cushy jaunt for both the driver and passengers. The driver's side is equipped with a fancy schmancy, telescoping steering wheel festooned with buttons galore- stereo options, cruise control, cell phone Bluetooth hookup, voice activated controls for iPod Touch music selections, GPS navigation, weather, and more.

Lumbar adjustable support for driver and front-row passenger is also a plus. Each switch is on the side on the bottom. Nearby are controls for moving forward and back, up and down, and leaning the seat into full reclining position. Nap time, anyone?

With programmable electronic controls for seat adjustment for up to three drivers, the seat also offers bun warmers that can also be switched to cool refrigerator temperatures. Unlike other vehicles, this capability is also available to the shotgun passenger and backseat riders.

AMENITIES

For passengers, this car can serve as a mobile party in a box. There are 19 speakers for absolute surround sound. The music is so crisp you can identify the treble and bass instruments. And when those drums beat, that vibration from the woofer is quite exciting, especially when you are driving along the Pacific Ocean. Second row passengers have automatic seat forward/backward adjustment and personal climate controls.

This model can seat up to eight people in three rows, with a hidden trio of jumper seats in the trunk area. Spoiled passengers in the second row have their movie opportunities with screens built-into the headrests ahead of them for an extra $2,000. This rear entertainment DVD system with wireless headphones will keep the crankiest kid quiet for the long trek, I guarantee it. While you listen to your CD system up front, kids can load their own DVD in the back. It also has input jacks for MP3 players, but no 3-prong outlet for laptop cables, however.

The luxury features are plentiful with a leather and wood-trimmed interior, navigation system with voice commands, HD radio with iTune tagging, SiriusXM audio, SiriusXM data services, and a laundry list of other goodies that will make your eyes pop.

HELPS

Safetywise, the car comes with a litany of airbags that, if all activated at once, I wonder if the vehicle would float! Dual-stage front airbags, side airbags for front and second row, side curtain airbags, and 3-point seatbelts for everybody means that you can feel a measure of security when you are facing less-than-ideal conditions This is an ideal long distance vehicle for its comes with a multi-terrain anti-lock braking system, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, and, of course, more. The driver can choose from H4 (high gear) for best fuel economy and L4 (low gear) for more power.

SAFE AND SOUND

Going through rain, snow, or hail, I would choose this car for its inherent safety features. A multi-terrain select mode features a lever below the shifting gear that highlights five slashes down to one slash. The five-slash mode is suitable for the rockiest terrain and moving to one slash (crawl) mode means that you are driving through muddy or slippery conditions. When snow appeared, we felt very comfortable knowing we could switch from gear to gear.

However, I prefer the dial verison of this feature on the Ford Explorer which shows icons of rock, snow, and raindrops, etc. so you don't have to remember which is which. Now if you are in dicey conditions, go into Crawl Control mode with the Turn Assist On, and you just focus on the road without the need to hit the brake or accelerator, for the car will move at a crawling speed on its own while you steer.

The Beast can also be The Rescuer. It features a capability that will help you just in case you get stuck in a ditch. Yes, really. Press a button by the steering wheel called the "center differential lock and unlock switch." We did not test this out, but the manual says that you can activate this feature when you get bogged down in a ditch or when you are driving on a slippery or bumpy surface.

And if you have the misfortune of getting stuck in snow or mud, you can turn off the "Active TRAC" which should help you get out of this mishap.

Indeed, this car was built for all kinds of weather. The 4-Wheel Active High Control Suspension features lets you select the switch in high mode for driving bumpy roads, normal for regular conditions, and low mode for easy access and disembarkment (so petite folks like me don't have to leap out). Automatic high beams come on when they sense darkness approaching.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Lexus LX570 SUV, aka The Beast, tells the world, "I love to explore with my friends and family. I value safety and comfort. Don't mess with me, and I won't mess with you."

****

DETAILS:

2013 Lexus LX570 SUV
Price: $80,930 retail and $87,795 with the 19-speaker surround sound, intuitive park assist, and rear DVD entertainment system
Mileage: Average 14 mpg; 12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway
Web: www.lexus.com

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