on the track and skidpan
Lexus RX300 and Toyota Hilux Legend 35
dates : 13th February 2005
17th February 2005
Clint we had a special racetrack experience for this
weekís show, but he looked a little non-plussed with
our vehicles of choice.
There was a good reason for our offbeat track test. We
wanted to see how different 4X4s are when it comes to
handling in extreme situations, from a safety point of
The Lexus RX300 is in fact half-car, half-4X4.
can handle rough dirt roads, it has a higher centre of
gravity than most cars, but its suspension is
The RX300 has exceptional road manners. Itís fitted
with all the latest electronic driver aids such as
traction control, individual wheel skid correction and
It does tend to dive when braking hard, but thatís to
But the accurate steering and all independent suspension
keep things nicely controllable.
Clint tries to induce a skid but the electronic skid
controls kick in. Thatís the warning buzzer telling
him to cool it.
With a sweet-revving six-cylinder engine and a
hundred-and-fifty kilowatts on tap, thereís plenty of
temptation to hustle the Lexus along.
Body roll is higher than on a low-slung passenger car,
but nicely controllable nevertheless.
The tyres are profiled to street-use, with low profiles,
or narrow sidewalls, and a wide footprint. And being
full-time four-wheel-drive, cornering attitude is very
neutral, with a slight tendency to understeer. A safe
Hilux is a different kettle of fish. This is a pucker
off-roader, and extra care is needed when driving this,
the Legend 35 on-road. Of course, the same rules apply
to any serious off-roader.
The springs are more rigid, but thereís greater wheel
travel on the Hilux, as itís designed to handle rough
tracks. This means on tar thereís a greater
inclination to dive when braking.
racetrack is the place where you can really suss out a
vehicle out in safety.
Itís well worth bearing in mind that pick-up
orientated vehicles like the Hilux donít have much in
the way of traction control and electronic corner
Additionally, when they arenít in four-wheel-drive
theyíre effectively rear-wheel-drive vehicles.
With a hundred-and-eight kilowatts from the
two-comma-seven litre engine, itís easy to break
traction on those off-road rear tyres, which also have
lots of tyre flex to handle rough rocks and potholes.
Even in a 4X4 drifting can be fun, but the place to do
it is on the racetrack, with plenty of run-off area and
more importantly, no on-coming traffic.
The Hilux is fitted with ABS braking, which has made it
very controllable under panic stops. But itís heavy,
it has a high centre of gravity, tyres that are
compromised for tarmac use in favour of dirt roads.
All things considered, stopping distances were
The Lexus is almost in the luxury passenger car league
in terms of its stopping power, very impressive for such
a tall vehicle.
Both vehicles impressed in our braking test. The Lexus
stopped in drama free fashion, its distances coming
close to those of low-slung luxury cars.
Itís onto the skid pan, and with all its electronic
aids, the Lexus comes into its own.
It simply refuses to break traction even if the driver
floors the throttle as the electronics automatically
back off the power and brake individual wheels.
Itís a basic under-steering vehicle, befitting its
four-wheel-drive configuration, and drama-free in the
The Hilux, on the other hand, needs lots of care with
the accelerator pedal to avoid breaking traction.
It tends to understeer first and then hang the rear
wheels out on the ultra-slippery surface.
Of course, what all this means is that in a 4X4, realize
that you need to enter corners slower, keep a greater
following distance, and brake earlier.
They say that ninety per cent of accidents involving
4X4s are on tarmac. No big surprise, but with these
techniques most can be avoided.
Car Torque is